Die Laughing

I was in Nanaimo a few days ago and went to Departure Bay for the first time in years. I took a couple of pictures of the bay and reminisced about a time I was there with a friend many, many years ago.

Near the shore, I sat above the logs and looked at what was once our swimming beach.

Near the shore, I sat above the logs and looked at what was once our swimming beach.

The ferry terminal is near the bright spot on the horizon.

The ferry terminal is near the bright spot on the horizon.

This is the other side of the bay.

This is the other side of the bay with the biological station in the distance.

In the days before most families had two or more cars parked in front of their house, my friend Gina and I walked everywhere. At the tender age of sixteen we thought nothing of walking several miles from our houses to Departure Bay where we could hang out at the beach.  I’d only lived in Nanaimo for a couple of months, and having grown up in the BC interior, deprived of an ocean for all those years, I was not a good swimmer. I could barely stay afloat. But at Departure Bay, a raft was anchored not too far out from the beach. We decided to swim for it, rest, and then swim  back.

Gina and I were probably the giggliest girls that ever went through their teen years together, always goofing around. It’s no surprise then, that while we were “swimming” (dogpaddling, sidestroking, frog-legging, or whatever) out to the raft, Gina thought it would be a good time to tell a joke.  I thought it was hilarious at the time, and yet I had no memory of it two hours later. All these years later, I still can’t remember that joke. I only know  it was the funniest one I had ever heard.

I was in the middle of a not-so-graceful sidestroke when Gina got to the punchline. My stomach cramped up with laughter and I sank below the surface. It was pretty scary under that black water. Forget the joke. This wasn’t funny. I sobered up and kicked to the surface for a gasp of air. I tried to get my stroke back, saw Gina’s grinning face bobbing a few feet away from me. She  rolled her eyes and made a face. I spluttered  out the last bits of water in my mouth, cramped up with laughter and sank again.

“Holy smoke,” I thought. “I’m going to drown!”  I kicked up, belched and spluttered out the water I’d inhaled, and snatched a lungful of air. One look at Gina’s grin and I was laughing again. It was such a funny joke. But as I sank for the third time, I remembered that old saying that once you go under three times, you’re done for.

“No way!” I thought. “I’m not going to die laughing.” I struggled to the surface and swam as hard as I could in my clumsy way, not daring to look at Gina. We were still some distance from the raft, and way too far out to consider turning back to shore. I managed to get to the raft, haul myself aboard, and collapse there.

Once Gina was up on the raft too, we had a proper giggle attack. Finally, finally, finally, we had no giggles left in us. After a while we thought we should head back but honestly, I was terrified to get back in the water. I would have been braver if I’d been alone, but with Gina beside me, there was no telling what might happen. What if she knew more than one joke? And it wasn’t only the jokes. We were experts at making faces at each other that would send us off into fits of giggles and snorts. I don’t know how we ever managed to grow up and turn into sensible, responsible people.

A cloud passed over us, and a breeze poofed the water up a bit. It was getting a bit chilly sitting on the raft. We knew we had to get back into that water soon. I made Gina promise not to make funny faces or tell any more jokes, or we might not make it back to shore. Just to be sure I did the sidestroke facing away from Gina all the way back to the beach.

We are still best friends these many years later, still telling jokes, but not while we’re swimming.

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Departure Bay no longer has a raft. Possibly it’s not as good for swimming now that the ferry passes close by.

36 thoughts on “Die Laughing

  1. It brings back such good memories. And I can’t for the life of me remember the joke I was telling you. And all the times we joked about in English class…”How equably he twirleth round the string”, a dissertation on roast something-or-other. I still have that little notebook that we passed back and forth!

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    • “How equably…” – that was Roast Pig by Charles Lamb. I only remember it because we always said it was Roast Lamb by Charles Pig. Too silly for words! Does your notebook have your drawing of the hunter walking over the dead bear (to illustrate “Crossing the Bar” by …was it Tennyson)?

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  2. OMG, Anneli ~ what an experience! I love the photos and the atmosphere, a kind of desolate cheeriness telling of glories past and easily resurrected, perhaps? (I might have got that completely wrong but that’s what the photos said to me). As for your near-drowning… Good grief! I’m not stranger to plentiful near drowning anecdotes, usually in the safe confines of a swimming pool, as I had a strange habit of passing out during PE swimming lessons. I am so in awe that you made it to that raft and VERY glad you lived to tell the tale. Go you! XX

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    • I think as teens we have many close calls, probably more than we’re aware of. Thank goodness most of us survive them and learn from them. Sadly, we’ve lost many along the way who weren’t as lucky as this fool was.

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  3. I love the photos.. but to be honest I enjoyed the story more.. so many little things like that, that happened years ago just come rolling back to the mind… walking miles to do something stupid or to walk so far to say hello to a mate and find when you get there that time has caught you up,, a quick hello and walk all the way home again for supper… Those days were so enjoyable, safe and careless actually… today’s kids have so much more than we had.. and yet they still enjoy themselves ..just differently to how we did…
    I’m so glad you came up again after the third dip… would have missed you…

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    • Thanks so much for reading it, Rob. A lot of people don’t have the patience to bother with reading much these days. It has become a visual world with all our techno-gadgets. Just think if I hadn’t come up for the third time, I would have missed your wonderful posts about life in South Africa.

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  4. Your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing a wonderful but scary story. Shared memories between friends are a blessing. I am glad you survived the joke and you still have your best friend.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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    • Thanks, Francine. I don’t want to tell my age because that would be giving away my friend’s age – right? – but we’ve remained good friends for the rest of our lives so far. That swimming story was from a long, long time ago.

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    • I was really frustrated afterwards that I couldn’t remember it. I think when reality set in, some defense mechanism set in and my brain told me not to ever remember that joke in case it killed me next time. 😉

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  5. I love these pics…but I love your memories even more! As scary as it had to be (!) it made me giggle picturing the two of you laughing. It also reminded me of somewhat similar times with bff’s. ♥ Great post! paula

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  6. Isn’t it amazing that we survive the many goofy things we do as teenagers. If I had told my mom about that day she would never have let me go to the beach again.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, Paula.

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    • To be honest, I was afraid to go swimming with Gina for a while after that, but we got over it. I don’t think there are two people who have had so many laughs together over the years. In our teens, our tittering used to drive my mother crazy. More than once she called to us upstairs in my room for us to stop that constant giggling. Everything in our lives was just so funny in those days. When we get together now, we still laugh about so many things. Life is good.

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  7. What a wonderfully, scary episode. Reminds me of the last time I was in Maui snorkeling and the wind came up. Didn’t think I’d make it back to shore. But then a kind gentleman saw my dilemma, swam with me and encouraged me all the way. It was a bit embarrassing but appreciated none the less.
    Thanks for your story and pictures.

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    • I had a similar experience in Kauai where the tide kept wanting to take me out (at Hanama Bay) and I got really tired. Obviously I made it, but nice of that fellow to help talk you in. The scrapes we get ourselves into!!!

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  8. Wonderful story! To have such a friend in your teenage years is very special, but to keep one forever and still laugh about such memories? Not many are so fortunate 🙂 I wonder, what would have happened if you hadn’t heard about the third time?

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