The cover story of a recent edition of Readers’ Digest was titled “How to Survive Anything,” with the very first tips given to surviving a shark attack.
According to RD’s published stats, more than 60% of their readers are over the age of 50. The ads for arthritis medication, portable oxygen, hearing aids, lift chairs, and incontinence products are a clue that the target audience is a few elevators stops past merely middle age. So, this is the demographic that desperately needs to know how to ward off a shark in the middle of the ocean?
The article’s author acknowledges that our chances of being attacked by a shark are approximately 1 in 11.5 million, but 11 million is only slightly less than the number of elderly wintering in Boca Raton, so I hope the article makes the rounds in the condo newsletters throughout south Florida.
(The bold print below is my quoting verbatim from the article. The words in italic are my snarky commentary.)
Surviving a Shark Attack
DO: Maintain eye contact. (Engage in a staring contest and see who blinks first. Note that a stare down with a hammerhead presents its own unique challenge.)
Sharks like to ambush, so turning your back can be a trigger. Try not to let the shark get behind you. (In shark culture, turning your back on a shark, particularly a Great White, is a sign of disrespect. An offended shark is not above stabbing you in the back with a complete upper and lower set of small daggers.)
DON’T: Create a commotion. Distancing yourself by swimming backward slowly is a safer bet. (In other words, when suddenly encountering an 8-foot creature that can bite your arm off like an almond biscotti, try to respond to terror like a Tennessee fainting goat. As you see your entire life flashing before your eyes, resist all the natural survival instincts in your brain that might cause you to panic and make a bigger splash than Kevin James off the high dive.
And as you’re swimming backwards slowly, try to forget that in doing so, you are imitating the swimming style of a squid, a favorite menu item of the Mako and the Tiger shark.)
DO: Stay big … or go small. If the shark looks aggressive, try to maintain a strong presence. To summon your strong presence, just imagine that:
a) The cashier at Publix tried to cheat you out of your senior discount.
b) You put your name in at 5:25 p.m. but by the time you were seated it was 5:35 p.m. and your waitress is saying that Early Bird menu is only offered from 4 p.m. to 5:30.
c) Your neighbor’s adult children from Jersey are visiting and they’re still playing their music outside and it’s already past 8 p.m. Clearly they’re daring you to do something about it.
But if the shark appears to be just swimming by, you curling up and not causing a scene could encourage the shark to continue on its merry way (so it can attack someone else a little further down the beach, preferably some spoiled millennial who never sends thank-you notes to his grandmother for birthday checks)
DO: Aim for the gills or eyes. (After you have hypnotized the beast during a motionless stare down, then go Three Stooges on him and poke Curly in the eyes.) If a shark is attacking you, hitting these sensitive areas with anything you might have on you, such as a camera or a snorkel mask (or Chapstick, a Cricket phone, or Walgreens coupon) could stun the shark temporarily and buy you some time (and at your age anything that buys you more time is worth trying, right?)
(Another sensitive area for sharks is saying anything negative about their children or grandchildren. A well-placed dig at a female sand shark with underachieving offspring immediately puts her at an emotional disadvantage and gives you the upper hand.)
Other survival tips you can use on dry land
The feature article did go on to offer survival tips for more common scenarios such as maneuvering a car when a tire blows out, dealing with a bad haircut, finding lost car keys, and responding to an IRS audit. There were even tips for surviving awkward situations such as difficult family gatherings, passing gas in public, and asking a woman when she’s due and discovering she’s not pregnant.
If you ever do, in fact, ask a woman who is not pregnant when her twins are due, my recommendation is that you stay still and maintain steady eye contact. Make yourself big as you slowly back your cart out of the aisle. Then turn the cart sideways to block the aisle and run like mad for the parking lot.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson