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June 25, 2006

Clash of Sharks and My Hobby

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

I thought I knew the English language. I was of the opinion that I could speak, read and write the vernacular of my birth. I was wrong.

It dawned on me when I attended a meeting on sharks at the local library. Being a strong environmentalist - or tree hugger as I am sometimes called - the gathering appealed to me because I had to cover it as a reporter and because I hold a fascination for these animals.

There were three participants: a part time boat captain, a government biologist and me. The bureaucrat and the moderator immediately began a conversation in wonkese - and I did not understand a word of it.

"What are you people talking about?" I cried. More gibberish with the word shark sometimes surfacing. I was taking incomprehensible notes that made absolutely no sense. And I have degree in biology.

This continues on for a few more minutes when my frustration boiled over and I told them I had to write a newspaper article and explain this stuff to the public. That shut them up. There is something about announcing you're a member of the press that has an effect on people.

The state biologist and the moderator explained the federal government wanted standard rules and regulations for shark fishing for all waters from the beach to three miles out. Each state has a different set of ideas about sharks and a boat captain must follow the rules of each political entity as he fishes up the coast.

This, of course, made perfect sense. The poor boat captains had to check the thingy to tell what state he was in and what species he could land. There is no "Welcome to Maryland, Robert Ehrlich Governor" buoy floating out that far, but with this shark infested campaign, it would not surprise me to see some plastered with O'Malley and Duncan stickers.

I was then content that I had my story about the gathering and my mind wandered to the beach and the young ladies semi-dressed in bathing suits. I take my hobby of girl watching very seriously while on the sand and then from the front deck with a pair of binoculars. I have always had a great interest in the fair sex; but now I have graduated from an anxious teenager to a loving dedicated father and husband to a divorced dirty old man.

My brain continued to loll from the girls back to the meeting when a thought suddenly struck me. They want to protect the sharks in the surf where people swim. My story took on a new supermarket tabloid slant. Visions of sharks feasting on my hobby surfaced and the movie Jaws began an instant replay.

I voiced my new opinion and alarm spread through the wonks. They absolutely did not want any hint that they were protecting sharks that could possibly attack swimmers at Ocean City. A feverish babble began which I think related on how they could shut me up.

The boat captain voiced how he used to swim at Assateague with sand sharks nearby and they didn't bother him at all. Facts flew about how shark attacks and being hit by lightening were somehow related. Things finally calmed down and the fear of being quoted as shark lovers eased from their minds when I told them I would change the slant.

I wrote the story and they buried it some place in the back of the newspaper. My journalist quest for fame awaits another day.

I picked up my binoculars and searched for the next news story.


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