“The class starts at 2, so we’ll leave here at 1:30,” Michael told me.
“Hon? We’re a two minute drive to the scuba place. We don’t need to leave that early.” But, of the two of us, Michael was the only one who could drive on the left side of the road, so at 1:00 we got in the car and at 1:32 we found ourselves sitting in the beach parking lot. “We’re a little early,” he said. I stared straight ahead so he couldn’t see my eyes rolling. “Let’s go in and see if we can start now.”
“Sure,” said Roger, of Roger’s Scuba Shack. He sat me down at a table to watch a short video first. Little did he know that I’d already watched the video. Just before we started dating, my dear husband–for the fun of it–became a certified scuba instructor. So when I finally agreed, seven years later, to try my hand at scuba diving, Michael pulled me into the living room of our condo in Barbados where he had a video cued up waiting for me. “Watch this so you’re not going in cold tomorrow.”
And so it was that I watched the video again, answered the true and false questions on the quiz, and signed my life away should something happen to me whilst I was submerged below the Caribbean waves.
I was fitted for a neck-to-ankle wet suit, fins, mask; a weight belt was fastened around my waist. And then we waited. Until 3pm. Because Barbados was still in their “National Pause” and afternoon beach hours began at 3.
“They’re not going to let me go with you in the beginning,” Michael said.
“Okay,” I said, thinking that’s a relief.
“Yeah–it’d probably be too much pressure or something if you were trying to learn from me,” Michael explained. Another diving instructor, overhearing our conversation, said, “Yeah–I’ve taught hundreds of people to scuba dive. Even people that couldn’t swim. But my girlfriend? Nope. I tried. Couldn’t do it.”
And so it was that Michael watched as Roger and I walked across the beach and down to the calm waters of Carlisle Bay.
As much as I’m not an ocean kind-of-girl, this time I was eager to get in the water: Do you have any idea how much a scuba tank weighs on your back? “Lean forward a little,” Roger instructed. “That will take some of the weight off.” Thankfully, once you get in the water, the tank, held up by the buoyancy of the water, weighs nothing.
We walked out to a spot where I could still stand with my head above water. “First we’re just going to breathe under water,” Roger said. I pulled my mask down over my eyes and nose and put the regulator in my mouth. Underwater I took deep breaths just as Roger had instructed.
Roger moved on to other topics. He showed me how to clear my mask of water (seriously? No one has figured out yet how not to get water in these things?), how to clear my ears (a critical requirement when descending). “Okay. Next time we go under, you’re going to remove your regulator, toss it over your shoulder, touch your tank, touch your leg, then find the regulator again and put it back in your mouth.” Whoa, whoa, whoa buddy. What?!
The regulator is attached to the air tank by a long tube. So it wasn’t like I’d have to go search for it in the sand at my feet or something. “You reach your right arm back and then bring it forward and you’ll catch the tube,” Roger explained. I was still having a little trouble wrapping my head around this idea. So you want me to take the thing that’s giving me air OUT of my mouth? Then do some random tasks and try to FIND it again and get into back INTO my mouth? All while underwater??!
“Uhh. . .” I had no words for Roger.
“We’ll go under together and you’ll watch me do it first, then you’ll try it.”
Below the surface I watched as Roger, never losing eye contact with me, slowly went through the process. The seconds seemed like minutes. I can’t hold my breath that long! And then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to hold my breath. I was supposed to breath out tiny little bubbles.
Roger finished the routine and then pointed to me. I inhaled deeply on the regulator, then pulled it out, blowing a stream of bubbles at Roger. I tossed the regulator over my shoulder as quickly as I could, reached my hand back to find it again, and managed to get it back in my mouth. Oh my God! I did it!
Roger and I stood up. “Great job,” he said. “But you seemed a little nervous, so we’re going to do it one more time.” Damn. This guy has me nailed. “Remember to breathe out tiny bubbles–that way your breath will last longer.”
We went under again. Roger did his demo. I followed suit and nailed it. Honestly, he could have said it was all over right then and I would have been so darn proud of myself. But Michael had been waiting seven years for me to descend into the ocean with him. And he hadn’t seen any of this. So Roger and I swam out to the boat where Michael, bedecked in his own scuba gear, was waiting.
“So?!” he asked.
“I’m ready!” I said, hoping that was true.