For a long time now, I’ve wished to have a shark bite battle wound.
Nothing that would cause me to lose a limb or any toes, obviously.
Just a nibble.
Something small and tasteful — no pun intended — around the calf area or the top of my foot. Maybe even on the inner ankle.
I’d like the bite to be something that requires only a dozen or so stitches and for the scar to be a clean and clear representation of a shark’s mouth. An adorable baby shark’s mouth, preferably.
I want this for two reasons: One, I love sharks and would be honored to bear the marks of their case of mistaken identity. And two, what a conversation piece.
Check this out.
Person at party: “So, what do you think about this election?”
Me: “A shark bit me once.”
I mean, I’m not trying to be rude at parties, but who wants to talk about this election?
I — and the shark that bit me — would be doing everyone a favor by trumping — again, no pun intended — that chit-chat starter.
My desire for a shark bite, though, is why I’ve never been afraid to swim at Hilton Head Island beaches.
It is also why I am perpetually scanning the shoreline for fin action during evening walks. And in 13 years, I have not seen a single shark there ever.
So imagine my delight when I read in The Washington Post the other day that an expert from the International Shark Attack File is predicting this summer to be a very chompy season for my potential attackers. )
Two people have already been bitten!
And it sounds absolutely awful.
I can’t believe I am so stupid as to have wished for a shark bite.
I did a little Googling and, as it turns out, I have a very weak stomach for massive amounts of blood and fringey bits of skin with sand stuck to it.
After this research I am now 65 percent afraid to go in the water this summer.
Which, according to this same Post report, is 65 percent too much.
The chances of getting bitten by a shark are “infinitesimal,” it says. In other words, my new fear is irrational.
Just for funzies, I went to the International Shark Attack File’s website to see how irrational.
There I found a report “18 Things More Likely to Kill You Than Sharks.”
First on this supposed-to-be-banal but actually eerily very Lowcountry-specific list?
OK, but I was already scared of those, so I’m still afraid of sharks.
Also on the list? Sand.
We should be more afraid of sand than sharks because we are more likely to break our necks in a sandhole.
I cannot wait to shuffle this new fear into my card deck of crazy.
Bicycling and drowning are also more deadly. Dogs too. Dogs are apparently 33 times more likely to kill us than sharks, which explains why my dog has been sneaking “a nice Chianti and some fava beans” onto my shopping list.
That’s a Hannibal Lechter joke.
Needless to say, this list didn’t help me, so I went to SharkAttackData.com and checked out South Carolina’s actual stats.
What a fun site.
There’s a chart that tracks shark attacks from 1900 till present day with an alarmingly sharp and upwardly trending fever line — or rather, “alarmingly” until you realize the Y axis is numbered zero through eight.
Most of the attacks were unprovoked. Cool.
And many sound like the first or last scene in a horror movie.
Take the attack that happened in the Charleston Harbor on Jan. 1, 1837. A “young boy from the Plymouth” was bathing when he was bitten on his right foot.
On Oct. 26, 1911, George Spencer fell off the steamship Rio Grande off the coast of Charleston, and he did not live to tell the tale.
In 1852, Charles Chambers was “wading ashore carrying an oar” after his boat capsized near Mount Pleasant.
Charles Chambers and his oar did not reach the shore.
Here is what victims in Beaufort and Jasper counties were doing to deeply upset our local sharks over the years: “swimming beside launch,” “floating on his back,” “sitting in water with his child,” “swimming,” “wading,” “standing,” “standing,” “standing.”
And now I’m afraid to stand.
On Wednesday afternoon I called Joe Quattro, a professor of marine science at the University of South Carolina.
Ten years ago, one of his students was bitten by a bull shark while collecting specimens in Bulls Bay.
“He lost grip of it, and it clamped down on his knee.”
“Was he OK?” I asked.
“Yeah. I mean … eventually.”
Quattro isn’t worried about going in the water, and he said we shouldn’t be either.
“I know enough to have a healthy respect for an animal like that,” he said. “But there are a lot more of them out there than people realize.”
His point was this: Sharks have NOT bitten us many, many, many more times than they HAVE bitten us.
“Sharks cruise on by,” he said. “Most people don’t realize that occurred. You’ve probably interacted with quite a few of these animals in your lifetime. They didn’t bother you, and you didn’t bother them. (Knowing this) puts you a little at ease.”
“Mmmm,” I said. “Yeah. That makes total sense.”
And I am now 100 percent scared to go in the water.