There is something worse than using a portable toilet because you’re camping.
It’s using a portable toilet in a scuba suit because you’re at an outdoor pool in March.
Preventing a scuba suit from dangling in the mystery moisture of a portable toilet’s floor is a scuba skill I failed to anticipate.
It was snowing this morning when we headed out for the confined dive segment of our scuba certification.
The pool, though outdoors, was enclosed in a heated tent. The water was heated, too.
It didn’t really matter. An outdoor pool is still, at the end of a March day coming in like a lion, an outdoor pool.
Perhaps I would be less distressed over the portable toilet if I was better at scuba.
But I am rotten at scuba. I may be worse at scuba than I am at anything in my life.
I was shocked, today, at my abysmal performance. How can I be bad at scuba? Jaws 3 and The Meg are only my fourth favorite movies of all time. Do you know how many times I’ve seen Jason Statham jump off a boat in scuba gear? Watched Dennis Quaid kit up?
That’s what scuba divers call putting on scuba gear. Kitting up.
Kitting up. I’ll never be that cool.
As I write this, I am facing another day of scuba diving in that pool tomorrow. Tomorrow is worse than any portable toilet. Worse than camping.
And only slightly better than the time I touched a snake.
That story is on page 22 of the link. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
You know something? I’d rather touch that snake again. Thinking about that snake doesn’t bury the speedometer of my heart rate.
Thinking about tomorrow? The edge of my vision has gone white.
To be clear, I’m not dreading tomorrow because I’m bad at scuba. Being good at scuba doesn’t change the regulator exercises we’re tasked with proficiently demonstrating.
What’s so awful about the regulator exercises, you ask? Well. Let’s just begin with the most important rule in scuba.
Never hold your breath.
The scuba regulator supplies air. Place it in your mouth and you’ll find yourself breathing underwater. To become scuba certified, you must be able to switch from that regulator to your snorkel, switch from that regulator to your buddy’s alternate regulator, switch from that regulator to blowing air into the scuba vest controlling your buoyancy, pull half of that regulator from your mouth and “sip” the air it emits.
So yeah. Sure. Let me remove the thing providing me with life-giving air and switch to something else providing me with life-giving air. Or use my precious air to inflate my vest. And never hold my breath while performing any switch.
All while I’m below the water’s surface.
Yes, yes. I realize I’m in a pool. And that it’s only 12 feet deep. And that I’m five foot four, making the surface never more than seven feet away.
But please don’t take away my air. Can’t I just touch a snake and call it a day?
One especially frightening regulator exercise involved an instructor turning off the air tank. I was meant to signal my lack of air, remove my buddy’s alternate regulator, then exchange it for my own.
After three failed attempts brought me sputtering to the surface, I was pulled from the group for one-on-one instruction.
Not for the first time.
Or the last time.
“What is wrong with you?” my daughter asked. As if losing access to your air source while underwater was no problem whatsoever.
“Are you a panicky person?” one of my instructors asked, not unkindly, during one of my many private sessions.
I really couldn’t answer. I was too busy watching half of our pool get covered with a sort of floating tarp pool cover.
While, you know, we scuba students were still in the pool.
Our half of the pool remained open. But what if I swam under the tarp? What if I got caught in it? What if I couldn’t surface or breathe? What if a snake, seeking shelter from the snow, slipped into the heated pool and I couldn’t see him in the darkness created by the tarp?
I said I’d rather touch a snake than face tomorrow, not touch a snake and face tomorrow.
And can we talk about the open water leg of our scuba certification? That comes this summer, in a quarry. What if someone has dumped their pet alligator in the quarry? Have these people never seen Lake Placid?
Late in the day, I was again pulled aside by one of my amazing scuba instructors. “Scuba,” he said, “is all about calm and slow. If you think you’re going slow, go slower. If you think you’re going slower, slow it down even more. Calm and slow.”
Great. Two things I’ve never been in my entire life.
I watched my daughter, navigating scuba with ichthyic grace. I was here for her, the Nemo to my Marlin.
For her, I had to bring the calm. Bring the slow.
I thought about hot yoga. The instructors tell us to breathe the ujjayi, inhaling and exhaling through our noses. I could apply ujjayi breathing to scuba. Maybe even should apply ujjayi to scuba.
Well, underwater those breaths are through the regulator. But yoga is also about flexibility, and I can be flexible and breathe wherever my air is coming from. I’m not as picky about my air as I am about my toilets.
I have some work to do. Before tomorrow. Before our open-water dive at the quarry. It is time for personal growth.
Just refrain from dumping your alligators until I’m certified, guys. OK?