Oct 7, 2009

"Lessons from the bottom of the pool"

by Kirsten Millsap

I'm taking a scuba diving course. I thought it would help draw my husband and I closer together and give us a something in common, something outside of our daughter. I believe it will, too...provided I live through the training.

For three weeks I have gone each Monday night to the dive instructor's home for classes. I sat on a dog hair covered couch, and smelled doggy-doo; it smelled fresh...and close. Maybe under the couch. I was not in a good place for remembering everything I was to know before going in the water (remember I am slightly germ-a-phobic) and I think my brain froze. This past Monday was our first time actually getting in the water; a class I was both looking forward to and dreading. Standing in the rapidly cooling night air, I stared in horror at the green pool and saw bits of plant life floating by. And bugs. Lots of dead bugs. My dive instructor loaned me one of his many wetsuits...a skin tight affair that would cover me head-to-toe in a previously-peed-in-nightmare. I eased myself into the freezing, green, murky water and tried not to scream. I put on my vest with the air tanks, the weights and all the various tubes and gauges...I looked like a space octopus. Breathing under water is not something I guessed would come easily. Turns out I was correct. Not only did I feel a bit of panic each time my head went beneath the surface, but my goggles kept filling up with water as well as my nose. I surfaced in terror and tried securing the goggles tighter to my face, while trying desparately to find the floor with my feet. Oddly enough I found a clump of dog hair stuck to the outside of my goggles. Well, why not. Needless to say...I was not having a good time.

We did several underwater drills, one of which was shared "Buddy-breathing" (which is seriously the wrong thing to call it--the strange smelling man that I was forced to share my breathing regulator with was not my buddy) and we had to go under the water and sign that we were out of oxygen and needed air. Your "Buddy" is then to take his regulator from his mouth and give it to you. Now, it was bad enough taking the mouthpiece from him and placing it in MY mouth (curiously enough, I lost a bit of my germaphobishness underwater...I guess my brain's constant shrieking for air was louder than my insanity's scream for Lysol) but when it came time for him to signal for my air...well...let's just say Kirsten had a bit of an issue giving up her precious oxygen. He kept signaling, and I kept shaking my head, "NO!! Never!!" He finally tapped the instructor on the back of his head and tattled on me in under-water sign language. I got in trouble.

The biggest surprise was that I could not control myself underwater. I looked like a giant crab scrabbling and bobbing around. Every time we were instructed to descend the bottom of the pool (twelve feet--which may as well have been fifty feet) and place our fins securely on the pool's bottom, I would flail around with my butt floating up and my head pointing down. No matter what I did, I always up-ended. I felt like an idiot, and I was pretty sure I was becoming insane.

After three looooong and freezing hours in the pool, the class was over. I lugged my exhausted body out of the water and peeled off my scuba suit...and the top of my swimming suit. Oops. Thankfully, the guys were huddled around each other basking in the glory of their supreme manly dives, and they did not notice the half-naked, shivering girl with green tinged hair in the corner.

I learned some things that night: Never wear a bikini top that ties in the back under your scuba suit. Breathing is something God wants us to do on dry land. It's nice to help someone who is in need of oxygen. Green water doesn't kill you, and neither will the dead bug tangled in your hair. And most importantly...I really, REALLY am grateful to be a human and not a fish.

My bonus at the end of the night? A private chat with the dive instructor who told me I needed extra pool time...yea! So tonight I get to go and have more time in the green pool, wearing a peed-in wetsuit and trying not to die. Perhaps my saving grace will come in the form of, "How will I describe this in my memoirs?" As I bob around, trying desperately to understand the commands of my dive instructor, I will be taking mental notes...and will think of the amusing anecdotes I will write after I have become officially certified. If nothing else...they will be good for a laugh.


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  2. Sorry Kirsten, but I laughed until I cried at this one after another nightmare situation. You wrote it so well, I could just see you going through all of this and being so pleasant about it to all involved. What a woman!

    I am a certified Scuba Diver, but my experience was totally different. I have been an American Red Cross WSI Lifeguard and Swim Instructor and a Boy Scout Lifesaving and Swimmint Merit Badge Councilor for near 30 years now. I certified for Scuba in the ocean in Hawaii around the most beautiful, bright fish and clear water. With all my swimming back ground, your story just had me rolling with tears of laughter. Like I said, I admire you for sticking with it. You go girl!

  3. Yes Kirsten your experience is worth sending to a scuba diving mag under what not to do or how not to take a scuba diving lesson. I know many friends who have taken them and NONE have had this kind of experience. Maybe it will help to just think of it as a great article or even a scene in a book. And btw I'm with you...I don't get into peed-in suits uh uh not unless the world is coming apart.

  4. Oh my goodness, Kirsten! The entire time I read your post, I alternated between, this is sooo not funny...but it is soooo funny! I could feel your "pain" and appreciate the way you chose to see the humor of it all. I have wanted to learn how to dive for years and even had a friend come over once and introduce me to the concept. I think i sucked all the air out of the tank in about 3 minutes, I was so terrified...by the end of the evening, though, I was hooked. Good luck with your lessons! I can't wait to hear how it al lturns out! hugs~

  5. Kirsten, I had to read your blog one more time. The whole thing just made me chuckle again. Thanks!

  6. LOL...like Cindy, I had to get on here and read your post again. I had my dh read it and he almost fell off his chair he laughed so hard. Thanks for the smile, Kirsten.


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