Cool Under Fire

An Anecdote:

I’ve had a gun pointed at me with intent. By a policeman at Heathrow.

Scary. I stayed cool.

I’ve been shot at.

Scarier. I stayed cool.

Being Shot At – A Memoir

I was SCUBA diving alone at Goat Island, Leigh, in New Zealand. I did that quite often back then. There were not a lot of divers I thought were competent enough to buddy with. It’s fine for them to rely on me, but I need to rely on them too. So mostly, if my mates were not available, i dived alone. I preferred to dive alone anyway. Rely on myself. I had a high opinion of my own ability.

I was returning to the mainland after a pleasant spell smashing kina to feed the blue cod, baby snapper and red moki. Smashing kina was a breach of the new voluntary sanctuary rules all local dive clubs had agreed upon, but it wasn’t illegal, yet. Besides, there were plenty of them. No harm done. At least I was feeding the fish, not spearing them as I used to do. It is actually more enjoyable.

As I swam back I saw before me in the water a sudden flash of silver that looked exactly like what you see in that scene in the movies when the hero has jumped off a cliff into deep water, and bullets come raining down from the bad guys guns above. We’ve seen it countless times. A zing! of silver.

Another streaked down, a little closer. It was definitely a bullet. Just like in the movies.

I headed for the bottom, glad I wasn’t snorkelling. I tried to retrieve the bullet, but I couldn’t find it.

I made my way across the sea floor to the rock ledge below the research station, where I surfaced, and climbed out. A boy approached, all excited. “Did you see the shark? My dad shot it”.

“Tell your dad he was shooting at me, and I’m going to shove his gun up his arse.”

The boy ran off.

By the time I’d got my gear off and lugged it up the hill to the car park, there was no sign of the boy or his dad. I regretted my comment. I should have liked to have had a chat with the shooter about that huge shark, and got his name and car registration before revealing it was I that was his target.

I reported the incident at the Warkworth police station anyway, just to let them know, but they could obviously do nothing except take note.

I suspect in any case, the gunman had quite a scare when he realised what he had done. I hope. He scarpered quickly enough.

The first firearm rule I learned was to identify your target before pulling the trigger.

My aluminium SCUBA tank was grey. My wetsuit black. So were my fins. I suppose I could have been taken for a shark if you ignored the bright yellow collar of my buoyancy compensator. A yellow tipped reef shark, perhaps.

A few years later the area was properly gazetted as a sanctuary, following a lot of lobbying by the diving community. After that the sharks and I should have been safe swimming there.

The kina were, I promise.

Kina are sea urchins, considered a delicacy by some New Zealanders and all fish.

Author: Uisce úr

Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

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