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the complete diver (standard:humor, 1345 words)
Author: adastraAdded: Oct 03 2000Views/Reads: 2420/1078Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
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The Complete Diver  by Rick Holcomb 

Mary hadn't wanted to learn how to scuba dive but Tom insisted. What Tom
wanted, Tom usually got.  To her surprise, Mary came to enjoy diving.  
She was a petite brunette in her late 30's.  She didn't have a lot of 
physical skills and she had to work at it to get over her fear of 
breathing underwater.  Tom was always quick to ridicule her fears.  
When she succeeded, she was thrilled to discover the beauty of the 
coral reefs.  It was nice to be weightless in a three-dimensional 
environment.  Best of all was the peace.  Underwater she heard the low 
background sounds of the colorful reef inhabitants, her own breathing 
and the cheerful sound of air bubbles rising to the surface. Tom was a 
big man with a loud voice.  Six feet tall and forty pounds overweight 
with blunt features; in his mid-forties he gave the impression of an 
adolescent mentality.  He had bought every diving accessory or gadget 
he could attach to his basic gear.  In addition to the standard vest, 
tank and regulator; he had a spare regulator, pony bottle with 
regulator, large dive light, dive computer, tank banger, air powered 
whistle, knife, collecting bag, and of course the cameras.  A Sony 
video camera in an underwater housing and a Nikonos V still camera with 
twin strobe lights.  When they dived from a charter boat, it took both 
the divemaster and the captain to get Tom up off the bench and into the 
water.  Mary was content with the minimum of equipment.  She would have 
dived naked if she could have had a gill implant.  She loved the 
freedom. Tom had decided that their next dive trip would be to Bonaire. 
 A Dutch protectorate, Bonaire is a volcanic Island 200 miles north of 
Venezuela.  The coral reef hugs the shoreline, and drops nearly 
vertically for hundreds of feet. When they arrived at Kennedy Airport 
and unloaded the luggage at the curb, Tom discovered that the molded 
plastic case containing the video camera was missing.  Even though he 
had insisted on being in charge of loading the luggage at home, Tom 
managed to imply that somehow Mary was responsible.  This did not 
surprise Mary.  She was used to Tom's constant denigration of her and 
her abilities.  Mary was left to check in at the ticket counter and 
explain that her husband had gone home after the camera.  Of course 
they missed the flight they had booked and Mary listened to Tom bicker 
and whine for hours while they waited for the next flight. The Sunset 
Beach Hotel was nice.  Their rooms were barely 50 yards from the beach. 
 Their travel package provided for unlimited shore diving and one boat 
trip per day.  Although the shore diving was easy and convenient, Tom 
preferred the boat dives.  It gave him a chance to show off his fancy 
equipment and impress the other divers on the boat.  Tom never seemed 
to notice that the other divers looked more amused than impressed. Tom 
and Mary had to make two trips to carry the gear bags, camera cases, 
battery packs, wet suits, weight belts, towels and dry clothes.  Just 
as the boat was to leave the dock, Tom discovered the still camera had 
been left in the room.  As the 16 other         divers watched with 
various degrees of irritation, Tom berated Mary for being a 
scatterbrained idiot, jumped up, stepped back on the dock, and began 
trudging back to the room.  When the captain asked Mary where her 
husband was going, she could only reply with embarrassment, "He's gone 
after his camera." The reefs of Bonaire are pristine.  The local 
government realized very early that the reefs were a valuable tourist 
resource.  Boats are not allowed to anchor but must tie up to permanent 
mooring buoys.  After the captain tied up at a buoy, he gave the divers 
a short briefing.  Tom ignored the briefing; after all Bonaire is a 
very easy place to dive and he was busy checking all his gear. Although 
the tradewinds blow briskly, they always blow from the same direction.  
The reef is so close to shore the water is almost never rough.  The 
water is warm and the visibility is good.  The only thing the captain 
finds to emphasize is the vertical environment.  While drifting along 
the wall, it is easy to find yourself deeper than you intended. 
Recreational diving is limited to 130 feet for two good reasons.  
Because of the physics involved with breathing compressed air, the 
deeper a diver goes, the less time he has before he must return to the 
surface.  At 60 feet a diver can stay down a maximum of 55 minutes.  
But at 130 feet he is limited to 8 minutes.  In addition to the problem 
of time, there is the problem of nitrogen narcosis.  The deeper a diver 
goes, the more likely he is to become "narked".  His air supply becomes 
an intoxicant and reason and judgment become poor.  Divers who go too 
deep have been known to cheerfully remove their regulators and attempt 
to breathe water. By the time Tom got all his equipment organized and 
attached with rings and snaps and lanyards, all the other divers were 
in the water.  Tom and Mary were the last in.  As they slowly descended 
the wall of coral, Mary marveled at the peace and quiet.  She watched 


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