A Tale of Three Husbands - My First Taste of Scuba
Husband #2 was a water baby like myself. Taking him back to the scene of my first honeymoon was a pure pleasure. Although he was also a sinker, he made up for it by being a very strong swimmer. The two of us found some really amazing places to snorkel and it amused me to watch him swim by with a school of fish at his heels like so many baby ducklings following their mama. With him as my companion, I could relax and explore to my heart's content.
At dinner one night, feeling all relaxed and chummy, he brought up the idea of scuba diving. "I've always wanted to try it...haven't you?" he inquired.
My father was a scuba diver. My brother and his entire family are avid scuba divers. I'm a claustrophobic. While the idea of being able to swim to an even deeper depth held an attraction, the mere thought of being trapped at that depth, where I couldn't just surface, blow out my snorkel and take a deep breath seemed...well, scary. No...more than that...it sent panic racing through my body.
"Well...yeah." I acknowledged hesitantly.
"Wouldn't it be great to take one of those resort courses while we are here? You know...just to find out if we like it?" he pursued.
Sensing an out, I grabbed onto it like a life preserver.
"Yeah...darn shame that they're so expensive and we really can't afford it this trip."
"Well, I was thinking about that too" he countered nonchalantly. "What if we went to the casino tonight...maybe I could play a little black jack...and let's just suppose I won enough so that we could both take the course. Would you then?"
Realizing the unlikelihood of all of these occurring simultaneously, I felt confident in agreeing.
"Wasn't that amazing last night?" husband #2 chortled as we were signing up for the course the next day. "I just couldn't lose! I could have stayed longer...but I might have lost it all. Good thing you came over to stop me."
Yeah...I was kicking myself in the ass over that one.
We reported to the dock as ordered for our gear. Both my husband and I already had our own snorkel, fins and mask and since the water was warm enough that wetsuits would not be needed, the only thing to worry about was the BCD or vest, tank and weight belt.
"Are you sure I need THIS much weight?" I inquired as the instructor strapped on my belt. I began to feel like a pack mule and could no longer lift my feet, resorting to a somewhat dragging step to move around. He just smiled and assured me that in the water I'd feel very light. That was all fine and good...but we weren't in the water yet.
The instructor then pointed out a classroom, about twenty yards away on the beach. As he turned his attention to the next student, I dragged myself from the pier, through the sand and thankfully plunked my heavy butt onto a bench. It was still early morning, but the sun was merciless and the classroom was not in the shade...well, except for the instructor. He had a nice little canopy of his own.
After thirty minutes of covering the basics, we were ready for our pool training. Water! Yay! Thank god...I was already sitting in a puddle of my own sweat and couldn't wait. Of course, the pool was about two hundred yards further up the beach. I staggered to my feet and lurched in the direction of the promised water.
Nothing had ever felt so good.
It took a bit of practice, scraping my knees against the bottom and banging my elbows into the sides of the pool, but eventually I discovered neutral buoyancy. Claustrophobia was not an issue because at any given moment all I had to do was plant my feet beneath me and my head was out of the water. No problem at all.
I swam around the pool waving to all the Japanese tourists who kept thrusting their waterproof cameras underneath the surface to capture this moment. Look at me! I'm scuba diving! All too soon, our pool time was up and one by one we exited the water. Only then did I rediscover just how heavy that belt really was. Did we really have to walk back to the pier? Couldn't this be the entire experience? No?
We lost one member of the class during the pool exercise. Unfortunately, she had an inner ear infection and was unable to clear the pressure sufficiently. I remember thinking, "You lucky bitch..." as I humped my equipment across the sands of the beach that had expanded to the size of the Sahara desert.
As I slumped onto a seat on the boat amidst the excited chattering of my fellow divers, I realized that we hadn't even reached the grand finale yet and I was thoroughly exhausted. My feet hurt, my legs had turned to jello and I was working up a good case of dehydration. Well at least all of these physical complaints were accomplishing something. I hadn't once thought of carrying all this weight with me down to the bottom of the ocean where I would have to depend on my equipment to breathe and therefore I hadn't had time to even consider panicking....
