Late last night I was thinking pretty seriously about what a lazy, useless, hippie asshole I am. Especially as compared to some of my friends. It was a perfect night, you see. Cool. breezy. No moon. Stars so bright it seemed you could pluck them out of the sky. Ruby the troll dog had pulled a cushion off one of the pool lounges onto the ground and curled up into a snoring, farting ball on it. So I strung a hammock between the two coconut trees beside her and lay there patting her head, staring up at the milky way, and dozing off. And, as the song says, I asked myself, “Well, how did I get here?” I got myself a useless liberal arts degree by fucking with all my professors. I learned pretty quickly that I hated the world of publishing, which is what I’d always assumed I’d do, getting myself deliberately fired from my first few jobs. Took a temp job in IT and found out I had an aptitude for it. Did that for a while until I relived what I really hated was the corporate culture as a whole. Then I joined the full-time dive circus. Now - to get a bit grim for a moment - in my role as a dive carnie I have seen some pretty dark shit. Incidents. Accidents. Fatalities. I’ve worked body recoveries. Diving can be dangerous at even the most seemingly benign levels and I’ve had to respond to that danger many, many, many times. Which pisses me off. Because I’m just a lazy-ass hippie who wants to lay in a hammock by the pool. Yesterday to enjoy the company of some friends who are retired naval officers. Which seems sort of antithetical to my strict pacifism… but they’re some of the best folks you could be blessed to know and dear friends. And I got to thinking about what great dive buddies they’ve always been. Not just the usual reasons: enthusiasm, passion, glee in diving, etc, etc, the reasons we all do this dumb shite. But I think there’s something that’s always been in the back of my head, never having ever really bubbling to the surface (pun only partially intended). When the shit goes down… Because diving is dangerous, and because when that danger manifests underwater it happens BIG and it happens FAST. One doesn’t spend years undergoing some of the most rigorous training on planet earth to become a naval officer… and then earn promotions up to the rank of commander… and serve one’s nation and the greater good in an ancient system of traditions and regulations… including command during combat… for decades… by being a shrinking violet. When things go wrong underwater you want a teammate who is going to respond, ignoring stress and pressure, quickly and decisively according to their training and with sound judgement.
I have seen dive instructors panic during emergencies. I’ve had to calm experienced, excellent divers down as they’ve delivered CPR. I’ve seen long-time dive pros go wide-eyed and make as if to bolt for the surface when there’s nothing truly wrong. Simply being super-experienced or highly certified as a diver doesn’t necessarily make for a good buddy when the shit goes down. There are way too many divers and instructors in the world with questionable judgment when it comes to planning and execution… which would seem to speak pretty strongly about their likely emergency response.
Life experience matters. Background matters. Personality matters. For whatever reason (probably nihilism) I seem to respond pretty well under pressure. So far, anyway. It’s a thing I know of myself. The buddies I got to hang with yesterday, I’d trust either one of them with my life in any circumstance, no matter how critical or dire. It’s good to have dive buddies like that. So do your best to choose wisely. And that’s about when the dog tried to climb up in the hammock with me and we both tumbled to the ground.