Webster’s defines “hobby” as a pursuit or interest engaged in for relaxation. I suggest any activity performed to avoid morphing into a jabbering, paste-eating vegetable. This would help explain Hula Hoops and the Pet Rock.
After a few months of inhaling enough smog to warrant my own emissions test, I made a note to get out of Dodge, at least until sundown. Which is why I found myself on the Spectre, an 85-foot, blue-and-white dive boat, pitching and rolling in the Pacific. It’s said that for every trip, something is forgotten. In this case, that would be Dramamine.
Two hours later, Captain Bligh dropped anchor. I donned my gear, got the OK, and stepped into the abyss.
There’s something entrancing about the ocean. No? Watch those investment brokerage ads with the smiling couple on their 52-foot sailboat. A romantic adventure, cruising the ocean blue is. Pressed khakis, white boat shoes and Dom Perignon. And if it’s on TV, it must be true.
Forty minutes later, I surfaced and dragged myself up onto the sea step, mask askew and a gallon of seawater in my belly. Romance is dead. Lloyd Bridges never dripped mucous like this in “Sea Hunt,” and I didn’t see Jacqueline Bisset anywhere. And it wasn’t for a lack of looking.
I began climbing the ladder up to the deck when I felt a tug on my left foot. Obviously, a razor-fanged leviathan had risen from the depths to feed. I was a neoprene-wrapped spring roll. Is there shame in a grown man wetting himself?
I cringed and looked down into the grinning face of the dive master, her fingers gripping my ankle as she removed my fins. Ah, yes, of course. I reached again for the ladder, only to lunge out of the way as the 300-pound man behind me rushed onto the step with the aplomb of a humpback whale beaching itself.
It’s an interesting dynamic onboard. Gear is left in bags, along with wallets, watches and keys. When the cook is away, you check off what you take on a notepad above the cooler and pay later. I’m told it’s rare that the inventory doesn’t balance with the cash drawer. Space is respected. Smiles and slow nods are exchanged. Help is given without request, and nothing is expected in return. Things are understood.
What makes events like the CFI, FIANA and TCAA conventions worth attending? Sure, there are the educational seminars, the product rollouts, the demonstrations, the speakers and showcases and luncheons. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
But the glue holding them together? People. The people you meet during the day are those you’d invite to dinner that night. There is a sharing of ideas, a comparing of experiences that goes on in the hallways and lobbies and lounges that makes it all worthwhile. It’s not always about business; sometimes it’s about that nod of understanding.
The diving people are a good people. I think I will remain among them, studying their habits, observing their ways. And did I mention the four-person hot tub in the stern?
There aren’t too many better ways to spend a day.