You've probably seen that story about that teenager who went for a swim in the middle of winter in Melbourne and had a bad time. And surprisingly it wasn't because he was cold. No, surprisingly it was because of sea fleas.
On Saturday, 16-year-old Sam Kanizay was at footy training when he got a bit steamed up and decided to go swimming at nearby Brighton Beach. He jumped in, spent half an hour doing god knows what, and then got out only to discover his feet had been ravaged by sea fleas.
The fleas responsible were identified as lysianassid amphipods, which are crustaceans that—like leeches—deliver bites laced with an anticoagulant to keep blood flowing into their tiny mouths. And this made Sam Kanizay's feet bleed for hours. It also created some very exciting images for news sites everywhere.
But for me, Sam's bloody feet raised one question: Who was this incredible dude who went swimming in the middle of winter? In August! And how did he generate so much news off just a few bites? Could I do that? Because frankly I was having a slow news week and getting mauled by sea fleas would be fantastic.
So I went to Brighton and laid out a towel. It was about 14 degrees and windy in the way that makes you want to avoid talking to people. It was perfect.
I got in the water and sent out some positive vibrations to the sea fleas. Come get me you little dickheads. Then I waited, feeling curious about what these sea fleas would do. Would they hurt? Would I see them?
I stood there for ages and started to get cold. Not far away a man in hi vis jumper was standing at the end of a pier made of rocks. I looked at him and thought, that's what winter looks like. Just a man finished with the morning shift at a parts factory and hoping to take home a fish that tastes only slightly of mercury, and waiting. Not loving the present, but waiting. Winter is waiting. Winter sucks. No one ever makes new memories in winter.
Anyway, I was sick of waiting so I got one of these out. Know what this is? It's a Kanga Banga, which is a type of sausage made from pulped kangaroos.
And I did this with it.
Which really brought out the dogs. Instantly, all 600 designer dogs getting walked by rich people along Brighton Beach knew what I'd done and chased me into the water. "No," I cried out. "No it's for the fleas!"
So there I was, back in the water. Waiting for fleas and surrounded by dogs. I wasn't sure why I was doing this. There was only a vague feeling that everyone in the world has been mistakenly led to believe exciting things happen at Brighton Beach. Because even if you want to get bitten, you can't.
I knew already that my story was not going to involve bites, but rather serve as an illustration about the dullness of Brighton Beach. And I'm sure that some people and plenty of chocolate labradors would disagree, but it's true. And it's also true that Melbourne's beaches suck in general. They're all just kind of swampy and next to highways and covered in bits of polystyrene and small lengths of rope. Melbourne just isn't a "beach city."
I got out to discover my feet still weren't bleeding. What was I doing wrong? Also by this point I didn't care what I was doing wrong. All I wanted to do was climb inside a giant cheese and tomato toasted sandwich.
I decided it was time to go, but first I knew I had to go ask the guy on the end of the pier something. I wasn't sure what. Just a question that would illuminate this whole stupid situation and give things some proper order.
"Hey mate!" I yelled as I approached. "Do you know anything about the sea fleas?" The guy turned and faced me slowly. He eyed me up and down, taking in my dripping shorts and general shivering. "Brrrrrrr," he imitated, hugging himself. "Brrrrrrrrrrrr." And with that he turned around and got back to fishing.
And he was right. The kid shouldn't have gone swimming in the middle of winter, and that's all we've learned.