An excerpt from Wandering, from the Great Barrier Reef:
I went with the same company but still had to fill out all the same paperwork about experience and medical conditions and such. All the certified divers were grouped together, again only about 20 of us. One English woman with a high-pitched, whiny voice had dozens of questions for the crew. One of the questions in the paperwork was “Have you ever dived in the ocean?” and she immediately flagged down a crewman and asked, “Which ocean? This ocean? What if I’ve dived in a different ocean? Does that count? Are all the oceans the same? I did dive in one but maybe it doesn’t count?” She had endless questions about the basic paperwork and the crewman sat down, realizing that he wasn’t going to get away from her any time soon. I was sitting with a Canadian woman, Tamara, and we were practically rolling on the floor laughing.
When we arrived at the dive site, the certified divers were called back to gear up and my gear was set up next to the crazy woman’s. She had trouble with her regulator, but not really, and called several crew members over to look at it. They all said it was fine, but she demanded that someone switch it out. Then we were seated, strapped onto our tanks and ready to go, when the boat ran over and severed the mooring line, which meant we had another 15 minutes to sit in full gear while they fixed it. Crazy woman started making small talk with me. “Have you dived here before?”
“Is this ocean salty?”
“Um, I think that’s what defines an ocean, there’s salt in the water.”
“But is it really salty?”
“I don’t know how to answer that.”
“I’m asking because I’m really thirsty.”
At that moment I knew that she would be assigned as my divebuddy. It was my fate.
Crazy did ask me to be her buddy while we were waiting for the mooring line to be fixed. I tried to weasel out like before, crossed my fingers, and told her that we get assigned and couldn’t choose. I wished I had asked Tamara but completely forgot, and we were strapped into our tanks far away from each other. And, as luck would have it, I got Crazy for a buddy. I’m sure the crew was chuckling about being rid of her for a while. It was a group dive, but she was still my responsibility.
It was time and we finally jumped in. The first thing Crazy did was swim over and grab my arm; the dive hadn’t even started and I was already annoyed. I did my best with hand signals to let her know that at no time was she welcome to touch me, and I headed to the bottom. In the minute it took to get there I received six OK signals from her.
I like to dive with a little space, so if people are crowded around the guide I’ll hang back, or if people are doing their own thing I’ll go up front, just as long as I can see what I want and not bump into people. Crazy never got more than two feet away from me at any point; no matter how hard I tried to make some room she would swim over and touch me. Every time I looked up to see what was touching me, I’d see her flash the OK sign. I wanted to give her the finger but thought that might be a bit much. She went so far as to swim up to my head and throw an OK sign in front of my mask. I wanted to turn off her tank.
I’m not a bad dive buddy, but partners need to check on each other only so much. I was always aware of where she was, even when she wasn’t touching me; I looked back many times since she refused to swim in front of me, and she always seemed fine. That, in my opinion, is what was required of me.
There was a lot of great sea life on the dive, but my annoyance level was pretty high and I didn’t enjoy everything as much as I could have. Forty minutes of OK signals.
We were back on the boat for our surface interval, getting our tanks refilled and our gear ready. I only wore a skin suit for the first dive and was kind of cold, so I was trying to find a half wetsuit to wear as well. Crazy sat down and started to lecture me on the proper way to be a good dive buddy. She didn’t think I was doing my job.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d give me the OK sign more often when we’re under water.” I think I had given her one for the entire first dive. I let her know that I always knew where she was and she looked fine and I didn’t feel the need for constant OK signs.
“How do you know I’m OK if I don’t give you an OK sign?”
“Well, you’re swimming along normally and looking at stuff and look pretty OK so I don’t feel I need to ask.”
“But how will I know if you’re OK if you don’t tell me you’re OK?”
“Well, if I’m swimming normally and looking at stuff and I look OK then you should just assume that I’m OK too.”
“You need to give me more OK signs on the next dive, I need to know that you’re OK.”
I had to turn and start talking to the woman on the other side of me because I was afraid I was going to hit Crazy.
We jumped in for the second dive and immediately I had my shadow throwing OK signs at me. I refused to give her even one for the entire dive; I get a little stubborn when I’m annoyed. I looked back at Crazy several times; I did my job. But this time I concentrated on the reef and all the wild things living down there and ignored her as much as possible. There were squid, white-tip reef sharks, turtles, rays, unicorn fish, another giant Napoleon wrasse, and huge groupers; completely excellent.
We had about seven minutes left to dive when I felt Crazy grab my leg and pull me backwards. That’s fucking enough, time to turn off her tank for real. Her ear felt funny, she signaled, and I didn’t give a shit. I got the guide’s attention and signaled that my buddy was sick, then swam away in hopes that he’d send her to the surface. But she wasn’t sick, there wasn’t anything wrong with her ear, she just wanted attention, and after several more OK signals we resumed our dive.
During our lunch break I made it very clear that she was not to speak to me again.
The third dive was spectacular; I started it off by getting attacked by a good-sized triggerfish. It was mating season for them and they actually build nests and defend them ferociously. It would have been nice if the crew had warned us, since they dive at the same mooring every day. I was descending, minding my own business, when a big fish with pointy teeth charged at me. It was more funny than scary because trigger fish are so cute, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to swim away but he kept nipping at me, and I could see Crazy having a minor underwater heart attack from the exertion of all the OK signals she was throwing at me, which I ignored.
Most surprisingly, though, on the third dive she mostly left me alone. I looked back for her here and there and she had given me several feet of personal space. Aaah. And when we surfaced, I never had to see her again.
Add these to your reading list (and request them from your local library):
- The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers – middle grade adventure
- Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor
- Sylvie Writes a Romance – romantic comedy
- Sylvie Falls in Love – romantic comedy part 2
- Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories from Hawaii and beyond