Diary extract, August 30, 2014

It’s only 8PM in France and I’ve already learned four life lessons.

1) THERE IS INTENSE JOY IN ACHIEVING EVEN THE SMALLEST GOALS YOU SET FOR YOURSELF.
Beginning of this Summer I decided to become a better swimmer after a lifetime of near-floating ability which, for a 48 year old Aquarius, is embarrassing (a near drowning experience at age 7 is probably part cause why water has always scared the shit out of me). Today I swam about half a kilometer out in windy conditions. The distance is nothing compared to actual swimmers (I’ve seen some dudes here swim from one horizon to the other), but for me an astronomical deal. I reached my target goal, a solitary yellow buoy that I considered mission impossible only a couple of weeks ago, grabbed its snout, saw the human microdots that I’d left behind and screamed out of pure joy (a nearby sailboat turned towards me to check if I’m OK).

2) THE MOMENT YOU GET ARROGANT ABOUT YOUR ACHIEVEMENT, NATURE SLAPS YOU BACK.
Half-way back, swimming with the confidence of an aquatic Tarzan, a jellyfish stings me on my right side (the second time this Summer, the first time was when I swam about 20 meters and also congratulated myself). If you have ever been stung by jellyfish you know that these beautiful little jelly doughnuts are the marine version of tasers. I wriggle in pain and drop under the surface, where I recollect a Google entry: jellyfish always move in schools and are 15-30 times more likely to kill you than sharks. I attempt to reach warp speed to get myself out of the jellyfish zone. From the beachgoers’ point of view I must have been creating more bubbles than a helicopter crashing into the ocean. I’m unaware of my new exertion level and by the time I reach the beach, my knees buckle and I drop onto the sand.

3) FRENCH WAITERS, EVEN IF THEY DON’T RESPOND TO YOUR REQUESTS FOR A FERNET BRANCA, ARE ACTUALLY NICE PEOPLE.
While I’m lying on my towel, breathing like a coyote with rabies, my right side swelling up like a zombie bite, I hear someone shouting “monsieur” half a dozen times. Not thinking it’s aimed at me, I ignore it until the decibels pick up about 600%. I open my eyes to see the French waiter who has never exchanged a word with me, even after several past requests to expedite a Fernet Branca (he has usually delivered them to me with 30-40 minute delays, which I always thought was a French way to fuck with people who appear to be American). This beautiful man brings me water and lemon slices and asks me to drink one glass after another, until I stabilize. I talk with the dude and find out he is an actual swimmer. Probably had a similar experience at age 7.

It only occurs to me afterwards that…

4) THE MOST LIKELY CAUSE OF MY FUTURE DEATH IS STUPIDITY
I always thought I would die in an aviation disaster after being in a vertical dive twice in an airliner and once in a private plane when both engines failed over the North Sea. Not anymore.

While stumbling back to my quarters, my joie de vivre reappeared. I made it to the yellow buoy.

Tomorrow it’s the island, only a couple of strokes further up.