We’ve been in Puerto Rico about three days now (four if you count the travel day) and there’s one thing that’s become evident: waterboarding is a truly excellent form of torture, as those things go.
I can say that because we had our third day of scuba diving today. I probably drank less of the ocean today than I did the first two days, but only moderately less.
Right now, as I sit on my patio at the W, watching (er, actually listening, since my eyes are on the screen here) the ocean come in and out on the beach, I can feel the salt water fighting with the post-dive beer in my stomach. And my nostrils burn from all the salt water that has made its way forcefully up my nose. But I couldn’t be more content or pleased with myself.
I’m amazed that I am actually attempting something involving large and heavy equipment, and unknown spaces. At my advanced age, no less.
Scuba diving is very interesting. On day three, I can’t say I love it, but there are many reasons for this, my inherent laziness being a very large part of that. Nevertheless, I’m willing to keep going to see if some sort of love develops. I’m hoping at the least that scuba and I can be friends.
It’s true that you see things you probably could not see with snorkeling. Today we saw not one but two lion fish, which are apparently the assholes of the sea. They destroy reefs, but they are so pretty and ethereal and I was beyond thrilled to see them.
The thing holding me back into a full-blown love affair with diving is that you are so busy thinking about a billion other things (Am I neutrally buoyant? Where’s my dive buddy? How much air do I have left? Are my ears plugged? I feel like I just equalized, but my ears don’t feel QUITE clear? Is that water coming into my mask? Is it a tolerable amount of should I clear it? Oh dear, I really, REALLY hate clearing my mask). Basically, I don’t really get to enjoy the fish so much at this point.
And, it seems that, like with soooo many other things, I’m not really a natural at this. Just like running, I feel like my body isn’t totally made for this and I’m not instinctive. In fact, almost everything we’re doing feels incredibly unnatural to me. But I guess it’s hard for anything to feel natural when you’re encased in 3 millimeters of neoprene and have a 40 pound tank strapped to you.
For example, every time we come up to the surface (which I apparently do far too quickly), our very patient and super awesome dive instructor Arnaud reminds me of a ton of stuff I keep forgetting to do, like, breathe. And, oh yeah, kick. You know, so you can actually propel your body forward in a swimming motion. Apparently just sitting at the bottom of the ocean trying to equalize your ears isn’t called “scuba diving.” I think it’s called being a paper weight. Which, I might add, I’d be very, very good at.
There are many reasons for my uselessness and ineptitude. For one thing, I’ve had it drilled in my head that everything out there in the ocean could possibly, and probably will, hurt you. It’s hard to relish in the beauty of the sea when you’re scared of every single thing in it. I might add, with good cause. XFE got stung by a jelly fish today. He’s fine, but honestly, if that had been me, you would have heard my hissy fit all the way back to DC and probably beyond. The tears, they woulda flowed. And, I probably would have gotten a new pair of heels out of the whole thing.
And this isn’t just the fish, mind you. I’m afraid of the plants too. I’m afraid (a) I’m going to destroy the whole entire ecosystem with one kick of my fin, thereby wiping out an entire strata of endangered plankton, and/or (b) I’m going to brush the .34 square inches of exposed skin on my body against some deeply poisonous fibroid that will paralyze me before I can swim another foot.
Plus, for some reason, without the gift of vocalization, I’m a bit docile and timid, I’ve discovered. For example, yesterday, we were told we had 3,000 psi of air in our tanks at the start of the dive. Ever Patient Arnaud explained that when we got to 1,500, we should say something. I thought we would all be on the same psi page, so when I saw I was at or near 1,500, I didn’t say anything. When I got to 1,000, I knew I should probably say something. So, I turned to my Jacques Cousteau Wannabe Boyfriend (seriously, he is great at this scuba stuff) XFE and gave him the “WTF??” sign, having expected him to say something to Arnaud. Once we established what my psi was, XFE swam ahead and notified Arnaud. Ladies and gentlemen, I got scolded underwater! Apparently, I’m an air hog, and everybody else was still at a nice normal psi, well above 1,500. So, we had to cut the dive short, because Poe was breathing like a dying whale and draining her tank.
Speaking of XFE, he is, of course, freaking awesome at everything. He completes every single skill on the first try, without frantically clawing through the water and clinging to poor Arnaud with silent, questioning (and bulging) eyes.
But, apparently, we’re doing quite well, according to Arnaud. I think he’s grading on a curve. Plus, he’s French, so I don’t know how trustworthy he is, although he has given us some pretty great dinner recommendations, so there’s that.