I’m halfway through my online scuba lessons and I’m becoming very, very worried.
We’re taking online scuba certification classes, with plans to do the actual dive portion in Puerto Rico in December. All of this is to prepare us for diving in the Great Barrier Reef next year.
I am, as you may have noticed, a very risk-adverse and worried person. I worry about brain eating amoebas. I worry about sharks, of course. Now, thanks to President Obama and his trip to Australia and a little gift he received from some diplomat, I’m now also worried about crocodiles. (Thanks Australia!)
Look, I have a really great life and I don’t want to jeopardize it. As much as I like pretty fishies, I’d like to keep living. And doing nonsensical things like trying to breathe underwater, seems a bit foolhardy to say the least. (And I’m saying it.)
But I also understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, I know other people who scuba dive and they seem to get through it without losing any limbs or anything.
Anyway, since I am so prone to panicking, my scuba-buddy-for-life XFE and I thought that the pace-yourself-approach might work best. We could take the online courses, at the slower Poe pace, reviewing and rewatching the slides until actual learning somehow, miraculously, penetrated the haze of panic and settled into my little brain.
Add the allure of going to Puerto Rico and getting out of DC in the midst of a probably cold December for the in-water portion, and I slowly began to feel a tiny bit better about the whole certain-impending-underwater-death thing.
(By the way, the lessons in Puerto Rico will be private ones. You do not want to see me in a group lesson setting. No bueno. Lots of tears and panic and confusion. I think we all learned our lesson from the Great Copper Mountain Ski Debacle of 2008 [or was it 2009?] Either way, someone had to be rescued off the mountain and out of her group ski class by the nice men on the skimobiles.)
So, with a plan in place, I was starting to feel in control, a bit calmer even, while envisioning myself swimming alongside giant sea turtles and frolicking with Nemo under the sea.
Then, I started taking the online PADI classes and Holy Fear Injection. What. The. Hell.
So far, it’s all about stuff I should be worried about. They’ve mentioned things that can go wrong that even I, in my wildest dreams, never considered. For example: the second half of last night’s section discussed what to do if you encounter an “unresponsive diver.” This is not something I’d ever even thought about, but my first reaction is to say, get yourself out of there, get to the surface and undertake a combination of screaming/swimming/thrashing until help comes along. However, that is not proper scuba procedure. Apparently, you are supposed to help the person to the surface. And, some other stuff I wasn’t really paying attention to.
Also: entanglement. Which can come in all kinds of forms like, plants, fishing lines, loose lines and old nets. Where the hell do they think we’re going to be diving? What kind of underwater “Wipeout” are they planning here?
Then there are all these boating terms to remember, and hand signals (25 of them, which they blew through in about .5 seconds), and procedures for weights and BCDs and alternate inflator regulators, and on and on. I have to know how to use a compass. A compass??!! I have no idea how to use a compass. They didn’t really teach that back in the trailer park. And there’s math. Very important math related to how deep you can go and how much air you have.
Plus, did you know that things like water movement affect your ability to see and not get disoriented? Other things that affect visibility? Oh, just the weather, suspended particles of plankton and algae, and the composition of the bottom of the ocean. How am I supposed to account for that??
Oh, and good luck with that whole seeing thing anyway, since apparently refraction magnifies everything by 33% so everything looks larger and closer. That includes sharks, by the way.
My favorite advice, however, is what to do if there’s an aggressive animal around. That’s right. An aggressive animal. First, there are the list of precautions to keep from being shark dinner:
- Treat all animals with respect (CHECK)
- Be careful in murky water (again, not really something I can control)
- Avoid wearing shiny or dangly jewelry (Hmmm, guess I better not wear my grillz then)
- Remove fish you have speared from the water immediately (Not going to be a problem because I’m sticking with point number uno, and spearing fish is NOT very respectful.)
- Wear gloves and exposure suit (welp, since we covered the loss of body heat in the water in section 1, I’m pretty sure my wimpy cold butt is going to be covered up. Also: see refraction factoid. I do not want my imperfections—few as they are—to appear 33% larger.)
- Maintain neutral buoyancy and stay off the bottom (this one is hilarious and I will point out why in just a minute)
- Move slowly and carefully (pretty sure I’m not going to move slowly or carefully if and when I’m confronted by an aggressive animal. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.)
- Watch where you’re going and where you put your hands, feet and knees. (Since I’ll be tucked into a fetal position and crying underwater, I’m sure this won’t be an issue.)
- Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. (They’re ALL unfamiliar to me. I don’t know any of these animals. I’ve never met them before. I’m not going to be playing fetch down there with any of them.)
So here’s the advice they give you if all the above precautions don’t work and somehow, you, in your skimpy bathing suit decorated with dangling sequins and bugle beads and carrying a line of speared and unfamiliar fish in the murky water behind you somehow managed to attract the attention of an “aggressive” animal.
- Remain still and calm at the bottom. (WAIT. You told me to stay off the bottom in precautionary point 6. Now I’m totally confused. What am I supposed to do??)
- Do not swim toward it. (No. Problem. You can’t swim if you are actively in the process of soiling your wet suit.)
- Watch what it does. (Also known as, ‘push your scuba buddy towards the nice fishie’).
- If it stays, calmly swim along the bottom and out of the way. (As if I’d have the presence of mind to do any of these things.)
There better be some really awesome and friendly fish down there. I’m bringing a gun, just in case.