Out There: Fear The Water

“Good news, Susan! No dead bodies in the pool today.”

Does anyone else check the swimming pool for dead bodies before getting in? Or do I just watch too many crime shows?

While sidelined with an injury, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool, swimming and aquajogging (go ahead, make fun of me and my flowered swim cap). Every day, I go to my neighborhood pool; and every day, the kind woman behind the front desk smiles and offers the same greeting:

“Good news, Susan! No dead bodies in the pool today.”

The problem with going to the same place every day is that you encounter the same people, who eventually learn your idiosyncrasies. Most of the time, they are kind and only roll their eyes at your odd behavior when you’re not looking. In my case, the knowledge that I am somewhat (okay, really) nucking futs provides daily gossip for the pool staff.

I’ve written about irrational fears before, when I confessed my debilitating anxiety about lake zombies during open-water swims. I’ve also gained a few new fears, thanks to my recent traumatizing experience with giant Austrian man-birds while running.

Since then, readers have taken it upon themselves to send me news stories about other horrifying occurrences.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? You don’t send these kinds of stories to someone with an anxiety problem and overactive imagination. You just don’t. It’s like making your three year-old daughter watch “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” before bed.

First there was the story about an otter attack in Minnesota. While swimming, a triathlete was bit by an otter – not once, not twice, but twenty-five times.

Then there was the rabid beaver trying to make dinner out of a swimmer in the Delaware River.

And, of course, there’s the sharks. Oh…the sharks. I’ve got a whole file of shark-attack stories from readers, all of which make Jaws look like Mother Goose.

The shark thing seems to be the most sensationalistic – and as a result, the most feared. When I confessed my dead-body check routine to another swimmer at the pool, she rolled her eyes said my fear was absurd. Instead, she said, I should look for pool sharks, since Jaws apparently has evolved some sort of ability to move across land and survive in chlorinated water. Of course, I laughed…until I saw that she was dead serious. There was genuine fear in her eyes. Slowly, I gathered my gear and backed away from the pool deck.

Later that night, I Googled “can sharks walk?” The results turned up a story from Outside about a giant catfish who mysteriously maneuvered its way into a home in China.

“A marauding giant catfish ransacked the home of a Chinese couple in Xinjiang Province after they briefly left the door open before heading out for work. When Xu Xianmin and his wife returned home and found their table turned over and bottles strewn about, they immediately feared that burglars had broken in. But as Xu began cleaning up the detritus, his hand brushed something cold, slippery, and wriggling.

After consulting with his neighbors, Xu discovered that the home-wrecker was a large catfish. “No thieves would leave a giant fish in the house while stealing nothing,” he said. “And it’s not possible that someone threw the fish in through the window, as the door and windows were locked.” While there are no ponds or rivers near the Xianmin residence, catfish can survive for prolonged periods out of water.” 

Great. Now I’m scared of catfish, too.

Perhaps dead bodies should be the least of my concerns. At least they just float there, and if I stick around long enough, surely Gil Grissom or Jethro Gibbs or some other good-lookin’ detective will come around to investigate, right?

But who will rescue me when I’m attacked by a rabid beaver (who, I am now convinced, is hiding in a pile of kickboards and pull buoys plotting his attack)?

Maybe I’ll stop aquajogging. I can wait until my injury heals. In the meantime, I think I’ll go relax with a Midnight showing of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

****

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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