Now I'd thought about it. As the motor started and the boat began its journey across that fathomless sea, I had more than enough time to REALLY think about it.
Sure enough, I felt the familiar constriction in my chest and the telltale wheeze of panic as I struggled to breathe against the confines of the BCD. I tried to reason with myself...
"Okay...there's NO reason to panic...you've been deeper with just a snorkel."
"Yeah...but I wasn't wearing all this weight either."
"Neutral buoyancy...remember the pool?"
"Yeah...well I could stand up in the pool...remember?"
"It'll be no different...and you can come up any time...remember we'll only be at fourteen feet."
"What if I don't stop at fourteen feet...I'll go down like a dead weight. Surely I weigh enough to be the ship's anchor!"
My wheezing was more pronounced by the time the boat had come to a stop. I tried coughing to open up the constricted airways...but it only made it worse. I was close to having a full-blown panic attack. In the past, I'd suffered two such attacks. The first, I managed to control...the second had landed me in the emergency room of a local hospital, pumped with epinephrine. As a precaution, I'd been given an inhaler for any future episodes...but that had been nearly a decade earlier and so I didn't happen to have one on me at the time.
Resigned to my fate, I slipped the regulator into my mouth and headed to the back of the boat in a long line of divers.
I sounded like an asthmatic Darth Vader. I tried to inject humor into it by saying to myself, "Luke..eeeeee...I am...hhhhhh....eeeee....your father....eeeee." My mind was having none of it and was screaming back, "Now is not the time for humor you moron...WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!"
At times like these, I sure hate my vivid imagination. It was only too happy to supply images of me flailing about at the bottom of the ocean, unable to breathe...surely putting a damper on everyone's good time.
I jumped into the water and paddled toward the instructor, clinging to the rope like a lifeline.
He smiled confidently at me and put his hand on his head, indicating in scuba language that he was inquiring about my general state of mind.
There was no scuba signal that could encompass my entire last will and testament, so I merely placed my own hand on top of my head indicating that I was okey doke too. He gave me the thumbs down to indicate that he would now begin the preparations for my drowning and reached out to deflate my BCD. I latched onto him like a barnacle. With infinite patience, he managed to pry my fingertips from his own vest and place them on the descent rope.
Once more he gave me the thumbs down, encouraging me to use the rope to lower myself into the murky depths of the ocean. I shook my head and gave him a thumbs up. Spitting out my regulator, I began to take great heaving gulps of air.
The line of divers on the boat still waiting for their turn began to shuffle impatiently. Well aware that I was holding them up, I tried to relax and breathe slower....calm...ommmm...ommmmm...
Recovering a bit, I placed the regulator back into my mouth and signaled that I was good to go. With a quick thumbs down from the instructor, I allowed myself to sink....
...and made it about 4" below the surface before I started panicking, jerking my thumb up, up...get me the hell out of here! I don't want to die!!!
"I can't...I don't...I'm going back to the boat," I said firmly to the instructor after spitting out the regulator again.
"Are you sure? We can just save you for last...I'd hate to have you miss out on this opportunity."
"No...really...that's awfully thoughtful of you...but I don't mind...really..." I said as I backstroked toward the boat.
With the help of the crew, I managed to haul my two ton ass back onto the boat. I couldn't get the gear off fast enough. Amazingly, once I'd shed the BCD and the weight belt, I felt lighter than air. Positively giddy at my narrow escape from certain death, I fairly skipped about the boat. My lungs expanded and the wheezing disappeared in nothing flat. I was alive!! Yay!
Meanwhile, my husband was floating weightlessly about fourteen feet below the boat wondering where the hell I was. Well, at least I could help with that. I signaled to the crew that I was going for a swim and leaped from the deck in a graceful dive wearing just my mask, snorkel and fins. Quickly, I cut through the water and swam by the group admiring the fish and coral...waving to my husband. Agile as an otter, I swam back to the surface, blowing out my snorkel and taking a breath of wonderful air. If I had been a dolphin, I would have done one of those little dolphin dances on the water too.
Who on earth would choose to strap all that obnoxious gear to themselves when they could enjoy the freedom of snorkeling? I vowed...never again. My curiosity had been sated.
Of course...that was long before I met husband #3...