Hotline Fling

Earlier this week, I read Man and Beast, a story by Adam Rabinowitz, a guy who opened the first jaguar preserve in Belize. With a topic like that, he didn’t need much filler, but he slipped in this little fact: the act of speaking and the act of singing are controlled by two different parts of the human brain. That’s why people who stutter can often sing without any impairment at all.

I found this interesting mostly because I saw a way to make it about me. I figured if speaking and singing are unrelated, then the same might be true of walking and dancing. And that could explain why I could be a perfectly competent ballerina for fifteen years, but fail to climb two porch steps without incident.

Granted, I have no real scientific evidence to back this theory up – just 35 years of amusing anecdotes and a series of X-rays. I suppose I could look into it, but I don’t really want to. I suspect I’d quickly disprove myself and then I wouldn’t have nearly as good a set up for my story about falling into the Adriatic Sea on Monday.

I’m sure you’re already asking: Nova, were you trying to take the perfect selfie and accidentally walked off a cliff? And the answer is no. No, I did not walk off a mountaintop during the course of taking a photograph. I walked off a boat launch. And, yes, I’m fine. And, yes, roughly two catamarans’ worth of people saw it happen.

Before you get all haughty about having never fallen off a boat launch while taking a selfie, let me remind you that such things happen. In fact, they happen all the time. As of June, 29 people have died while taking selfies this year alone. And since that number apparently means nothing until it’s compared to that of shark attacks, I’ll throw that in too. Five. Only five people were killed by fish during the same time period.

Anyway. That’s enough stalling. Here’s what happened: I was on a three-island day cruise in Croatia. I was walking back to the boat when I decided to take a last-minute picture with the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic behind me. I stopped right where I was, which just so happened to be at the top of a boat launch.

After posing for a few photos, I realized that I had not chosen the best location for my self-portrait. Try as I may to angle my camera this way and that, I still had an annoying strip of concrete behind me before the sea began.

So I turned around and took two steps towards the water. Then, still not satisfied with my background, I took two more. And that’s when I hit the algae. I was only in ankle deep water at the time, but I lost my footing. I managed to recover, but by that time, I was several paces further into the water and now on an even more slippery surface. I began to slide. And since I was on a ramp, I gathered quite a bit of momentum. With nothing to hold on to and nothing to break my fall, it became pretty clear that I was going to end up face first in the water.

That wouldn’t have been so bad but for the fact that I was holding my phone at the time. And I know that doesn’t sound like much to worry about, but for me it is. Because I bought four iPhones in the past ten months. I’m not exaggerating: There was the one that died mysteriously in New Zealand; The one that was pick-pocketed in Paris; A second-hand replacement that never worked quite right, so I willingly parted ways with; and the current iPhone that was on its way to the dunk tank. With the purchase of yet another phone, I’d be up to a staggering five devices this year – which means that I replace my cell phone at about the same rate that sharks kill people.

I didn’t have a lot of options and I had even less time mull them over. So I did the only thing I could think of: I threw my phone towards the jetty alongside the boat the launch. I was a few feet away, and the jetty was only two yards wide, but I figured that was my best hope. And then, without further ado, I belly flopped into the water with all the grace and charm of a slightly buzzed sea lion.

When I popped back out of the water a few seconds later, I was surprised to hear other people screaming. Apparently, two girls who had been sunbathing on the jetty were startled by the sudden splashing, and also because I threw a cell phone at them.

“DID YOU JUST FALL?” one of them asked, peering over the side of the wall.

“I did,” I answered.

“WHERE DID THIS CELL PHONE COME FROM?” the other added, looking towards the sky.

“It’s mine,” I replied. “I threw it on my way into the water.”

They looked rightfully confused, so I added, “It was a selfie fail. I slipped.”

“OHHHHH!” they both said at once. This they understood.

The first girl shrugged. “It happens,” she said. “Do you want us to take your picture?”

I did not. But I found myself saying yes and now here we are.

On my walk back to the boat, I decided that I was no longer allowed to take selfies – at least not near large bodies of water. But I quickly talked myself out of that because I love selfies and beach selfies are my favorite subset.

As a compromise, I decided to buy a waterproof case for my phone. It’s a good investment for someone who plans to visit numerous beach destinations this fall and also likes to use her phone in the bathtub.

So when we got back to the main port, I headed to the electronics store where I had hooked up a local SIM the day I arrived. The shop wasn’t far: just down the main street, up a few flights of stone steps and then around the corner. It was but a ten-minute walk that I’d done at least ten times already. But just to be on the safe side, I decided to dance.

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*Man and Beast was included in The Moth, an awesome collection of stories I found perfect for some light summer reading. (Yes, all are based on the live storytelling series – and personally I like them better on the page.) Also, because I have a half-a-book-a-day habit whenever I’m at the beach, let me also recommend Possible Side Effects, by Augusten Burroughs and The Best American Essays 2016. Loved them all. I’m three for three here in Dubrovnik.



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