(Somehow WordPress decided to post this before I was ready, so several people got this post in email form before I was quite finished. This is the finished version. Sorry…)
My scuba diving career started about four years ago when our daughter decided on a destination wedding on Grand Cayman. I have always been fascinated with the idea of scuba, but could not justify it until then. I took lessons, got certified, and did my first ocean dive off the south shore of Grand Cayman. It was truly an experience I will never forget. I was pretty much instantly hooked, and very much wanted to share this amazing sport with my wife.
Like many people, Beth was reluctant to try scuba, and for a number of reasons. She almost drowned when she was about ten, so she has some water issues; she is claustrophobic; and she has vision, uh, issues (we used to spend a lot of money on optometrists until I figured out we could do the same thing by cutting the bottoms off of coke bottles. We save a lot of money that way. Kidding, Dear). I guess I was pushing a bit too hard, which I figured out when Beth put her index finger about an inch off my nose and gently said, “Stop pushing me!!!!!!” Yeah, gently. I hate living in fear…
But we did go snorkeling every day we were there, and Beth had just as much fun as I did. After the vacation, we were talked about how cool the snorkeling was, and we got to talking about scuba. Unprompted by me (see, I can learn) she said, “Well, maybe I could try it.” I responded with a non-committal, “Yeah, ok. Whatever you want, Babe.” Inside I was doing my own version of the Cherokee Victory Dance, but I didn’t see the need to share that with her then. Plus, I figured I would remain much healthier that way.
Beth started lessons, and I remember the evenings of her first three lessons . She would call me as she was driving on the way home, crying, and not sure she could “do this.”
I think I should explain at this point how the lessons work. The certification classes last approximately six weeks, one evening a week. There is a couple of hours of classroom, followed by an hour or so of pool time. For the pool session on the first evening, the Instructor and his Trainer Assistant or Divemaster help the students gear up, explain how the equipment works, and get them under water for a bit. Each session after that builds on the knowledge from the week before. The way the classes are designed, the students “get wet” from the beginning; there isn’t a theory portion and then a practical portion. You get both each class. And another plug for Diver’s World of Erie, PA. The Instructors are phenomenal, the Divemasters outstanding, and the Trainer Assistants dedicated (disclaimer: I am one of the TA’s). But if you want quality scuba instruction, you cannot do better than Diver’s World.
So Beth had to deal with her issues from the start, and it wasn’t easy. Each time she called crying, I would talk with her, and pretty much encourage her to continue, that she should keep going with the lessons, and if she got through the lessons and couldn’t do it, so be it; she had given it her best shot.
I’m not sure which week it was, I think maybe week four, she came home, and looking thoughtful, said, “You know, I had fun tonight.” Another non-committal, “Good for you” from me. Another internal Victory Dance. She toughed it out, and got certified. I often tell people that she is the poster child for scuba. There should be a poster with Beth’s photo on it, with the caption that says, “If I can do it, so can you!” Honestly. I have been a cop for over thirty years, twenty in the City of Erie. I was on the SWAT team for thirteen. I have seen acts of courage and bravery that would make one weep. But Beth, having no training or background it that kind of thing, gutted out those lessons and got certified. And that’s the bravest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. She says that she did it for me, because she knew how much it meant to me. But it was her effort and determination that got her through. She is one tough and amazing lady.
And not only did we get certified, we have continued with our scuba education. We both have our Advanced Certifications, both are Deep Certified, Computer Certified, Rescue Certified, and are both Master Divers, all through NAUI schools. I am particularly proud of Beth for the Rescue Diver cert. That is one tough mama of a course, and she did it. I went a bit further, getting Ice Certified and my Trainer Assistant Cert as well. I am thinking Beth will get her TA this year maybe, and I am at some point looking at Divemaster and/or Instructor. Time will tell.
And we found our “together” activity. Beth and I have had a chance to dive in some truly amazing locations. Three times in the Caribbean country of Bonaire, the Florida Keys (the Vandenberg is a really cool wreck), the Gulf of Mexico, lakes and quarries all over the place. And we dive as partners (“buddies” in scuba parlance).
I think it is probably typical for a husband to be protective of his wife, and worry about her in situations like that, and I am no different. I tended to hover nearby, worried to death for Beth. Until our second trip to Bonaire.
We were on a typical dive in paradise, enjoying the warm, clear water, seeing really spectacular stuff. I saw something I wanted to show her, and turned to get her attention. Only she wasn’t there. Where is that woman!? I did a 360 circle, looking all over, up, down, and then I saw her about ten feet above me, streaking like an arrow toward our divemaster. I thought, “Oh, this isn’t good,” and saw her make contact with him. He kind of fussed at her buoyancy compensator (BC for short), and I admit to a bit of jealousy for him touching her, but after a minute they turned and slowly started toward the boat. At that point I caught up with them, and she showed me her inflator hose.
The inflator hose is the part of the BC that one uses to add or release air to the BC from the attached scuba tank. In that way the diver can adjust their buoyancy, to be as neutrally buoyant in the water as possible. Using the inflator hose, there are two ways to dump air. A button on the end lets a bit of air out at a time, and is useful for most needed adjustments. The second way to release air is to just kind of tug on the hose itself. There is a larger dump valve on the shoulder of the BC at the point where the inflator hose connects to the BC itself. In Beth’s case, she had tugged on the inflator hose a bit too strenuously, and the entire inflator hose came disconnected from the BC, making it useless for her. That’s when she did an underwater sprint to the divemaster. Needless to say, Beth was a bit nervy over the incident, but at the instant I saw what the situation was, I ceased worrying about her. I remember thinking, “She’s a diver!” When we got on the boat, she was a bit shaky, but I asked her if she knew what she had done. She did not, and I told her that she had done exactly what she should have done. We are trained that panic will kill a diver, so do not panic. Stop and take a breath, analyze the situation, and take appropriate action. Which is exactly what she did. Upon analysis, she knew that her husband didn’t have the knowledge to help, so she went to the person that could. Just a year earlier, she would have probably bolted for the surface, risking the bends or other um, undesirable possibilities. But that is not what she did. She did exactly what a diver should do, and I can honestly say that I haven’t felt the need to hover over her since.
…more to come,,,