Once there was a man named Roy. Roy was an above-average guy, but not outrageously so. He had a good job, a good home, plenty of friends, and he kept active socially and through constructive projects for himself and for the community.
One day, Roy went to a party. He went alone, just looking to join up with some friends and maybe make some new ones. He poured himself a drink from the bar, and then he looked around the room to see who was there. In the far corner, he saw a rather large group of people listening to a man speak. His name was Chad. Roy could see from Chad's clothes and his demeanor that he was a very successful man. He was tan, he spoke with conviction, and he seemed to have a certain charm about him. The men who were listening to him seemed to admire Chad like a sports idol, and the women seemed to be fascinated by his presence and his natural magnetism. Roy decided he would go over and listen to what Chad had to say.
Roy quickly learned that Chad was recounting the events of his recent vacation to the Bahamas. He'd spent a couple of weeks there, enjoying the sun, the nightlife, and the recreational activities. As Roy joined the group, Chad was telling them about a particularly memorable day he had scuba diving.
"It was the most exhilarating experience I've ever had," Chad recalled. "Being down there in this 3-dimensional world, and being compelled to stay keenly aware of everything around me, including above and below. Then, sure enough, as I was promised, a few sharks came into view. They seemed to be just curious at first, but it didn't take long before they started coming in for a closer look. Of course, my initial reaction was to want to retreat, but I remembered hearing that if you act like prey, they'll treat you like prey and attack.
If you confront these beasts, look them right in the eye, they're not accustomed to that, and their aggressive instincts don't kick in. So each time I saw one approach, I'd edge toward it, moving as little as possible, and I'd look it right in the eye. Sure enough, it would only come so close, and then veer off and move away! It was awesome. I started out with a bit of trepidation and uncertainty, but that quickly turned into a sense of power as I learned how, with a little mental discipline, I could control the situation."
Everybody was awestruck. You could see it in the men's eyes and in their slight nods, sort of like subliminal high-fives, as if celebrating Chad's manhood somehow made them a bit manlier. The women, well! The women were all cooing and posturing, vying for Chad's attention. It was obvious they thought he was quite a catch, and they weren't above competing for the prize of being his prize.
Roy reacted in a much deeper way. He realized that experiences like Chad's were exactly what were missing from his life, and he decided then and there to do something about it. As good as he had things, his life paled in comparison to the fullness of Chad's, and Roy could certainly use a good confidence-builder to help him compete in life, not to mention in the dating game, too.
So off to the Bahamas Roy went. He took scuba lessons and got certified for solo dives, chartered a boat, and had the captain take him out to an area off the coast where shark sightings were common. Roy couldn't get underwater soon enough. This was it: adventure, excitement, and an incredible challenge, where before there was nothing but a foolish and empty satisfaction from bumping his head against the same ceiling of accomplishment day after day.
It's time to live! Roy tumbled into the water and felt the instant weightlessness. He got his bearings and steadied his breathing. He scanned the area in every direction, admiring all the beauty there was to behold, but also looking deeper, searching for those higher on the food chain than him so he could make his stand and test himself.
They did not disappoint. Within minutes the first shark arrived. It swam in a meandering pattern, but Roy was not fooled by the shark's pretense of disinterest. Slowly the shark came closer, and when it got around 20 feet away, Roy noticed another one coming into view from another angle. Roy's adrenaline floodgates were bulging, but he kept himself in check, constantly scanning in all directions for additional company.
The first shark made his way up close to Roy, as if to verify the preliminary reports from its keen senses, but Roy pushed his upper torso toward it and looked it right in the eye. Sure enough, the shark veered off! It was as though the shark was saying, "Whoa, Dude! No need to get uppity or anything!" Roy's initial anxiety was quickly replaced by confidence, but he did not let his guard down. He knew there was another shark close by, and now, yes, a couple more were moving in. It took some maneuvering, but Roy managed to get himself in position each time he saw one approach, and each time they yielded to his assertive posture. Within minutes, Roy had encountered 7 or 8 sharks, all of whom had backed off from their preludes of aggression.
Roy was on top of the world. He was in command. Still, he knew enough not to let things get out of control. After all, who knows how many sharks could show up at once? So he eased his way back to the boat, constantly scanning, and as he got near the surface, one of the sharks made one last pass to test Roy's mettle. Once again, Roy confronted the shark, and it turned and moved away. It could have been confused or disinterested, but to Roy it was beaten, and he was the victor.
Just then Roy felt a jolt. It shot through his body and then was gone, but Roy knew something was very wrong. A searing pain started to throb from what seemed to be his left foot. He felt his heart start to pound, and he looked down in horror to see his left leg gone from just below the knee, with the water turning red from the blood oozing from his remaining stump.
A shark he'd never seen had come up from below and hit its mark. Panic set in and Roy raced for the boat, fighting to get aboard before another shark could make a pass and strike. Roy's head hit the surface, and he screamed at the captain to help him in. Once aboard, the captain fashioned a tourniquet out of his own belt, applied it, and frantically dug out his first aid kit with one hand while he radioed for help with the other.
Weeks later, back in his home town, Roy was adjusting well. He'd gotten quite adept at his new style of getting around. The crutches that were once his helpers were now his tools. He'd already begun discussions with his doctor about options for a prosthetic device.
Roy was ambling down the street one day, when who did he come across but Chad. Chad recognized him from a brief conversation they'd had the night of the party, and he was dismayed to see Roy in his condition.
"Roy! Jesus! What happened to you?"
"Chad, I heard what you said about your adventure in the Bahamas, and I saw how everyone admired you, and honestly, I was impressed and I wanted to emulate you. I went down there, but things didn't turn out so well. I got bitten by one of the sharks that I went down to confront."
"Oh, Roy, that's terrible! I don't know what to say. Are you handling things okay?"
"Well, things are getting better, but of course it's still hard. But Chad, I've been meaning to ask you- I mean I was really careful down there, and I didn't do anything reckless. I was just curious: how long were you in the water when you were swimming with those sharks?"
"Oh, I don't know. Around 20-25 minutes, I guess. I remember I started out with 45 minutes of air in my tank, so, well, you know how it is."
"Yeah, sure, I know. But Jeez, I was only in there maybe 6 or 7 minutes and then this had to happen. I can't believe you were able to stay down so long and not get attacked."
"Well, Roy, actually, when I was down there, I was in what they called a shark-proof cage, so I could see everything but the sharks couldn't actually get to me."
"What? Are you kidding me? You never said anything about that at the party!"
"Well, no one asked, and I never lied about anything. I just never mentioned it because, well, I don't know if you noticed, but the chicks really eat this stuff up and, uh..."
"Yeah, I noticed! And as long as we're 'fessing up so much, I'll admit that the reaction you were getting from the chicks was one of the reasons I went down there. I know I'm responsible for my own actions, but Christ! I can't believe you were in a freakin' cage the whole time."
"Well, hey, it wasn't like I was doing anything illegal. People use those cages all the time. I still got the thrill of being down there with those sharks, but I wasn't about to do anything stupid that I'd regret for the rest of uh, well, I mean..."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
The two men said their good-byes and went their own way, each a little slower than before. One was hobbled by the weight of pity; the other by the weight of self-pity, and, of course, because he was hobbled. They would both get over their encounter with each other, but while neither will ever forget his experience in the Bahamas, only one will be able to occasionally put it out of his mind.