Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Morning Coming Down

There are a few things I've learned to expect on a dive vacation. One is that I sleep less than I normally do, which I have to be careful about because I'm already sleeping so little. Another is sunburn and bug bites, both of which I try to take precautions for and am generally successful in preventing to any serious degree.

The last is that I've found that divers tend to be pretty caring of other divers. Even if you're in a large group, if you see another diver struggling who is not a member of your tribe, you reach out and lend them a hand: carry gear, helped them up a ladder, and so on.

See, we all struggle with the same disabilities: the sudden gain of forty or fifty pounds, the constriction of dive equipment, and those damned webbed feet.

This week's group, so far? Eh, not so much. I get down to the dock to strap on a tank and test out my still camera set up. Two guys are sitting there in civvies, drinking beer. Unfortunately, they're on the bench that's meant for divers gearing up and because of the massive size of their group and the fact the assholes feel they all have to dive at the precise same moment or it's not a dive, the deck is pretty busy.

I ask politely for one to move ("Mind if I take your seat to gear up? Won't be but five minutes.") and grudgingly, he moves, continuing his conversation with both his drinking buddy and their friends that are all around me, gearing up as if the hot sun wasn't boiling the rinse tanks.

This means that people in gear trying to get by, and there were a couple, have to take their laden, wetsuited carcasses and try to mambo around them.

Carry a small barbell on your back and you'll see how difficult that is. Literally, it was like walking through Times Square during tourist season. And forgetting your hunting permit and rifle. Only with a fifth grader tugging you to the windows of the toy store.

OK, but nothing I can't handle, so far. I gear up quickly (I don't wear a wetsuit in the tropics if I can avoid it), grab my rig and head to the ladder.

Where there's a group of snorklers, hanging out on the ladder, chatting to a group of divers hanging at the bottom of the ladder. Now, the resort has a really nice little snorkling entrance just a few yards from the ladder, which has the added attraction of a little shower and a bench all its own.

I call down "excuse me". I call it down a little louder. See, I haven't put my fins on yet (try walking in THOSE on dry land with fifty pounds on your back!) which means I have to put my camera down, put my fins on, and try to back down the ladder.

They make a path of six inches for me to come down. OK, two can play this game. I put my rig down, put my fins on, deliberately swiping them just over the hair of the ass hats sitting there.

They took the hint. I step down a rung or two, and sit back into the water, camera gear cradled and drop down, more because I really didn't feel like dealing with the idiots hanging around the ladder in a small semi-circle. I swim off.

I cruise down to the reef, and find a turtle. I got some great pictures of the turtle. I'm very proud of one of them and once I get it cleaned see, some of these divers had been in already and stirred up the sand might even win an award or two.

Divers. I hate them.

Anyway, as i finish the shoot, I bow to the turtle (always pays to thank your subject), and notice fiuns behind me. Lots of them.

Apparently, the group I dropped in through decided either I needed to be intimidated or that I was a pro and they should follow, since I'd lead them to cool stuff.

I've already found them a turtle, so I'm cringing a little that I didn't check over my shoulder first. I have a good eye for critters on a reef. I could have led them away.

Because damned if half of them don't go chasing the poor little guy, cameras in hand. Now, this turtle is used to divers. He hangs around this reef regularly. I don't know how he handles eight divers zooming after him. We'll see.

OK, so I decided to have a little fun. I cruised very very slowly, and decided I needed to shoot photos of coral and shrimp: you know, the stuff no one photographs because they aren't "cool". Five, maybe ten minutes later, I realize they've all moved on to a nearby wreck, which used to have this ginormous puffer fish living under it, but he was old and sick and I'm sorry to report, dead.

I can still sense a few eyes keeping tabs on me, but I don't care. The stuff I'm shooting, and the really cool fish like the spotted drum, all hang out under coral heads so I can mask the real pleasure of diving by looking bored.

I just thought about my job. Works like a charm.

I get some nice photos, and begin to cruise back to the dock. The snorklers are in the water now, all hovering around the ladder.

There's two octopi under it. With the waves and surge, no one wants to dive behind the ladder, except me and one or two other hardy souls. I got a couple of shots off, and begin to ascend...right into the belly of this overweight eleven year old.

My bad, to be sure. I'm supposed to be looking up as I ascend, but fercrissake, I'm four feet under! Why is the kid snorkeling in an area devoted to divers to let them get up on the dock with their fifty pounds of gear!

OK, octopus, I get it, but someone, let's call him or her a "parent", could have said, "Now, Janie, when a nice man or woman blowing bubbles is down there, please move away so they can get out of the water."

As I write this, it's 7:30. This same group has been up for two hours, it seems, as many of them live in adjoining apartments. The walls are paper thin. I can hear every cough, every fart, every flush and they are not being particularly whispery when they call down the stairs to each other.

Anyway, I come up the ladder and go over to the rinse tank to start soaking my gear in fresh water.

It's filled with snorkeling equipment. The tank is just outside the photo shop, so I turn to the owner and give him a "help me, please" look. He sort of shrugs as if "what can you do?" Finally, one of the adults notices and comes over and takes the gear out.

My god, this is the crap plastic gear they sell at Target for to take to the local swimming pool! Why in the hell is it in a tank to wash life-support equipment!? One of those snorkels gets clogged, you get a straw from the frikkin' restaurant and keep swimming!

OK, I start to get out of my gear, put my rig in the dedicated camera tank (thank god that was empty!) and begin to stow my stuff. I have to pick my way thru yet another crowd of these asshats, because apparently, not only are they flocking, most of them can't dive for shit and end up coming back to the dock after twenty minutes!

I have horrible air consumption but these folks make me look like a world-record free-diver. I elbow my way to my hook. No one's moved my shirt off it, so that much respect for people they have, but I have to lean over three guys gearing up on the floor of the locker to put my stuff away.

Cuz, you know, it's hot out.

This is not going to be a fun week...