I was born and mostly grew up in Canada. A lovely country. Gets cold enough during the winter to seriously curtail any really nasty threats. It’s a good news / bad news thing. You can go in the ocean in Nova Scotia without worrying about sharks, but you do have to worry about hypothermia. All year round. And bears.

I now live in Australia. Very little chance of hypothermia (though it’s not out of the question in Tasmania and some of the higher elevations during what is laughably called “winter” here). Sharks, a little more common. Had a shark warning at the beach a week or so ago. I wrote about it. ‘Twern’t nuthin’.

But even still, you don’t run into sharks on a daily basis unless you’re a surf lifesaver. Or, possibly, a surfer.

Here on terra firma we have spiders. And snakes.

The categorisation of threats held in my North American brain, factoring access (to me) and lethality (to me) has ALWAYS placed snakes above spiders. Hell, I can stomp on a spider. Wouldn’t think of stomping on a snake. Not without steel capped, steel-arched, steel-shanked – ah, fuck it — steel boots.

Then I saw this video. It’s about a year old, but it still freaks me the hell out.

Watch it. Don’t watch it. But remember things are never as good as you think they are.

Ever.

This holiday break has been a good one. A few extra days off gave me a full two weeks and the temps have been in the mid to high 30s. Celsius. True Christmas weather.

So, naturally, we went to the beach. Many times. (Going again, with the pooch, in about 30 minutes.)

On January 1st, my son and I hit City Beach in Wollongong and after three and a half hours of looking for a parking spot (HA! I joke. It was only three hours.) we made it to the sand. The place wasn’t (yet) too crowded and the water was nice. I plopped down on the warm sand and my son hit the water.

Not thirty seconds after entering the water the surfies started ringing their school bell and the conspicuously hovering chopper lit up its siren (like a police siren – so much so I spent a full minute craning my neck looking for the PD issued dune buggy). Everyone immediately hauled ass out of the water, none faster than my son.

Apparently a shark (type and size unknown to me) wanted to party with the holiday revellers.

Now, to my non-native Australian brain, this would call for an immediate, nation-wide beach shutdown, extending at least 10km inland. HA!, I say, again.

Literally less that two minutes later the siren stopped, the bell was stowed and peoples started getting back in the water. Son and I decided we wait until there were enough small, tantalisingly bits-sized people in the water before we’d go back in — you know, the appetisers to the entre.

Talking just after that with an American friend based in California, he likened the Australian attitude to sharks to the Californian attitude about earthquakes: Unless it’s a big mothereffer, it’s “meh, lets get back in. The water’s fine.”

Stay tuned. Up next, how a spider killed a snake and ate it. Right here in Australia.