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This... Is CNN!

Walt C. Snedeker

Right off, I could see this was going to be a good day. I tell myself this same mantra every time I go down to the dock where Captain Charlie's Shenandoah picks me up, and I see that there are small craft warnings on the Intracoastal.
And this time I said it twice. For it is a poorly kept secret, Gentle Reader, that Your Humble Obedient &tc. is desperately prone to seasickness. It is a weakness for which, unlike my weakness for beautiful redheaded barbarian ladies, I am not proud. While we are on the subject of those lovelies, I might as well report that mine, The Fabled PC, was snug abed. She had mumbled something into her lacy pillow about it being bad luck to watch the takeoff or whatever, and I could go on down to the dock alone. She would suffer my absence with some more nonnie-nonnie.
She can be so noble sometimes.
But now, as I looked up toward Lake Boca from the dock, my eyes teared in the rushing wind. Whitecaps formed from shore to shore in the Intracoastal. I said the mantra for the third time. I didn't do it after that -- I didn't want to wear the batteries out.
A panel truck pulled up beside me, and the CNN crew got out. CNN? Oh. Yeah. It seems that they had heard of Captain Charlie's exploits from a newspaper in Texas, of all things, and they had arranged to do a "shoot" of Your
Humble Obedient &tc. feeding the sharks off of Delray Beach.
It is something we do each week. But this time, CNN wanted to record it for the delectation of the civilized world. The cameraman was a big, hulking brute with a face like muted thunder. He looked like he ate the furniture for breakfast. But the guy that was going to be filmed diving with us was so handsome, he made me glad that the Fabled PC was not here.
Nobody seemed to notice the howling wind except me while we waited for the Shenandoah to crunchsmashcrash into the dock. Ah well...
Soon we were all aboard, and the African Quee -- I mean the Shenandoah began chugging out to sea, with Charlie kicking the boiler every now and then. Sure enough, ten minutes along the coast, I began to feel the need to call for "Earl!".
In fact, everybody did -- except Captain Charlie and the hulking cameraman, who was chewing some dried beef red-hots for a mid-morning snack. The aroma of those things even in normal conditions would give a hyena a fit of the dry heaves, but he was looking extraordinarily tough and superior. I thought regretfully to myself, "If I had killed him twenty years ago, I'd be getting out of prison about now."
Then Captain Charlie announced over the PA system (he loves to use it, and will accept any excuse, even though he could just turn around and talk to everybody), "OK, folks, we are here. It's time to suit up and go gettem!"
Since I had just finished calling for dinosaurs, I was in that blessed state of grace where one has about five minutes before one begins to die again. I happily began to put on my flippers and tank.
Hulking Brute Cameraman nudges my shoulder. I look up.
"Where's the cage?" He is looking all over the Shenandoah, which I had tidied up to the point where it resembled a delicatessen that had been looted by a Viking raiding party.
"What cage?" I honestly didn't know what he meant.
"The shark cage."
"We don't have one."
"Whaddayamean, 'We. Don't. Have. One!'' He looked about to see if I was serious. I must have been, because I was sitting on the transom in my bathing suit, flippers, mask, and scuba tank.
"But that mesh armor stuff ain't all that good, and it don't pertect yer head n' stuff."
"We don't use armor. Just bathing suits."
"You. Don't. Use. Armor..." the sweat on his brow was a bright yellow, "You. Don't . Use. A. Shark. Cage." He had a funny way of speaking.
"You got it. No bang sticks or other stuff either. Let's go."
"Gleek. Glik."
At this point, Super Handsome, the other CNN guy, sez to Hulking Brute, "Ah... Brutus, I'm going to stay on board. You can get all the film you want of me back on shore where it's safe, I mean, where I can interview the surviv-- I mean, the Shenandoah crew."
Brutus (I might have known that was his moniker) looks at me like I was made of nitroglycerin and blasting caps and says in a suddenly tiny voice, "Are you really going in the water out here to feed sharks by hand, wearing just what you are wearing?"
"Yup." I was really enjoying this. "Nothing to worry about. I have a sign printed in 'shark' tattooed in infra-red all down my body. It says, 'Don't Eat This Guy, He Tastes Awful'. Nothing to worry about."
I distinctly heard him mumble, "Prob'ly ain't no sharks down there. It's a put-on." And other things. I heard something about "cab driving" and "momma".
Anyway, the first twinges of my imminent fall from anti-seasickness grace were becoming apparent. So, I grabbed the guy, and over we went.
Sixty feet down, the clear water on the beautiful reef was densely populated with grunts and things. I immediately nailed one hapless little guy with my pole spear.
True to form, the sharks appeared from nowhere. I pulled the wounded grunt off of the prongs, and tossed him six inches up. A humongous Caribbean Reef shark came straight in at me, and inhaled it. I turned around to see if the cameraman had gotten to the bottom yet, and saw the lens of the camera six inches over my shoulder. He had gotten a superlative shot. My attitude toward him changed instantly. Scared he might have been, but he was right there, doing a professional job.
For forty minutes, I had sharks all over me. Fortunately, they can read their own language, and none bothered to taste me. Then it was time to go back up. The biggest shark came back one last time, and I took my regulator out of my mouth and blew him a kiss for being so nice.
Back on the Shenandoah, the cameraman was absolutely hyper.
"That was fantastic! I wanna do it again! And I wasn't scared at all! On the way down, I thought that this was my last day, but once the sharks came, it was fun!"
This is the reaction we always get from the folks we take down. Charlie and Your Humble Obedient &tc. were grinning like we had both just gotten fresh lobotomies. It is a pleasure to see someone that you have made that happy.
Super Handsome interviewed us for two hours back at the home port of the Shenandoah (Charlie's house). The Fabled PC demurely stood behind the camera, beaming with pride at her soon-to-be-temporarily-famous spouse.
So look for the CNN special in September. I think you will know which one, because they'll start it out with Voice-Of-God James Earl Jones saying:
"This.........is CNN. And Waltie."

 
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