“I could never do that,” as is so frequently said, “It’s far too dangerous!”
I know divers who have promised their parents or partners to never so much as try cave diving.
There are five rules to this silly game of ours. Five. And, statistically, after around 60 years worth of accident analysis, if you follow these five rules cave diving is… well… I was going to type “safe as houses,” but that’s not entirely true. You’re still swimming around in an underground river with access to the atmosphere (you know, the thing you breath all the time) prevented by a rock ceiling. But at least the inherent risk is mitigated to accidents - with the five rules being adhered to - being a statistical anomaly.
"Thank God All Divers Live" is the silly mnemonic as I’ve always heard it. But I confess I think it’s odd as fuck that anyone needs a mnemonic about things that keep you alive. It’s not like I need to make some shite up to remind me to breathe, eat food, drink water, and not step into the tailblade of a helicopter.
I’m not going to get overly mired in the weeds of each of them. There’s plenty of writing online about this list and if you fall into the category of not being cave trained… you’ll hear about them plenty in class. If you have been cave trained… you bloody well should have already.
These are things, as a cave diver, you should know in your bones. Ingrained so deeply that the violation of them is as unimaginable as stapling a homonym to a bandersnatch. (See? You’re trying. But you can’t.)
Training - don’t exceed your training limits
Guideline - always have a piece of string RIGHT THERE that will lead you all the way to open water
Air - Air is disgusting, I disagree with this part of the official list. "Gas" is better. In any case, it's about what’s in your tanks and appropriate usage planning.
Depth - Don’t exceed MODs
Lights - Meh. Have lights. Darkness doesn’t actually hurt you, but it can create complexity to some of the other rules.
What I really wanted to talk about, though, is a dinner party. One you’re throwing. All the best people are invited; maybe your boss, like it’s an early-60s sitcom.
There are rules to throwing a dinner party. Rules you’d never think of violating, especially when you’re trying to impress Mr. Spacely.
Don’t make a main course you’ve never tried cooking, or even read a recipe, before. You saw a TikTok of some schmuck about how delicious their exotic Moroccan dinner was… it ain’t like you’re going to be able to replicate it by winging it. Even if you had the same dish at a restaurant a few years ago and remember it was scrumptious. You don’t even own a tagine, so you fail at the first gate.
Seek training before attempting advanced cooking techniques.
Stick to meatloaf for now.
There’s an order to dinner, reference points. Appetizers come first, mains after. Soup is not served poured on top of desert. Salad is not served in a bucket of live crabs. You don’t send your guests on a half-hour scavenger hunt if they ask you to pass the salt. The meal is all served at table, where it’s expected, not on a rickety raft in the middle of a drainage basin because you thought it looked cool.
Everyone knows where they’re sitting and where the bathroom is.
Orientation in the dining room and the way to and from the kitchen is never in question.
Gas (or Air, if you’re a barbarian):
There’s a plan to selecting the right thing to season dishes and how much of it to use.
You don’t wait until the middle of a recipe to notice that it calls for a teaspoon of baking powder… which suddenly find you're out of… so you use a quarter cup of cocaine instead because they’re both white powder and what could possibly go wrong?
You make a plan, make sure you have the right ingredients, and then apply them judiciously, on the conservative side.
(Sure, you can recalculate thirds on the fly, but that’s a bit like tasting the broth and deciding it needs a pinch more black pepper.)
To add a pun to an analogy… don’t get in over your head.
Don’t plan a traditional, seven-course Italian meal if you don’t have enough plates for it. Or go so far past your normal comfort zone that you don’t know how to return. Don’t create so much work that it overwhelms you and causes your heart-rate to skyrocket and put you at the brink of a gasping panic attack. Or cause you to “taste” the cooking wine so many times that you black out and can’t finish the meal.
Turn on the lights. It will make the meal far more convivial.
Sure, you CAN eat in the dark, but do you really want to? Not to mention that everyone is going home with stains on their shirts.
Have some candles somewhere in the house for if the power goes out. Then the meal can continue and it will make for a good story later.
That’s a dinner party.
Break any of these rules at dinner and people will be disappointed. Maybe Mr. Burns won’t give you that promotion or The Big Client will take their business elsewhere. It will be sad, but there will probably be a laugh-track to see you through and it will all work out in the end.
In cave diving, if you break any of these, your chance of dying goes up. Drowning and fucking dying. In a cave. Knowing that you fucked up, knowing how you fucked up, and hoping against hope, with literally every single breath, you just squeak out of this by the grace of god.
There are five rules. FIVE! They’re not that complicated.