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Robert's great-grandfather, Ezekiel Eiger, was the proprietor of the Grand Dizzy Caribbean Island Resort. Children would beg their parents for trips there. It was a magnificent magical place for the whole family. A sand bar bridge connected the island to the mainland — the magical pathway to the resort. Families would wade through the crystal clear tropical water past exotic dangerous-looking jellyfish, a porter following with their steamer trunk floating on a big inner tube. Mothers would emerge like Aphrodite from the surf, Mr. Eiger would claim to smiling fathers, as his staff welcomed new arrivals with trays of Planter's Punch right there. The children frolicking nearby on the white sand beach. It was little wonder that loyal customers would return year after year. Wading across a sand bar to paradise. Paradise forever.
Or so they thought.
Troubling news reports started to trickle in one fall. The reports were spotty and hard to believe at first for many loyal Dizzy customers. Sharks? Come on, really? A gang of sharks had been sighted by some late summer guests. Strange blue sharks harassing guests as they waded across the sand bar. They were randomly obnoxious and intrusive changing their methods weekly. At times they would brush along your body or between your legs. Other times they would prod with their snouts, sometimes quite aggressively. A frightening invasion of privacy. A porter, traumatized by a particularly unpleasant encounter, walked off the job. As reports became more widespread, Dizzy guests didn't know what to think and many tried to rationalize this new part of the resort experience.
"Well they do scare off the jellyfish," some would point out as they waded ashore. Mr. Eiger confirmed this was indeed true, while neglecting to say that it had been a long time since a jellyfish had hurt anyone.
Sometimes the sharks would prod your front and sometimes your back. If you held your hands on one side they would snout you on the exposed side. "So at least they give you a choice," was the tortured logic of a few. And Mr. Eiger would nod. "I kind of like the physical attention!" some would saucily suggest.
A steadfast objector to the whole idea of exposing your family to obnoxious sharks in order to get to the resort would be met with the coup de gras, "What makes you so special? Are you some kind of prude? Here's the bottom line: if you don't like it, then just stay home." Mr. Eiger would cringe a little, but say nothing.
Resourceful customers figured out that if you offered the sharks a juicy morsel or two as you passed by, and were properly deferential, they were less aggressive. But later, the sharks started giving a little bite to those trying to cross the sand bar with no treat or trying to put them off. "Well, that just serves you right," those unfortunates might be admonished by fellow guests. "The poor sharks only bite when they have to. What made you think not to be properly nice to them?" What devilishly clever creatures, Mr. Eiger marveled. He instructed his staff to offer even more and better table scraps from the resort's dining rooms to show his deference. The sharks were nicer to him, for a while.
Not everyone was convinced by these rationales. Independent-minded objectors still felt strongly that this new pathway to the Grand Dizzy Caribbean Island Resort was indecent and increasingly dangerous.
A concerned father wrote a polite but firm letter to Mr. Eiger, "My wife and I would love to take our children to your resort, but with these new obnoxious sharks, now we don't know how to get there. Please advise."
Mr. Eiger responded via one of his staff, "Dear customer, we don't regulate the sharks…so there’s really not much we can offer."
"Why write to Eiger?" many criticized, "He didn't put the sharks there. Maybe you should appeal directly to the sharks. Appeal to their sense of decency maybe." But the father knew there was no sense appealing to sharks. They were not decent. They were sharks. Unlike civilized humans, they instinctively used violence or the threat of violence to prosper. The best thing to do, he knew, was to avoid sharks whenever possible.
That family made other vacation plans accordingly. So did others.
The sharks' behavior grew more erratic and obnoxious as the months went by. Gradually the rationalizers diminished in numbers as did the loyal customers that once patronized Mr. Eiger's formerly grand resort. Fewer staff now, maintenance work postponed. And it showed. The pathway to paradise grew weedy and ugly.
Mr. Eiger lived out his days in penury, blaming others for his misfortune. To anyone who would listen.
Today the Grand Dizzy Caribbean Island Resort is a distant memory to only a few old timers. Even Robert doesn’t remember this old family tale anymore.
But the sharks remember. They live among us now.
December 3, 2010