Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Fear and Loathing in PA" by Ethan Abend

The water is frigid, its the very end the dive season and Dutch springs in Pennsylvania is crowed with eager divers looking to get "a few more dives in"while others are looking to break in new dive equipment otherwise called "toys "before the winter really sets in. This is where I find myself at 8:00 am on a Sunday late fall. My anxiety is not due to the large crowds or anything as frivolous, rather it is of much greater consequence, a Young diver’s life (and mine). A distant rumbling of fear in the recesses of my brain that's sounds ever closer as our dive time approaches.

The diver I’m referring to is a man-child by the name of Abe Clarkson. The circumstances of our initial introduction are innocent enough. A Causal "Hello, how are you?" I now know can lead to much pain and self-hate (hence the title "Loathing"). All I needed was a dive partner, for the day, two dives that's all. Mia, a dive instructor at Kings County Divers suggested that I take this fellow Ari. She said" He has almost finished his diver certification, I’m sure hell do fine.” Can you see the writing on the wall? Do you know my overzealous, naive reply? I think so.

The bad taste in my mouth grows fouler as I make small talk with this wet-behind-the-ears, "know it all, (almost certified) diver." The water is a seductress; she can make you do stupid things. The need to dive soon supersedes everything, including common sense and anything one might have picked up as early on as preschool.

My fears are soon realized as we make our first accent. Avi has no control of his buoyancy, meaning he is letting air out of his BC (buoyancy compensator vest) thus sinking to the bottom then to counteract his lack of flotiness he pumps too mutch air into his BC. Thus begins my day of fear, yes fear. A day filled with a dive buddy bouncing up and down in the water like an out-of-control pogo stick. Its not feasible or enjoyable dive with a person who s only direction is up and down. Dive # 1 was limited to a lot of surfacing then submerging and so forth.

Back on land, I tried to calm and encourage this human pogo stick. Lack of experience and time in the water is why he and almost all new divers have trouble with there buoyancy control. However, my dive buddy was not convinced there was any problem at all he said, "That was a great dive!” I wanted to go home. No second dive, no more baby-sitting this suicidal manic.

I needed to see my wife, and familiar faces. I needed to be held.

Dive number two starts with unrealistic optimism. Our dive plan is (Besides the constant up and down) to swim out on the surface twenty minutes due west to a marker that is directly over a sunken plane. I figured that if we were directly over this plane then at lest while we were bouncing up and down we could catch brief glimpses of this sunken plane (the reason I wanted to dive in Dutch springs to begin with). As I descend I see that my human yo yo of a dive buddy is having difficulty descending he seems to be stuck at the surface. I ascended the ten feet and asked what's wrong; He said," I forgot to put on my weight belt.”

Its winter now and thankfully the dive season has ended without loss of life or limb. I have learned an important lesson, never dive with an over confident, non-certified, complete stranger.

As luck would have it, that Sunday evening my dive buddy was in Manhattan getting a bite to eat, while he was in the restaurant a vandal relieved him of most of his shiny new dive gear (BC vest, Regulator, Dive computer, Wetsuit) A loss of about three thousand dollars.

Maybe the dive gods were trying to tell him something that Sunday night.

Disclaimer-Some names have been changed (my dive buddy) to avoid any embarrassment.

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