Weekend Wanderer: College Gets to the Heart of My Fears

By

weekend wanderer

My daughter has been accepted to college. 

In Florida

Listen. I’m very proud of her. She’s worked hard. I’m excited for her to go. 

And I hope she stays in Florida. Or in North Carolina, which is where she’d like to live someday. I hope she sees more of the world than what I’ve shown her. 

Do I want her to go? No. I want her to be a baby again, drooling sweet potato-tinged spittle as she sleeps on my shoulder. I want her to be that toddler squealing with joy as she pets our cat. 

Also — as long as we’re wishing for unreasonable things here — I’d like that cat back. 

The thing we really need to talk about here, what we really need to address, is the hellscape in which she’ll be living. 

Because Florida is a hub for every phobia I have. 

For starters, once she’s settled at school, trips home will be by plane. 

Alone. 

Did you hear me? My baby, my child, flying alone. 

Have you guys read Drowning by T.J. Newman? Because I have.  

It’s about a plane crashing just after takeoff. It sinks into the Pacific with survivors trapped inside, sustained by a rapidly dwindling air bubble. 

A child is in that air bubble. Fortunately, her dad insisted on flying with her. 

You know. In case the plane crashed. 

Which it did. 

Do I want to be the parent flying with her 18-year-old because of a fictionalized air disaster? 

Well, yeah. 

The crash survivors’ only hope is the scuba divers working to hoist the plane from the water. 

Well. 

You guys know how I feel about scuba diving

Can you imagine what it was like to live with me while I read that book? I probably wasn’t a lot of fun.  

I probably shouldn’t have read it. 

But speaking of scuba diving, my daughter’s college has a scuba diving club. 

A scuba diving club. A scuba diving club? Really? Why not just have a club for, I don’t know, skydiving without a parachute? Driving without a seat belt? Living in the reptile house at the zoo? 

Do you know how deep the water is off Florida? Me either. And that’s the problem. I have no idea how deep my baby will dive.  

And do you know what’s in Florida’s water? Remember the alligator I told you about? The one living in a pond on her school’s campus?  

Do you know how many people get eaten by alligators in Florida every year?  

The Daily Mail says eight. I don’t know why a United Kingdom-based news outlet is concerned with alligator fatalities in Florida. 

Unless, of course, they are wisely preparing for alligators to swim en masse across the Atlantic

Also, the number of fatal alligator encounters in Florida has risen every year.  

So that’s great. 

Do you know what else is in Florida’s water? 

Well let’s just say my daughter plans to major in marine science. She wants to focus on elasmobranchology. 

That’s sharks, guys. 

And her school has a shark lab. 

That I haven’t passed my fear of sharks onto my daughter is both admirable and an utter parenting failure. 

Do I know my shark fear is ridiculous? Of course I do. Do I know of Peter Benchley’s contrition over the damage caused by Jaws? Yes. Have I watched Eli Roth’s documentary on the state of the shark population? 

He’s a horror movie director. Of course I’ve watched his shark documentary. I couldn’t walk away from a horror movie director’s shark documentary any more than Sam could walk away from Diane. 

Oh, and what about Florida’s invasive pythons? Just this weekend, my daughter showed me an old picture of her friend’s snake slithering inside the hood of her sweatshirt. 

That friend lives around the corner. Had I known about the snake when it was alive, I would have moved. 

I mean, rest in peace and all dude. But also, good riddance. 

Oh — I looked it up. Encyclopedia Britannica says the Gulf of Mexico is 17,070 feet at its deepest. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism says it’s only 14,383 feet deep. 

Let’s — let’s go with that. 

I don’t know why the discrepancy. Except, of course, the people measuring that depth probably all died, forcing everyone on the surface to estimate. 

Diver magazine says 100 people die while scuba diving in North America. One hundred people die while diving the rest of the world. 

Do you know where my daughter is scuba diving? 

North America. North America! 

What, exactly, is the problem in North America that just as many people die here as in the entirety of the planet? 

This is why it’s good for her to see the rest of the world. 

Less scuba deaths. Places with no snakes. Oceans with Greenland sharks, so elusive nobody knows the extent of their habitat. 

And no phobia-plagued mom, helicoptering over her life. 

Wait. 

What if her school has a helicopter? 

I’m not Googling that.  

I promise.  

OK. I probably will. 

We just won’t talk about it. 

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