by Stephen Phillips
You know whats really great about my new job? Regular working hours. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5--no late shifts, no waking up at the crack of 3:00 AM, no nights, no weekends. I can't believe my luck. With so much leisure time on my hands, I feel like O.J. Simpson must have after his acquittal. (Nice to see that the legal process still works!)
When I was child, I relished my spare time with an almost fanatical zeal, pursuing many activities that I thought were great adventures. (My parents tended to regard them with a bit more skepticismperhaps in view of the time they ended up spending in local hospital emergency rooms.)
"Honestly, Mum, I really didn't mean to burn down Dad's garden shed. We just wanted to play Towering Inferno, and it sort of got out of hand."
My mother used to dread it every time I got an invitation to a friends birthday party. It was inevitable that sometime during the course of the party, she would receive a phone call from the host's parents: "Oh hello, Mrs. Phillips. Sorry to trouble you, but I thought Id better let you know we had to take Stephen to the hospital. Nothing serious--he was just showing his friends his Superman impression while climbing that big oak tree in the garden."
Those carefree irresponsible days of my youth have long since passed into history, and now I can fully understand why my parents suffered such acute anxiety every time I said I was going out to play.
As time has passed, Ive become a little more sedate in my leisure time activities. Now I have sensible hobbies, more in line with a man of my age. For example, there's nothing I like better than to grab my fishing gear and a cold sixpack, and head on down to the nearest river to engage in an epic struggle between man and beast.
(Mind you, I'm not quite the worlds best fisherman. If I were cast as Captain Ahab on the hunt for Moby Dick, I probably couldn't shoot the white whale if it were in a barrel and I were equipped with a large gunsay, the battleship Missouri.)
One fishing trip a few years ago reminded me that my leisure activities can still contain elements of hazard. While visiting Orlando, Florida, I decided to spend the day searching for the elusive large-mouthed bass. I packed up my gear and headed off to a quiet little lake. All was peace and serenity as I set myself up for the day. The sun was low on the horizon, and a gentle breeze fanned the reeds.
Our Illustrious Hero (thats me) crept down to the waters edge, ready to do battle. As I cast my line out, I noticed that a heron had decided to join me in the hunt.
I took this as a good omen. Surely if the heron was on the scope for fish, the gods of outdoor activities would at least let me catch something.
As time passed, the bird came closer to my position, and waded out into deeper water.
What a great idea, I thought. Get further into the water. That way I can cast my lure further. This is what it's all about--bonding with nature. It just can't get any better than this.
There we stood, shoulder to wing, man and bird, two great hunters on the prowl.
Just then the heron froze, its eyes firmly fixed on the water in front of us. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, my heart beating in anticipation of landing the big one. All sorts of images flooded my brain. I could picture myself on the cover of Fisherman's Weekly, proudly displaying a monster fish--a world record-beating animal of gigantic proportions.
A splash shook me back into reality, as the heron lunged after its prey. It was the biggest water moccasin I have ever seen.
I'm not normally the kind of person to be easily scared, but right at that moment, my heart jumped into my throat, and all I could think of was, Aaarrghh, it's a bloody big SNAKE!!!
In the next instant, I had flung all my fishing gear at the snake. (Fat lot of good that did. In fact, I think it just gave the reptile an even worse disposition. )
In my haste to get out of the water, I did a very passable impression of Jesse Owens: 100 meters in about 3.5 seconds. When I finally had the courage to stop running--about 3 miles away--I glanced back to see the heron gracefully circling around my fishing gear, which had by now floated considerably further out into the lake.
That was it for me that day. I decided that if I really wanted a hobby where my life was in danger, I would take up bungee jumping, or maybe rock climbing. At least there arent many snakes up there on Everest. (Or so I've heard.)
If anyone is on a fishing trip to the Orlando area anytime soon, and happens upon some discarded fishing gear washed up on the shores of a lake, kindly spare a thought for me, and my brush with disaster.
--Oh, and by the way, if any of the stuff is still good, I would really appreciate it back.
Next time I'm in the area and decide to have another go at landing a whopper, Ill make sure I'm better equipped to deal with whatever might come up. I'm thinking maybe a large piece of two-by-four might help assure my safety.
Then again, I could always take up another challenging hobby. I hear tiddlywinks can be quite exciting.
(c) COPYRIGHT 2002 STEPHEN PHILLIPS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.