Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Megalodon Virginia?

People are so weird….

Uh, let me backtrack for a moment and put that statement in context.

It all started with Shark Week (cue "Jaws" music). Yes, I’m talking about THE Shark Week, Discovery Channel’s annual homage to the bad boys (and girls) of the deep. This year’s broadcast opened with: “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” which, as you can guess from the title, apparently theorized that the massive shark with 7-inch teeth and jaws strong enough to crush the skull of a whale (a big one at that!), thought to have been extinct for something like two million years, could still live among us.

Since its airing, the show has been termed by some as a “mocumentary,” critics asserting that any claim to a living megalodon is nothing but hype, and calling into question not only “Shark Week” itself, but Discovery Channel’s legitimacy as a science-based programmer. These viewers aren’t just disgusted. They aren’t just upset. Some are downright hurt. And they’ve gone to the webiverse to air their bruised feelings. (There's a good overview of the reaction at National Geographic if you're interested.)

Some, however, have gone further. At least one man has decided to investigate the episode’s claims. And that’s where it gets weird.

The call came into the newsroom at 5:10 p.m., just as I was packing up after a long day of fielding questions and comments from readers and news tipsters who wanted to share their stories or problems--whether or not we had anything to do with their reason for the call. But that’s not the weird part.

No, I knew I was in trouble when the caller opened with, “Have you ever heard of ‘Shark Week’?”

I think my body tensed along with my mind because I got an instant neck crick. “Of course,” I said with a laugh.

But he didn’t return the laugh. Instead he asked, “Did you watch this year’s show?”

“No, sir, I did not.”

“Then you didn’t see about the megalodon, cousin to Carcharodon carcharias (which I later learned is the Great White)?"

Okay, I have to admit that from this point my memory is a little fuzzy, probably because half of it was trying to figure out a quick way to get off the phone. (I'm sorry, but it was after 5 o'clock! I'd been there since 8!)

Turns out, according to the caller, the episode displayed a snapshot of a newspaper story about the discovery of a fossilized megalodon tooth in Virginia. The snapshot did not identify the paper, but the caller let his clicker do the walking and landed with moi (answering the tip line in our newsroom). And he wanted answers – he wanted to prove that the Discovery Channel was perpetrating a heinous lie on its too-trusting viewership.

I won’t bore you with the details of the call except to say that it lasted more than 15 minutes, during which I attempted, multiple times, to refer the caller to more knowledgeable sources in the area—like libraries, and local museums. Finally, I sicked him on our poor archivist (who is probably still cursing me as I write this) to dig up any articles we may have written on such a phenomenon.

As I dropped the receiver into the cradle and breathed a sigh of relief that I'd passed him off, I had to give the caller props for going to such lengths to track down a piece of information in an attempt to discredit the Discovery Channel’s representation of a prehistoric shark!

I've been poking a little fun at this man, but at least he didn't just whine about something that bothered him. He took action...and he was very polite! (Politeness goes a long way, even when you're driving someone crazy.) I mean, you have to care a lot about a TV show that's mostly entertainment to spend your time tracking down a grainy photo of a news story that may or may not have been written, halfway across the country. Right?

I don't know if he ever found the proof (or lack of) he was looking for, but I lift my virtual flute of champagne to toast his tenacity, and (to refer back to Tina's blog from a few days ago) for staying true to himself.

So yes, people are weird -- wonderfully, amazingly weird. Wouldn't life be boring otherwise?

By day, Leah works as a mild-mannered book blogger (among other things) at her local newspaper, but at night, she lets her imagination run wild, crafting stories of romance, suspense, murder, mayhem and love. Always love. Read more about Leah at


  1. Lord bless the weirdies of the world! We play a game around here. It's called "what's your source". Annoyingly frustrating when you just mention, off the cuff, "by the way, did you hear about the GMO wheat that's in most of our food?" Some tenacious child at the dinner table pipes up to question, "what's your source for that bogus sensationalism?" Hey, I was just trying to give a possible explanation for so many of her friends developing wheat allergies recently.

    I have a hankerin' for some fish sticks. Great blog post!

    1. I think I'm glad that I'm past the age of having tenacious children at the table. :-)

  2. I'm with Sophie; Let your Freak Flag Fly! Sorry, I watched a re-run of Woodstock lately, and its effects linger. Leah, those people who drive us crazy? The ones keeping accountability tabs on everyone? They are the ones we should bless, and praise - they keep our politicians/corporate managers/bankers honest (or at least, more honest than they would ever be without them)and we all benefit. Good for you to single out this event, as challenging as it was, for the good there.

  3. Yeah, Elvy, I have to agree with you. He was really, really passionate about the whole thing...God bless him.

  4. Your voice is all over this piece, Leah! LOL I can actually hear you saying "I'm sorry, but it was after 5...)

    He may have been a slight nuisance to you, but I'm sure he'll never forget you or the time you took listening to him. He probably had no one else who would. Certainly not in your job description, but we all know those things are never accurate. :-)