I’m going on a trip to the Puerto Rico with my daughter in a few days. I’m looking forward to it – it’s been miserably cold here and I can’t wait to lounge around on a beach and soak up some sun (in a responsible fashion, of course – my hands and arms are already looking like a piece of paper someone crumpled up and then tried to smooth back out, complete with a few sun spots for good measure). Since my coworkers are stuck in the cold, I take delight in telling them about my upcoming adventure – because I’m just a bitch that way.
Today, I mentioned to my friend, that in just three short days, I would be snorkeling in the crystal clear, blue waters of the Caribbean and a few nights after that, I would be visiting a bio-luminescent lagoon, watching the water fluoresce a brilliant blue in the dark of the night. After she cheerfully told me to shut the hell up, she said, “Oh – that’s like Life of Pi!” I agreed that it was a lot like that and mentioned that I’d only seen florescent water one other time in my life – when I was doing some night scuba diving with my mother and a guide in the Florida Keys when I was about 17-years old.
My mom had gone to Florida to become certified in a program that taught babies to swim. The program really worked! When daughter #1 was about a year-old, she could be dropped into a pool, fully clothed and in a winter coat and boots, and she still would be able to make her way to the side of the pool, where she would hang on like gangbusters and scream for help. I may have to help daughter #1 pay for therapy now that she is an adult due to the trauma, but at least I didn’t have to worry about her drowning in my parent’s pool.
Anyway, at the end of the program, I joined my mother for a little vacation and some scuba diving, as I had become certified earlier that year. My mother would later regret this decision. I was not a fun person to be around when I was 17-years-old – I was full of anger and angst and rebellion, and I wasn’t shy about spewing all of that on any authority figure that happened to be nearby. In fact, while we were staying in the Keys, my mother and I had such an argument that that she left me in the hotel room, took her bag, and went down to the lobby where she rented another room so she would not have to be near me for the remainder of the stay. I was just that delightful.
This particular night, we had booked a night time dive prior to all the drama, so we sucked it up and went to meet our guide. I wasn’t a particularly happy camper about the dive. I had seen Jaws a year or so earlier and was still traumatized. I didn’t mind diving in water that had excellent visibility – my rational was that I could see any potential eating machines as they swam towards me and I could just sink to the bottom and take shelter with my back to the reef until the threat was gone (or my air was used up – whichever came first).
But at night, things are DARK! You couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead with the light of the underwater flashlight. The guide pointed out a lobster or two and then he had us gather close to him and, with jazz hands, he made a shaking motion in the water, gesturing at us to repeat the motions and nodding when we did so.
Then he turned off the light.
After my initial panic at being in the Gulf of Mexico with a thousand killer sharks lurking nearby that I could not see, I noticed a glow. The guide was again shaking his hands back and forth and when he moved, the water illuminated with beautiful blue sparkles. I immediately got in on the act – not only was it an incredible sight, but it was light – however feeble. It didn’t occur to me later that the bio-luminescence might have acted as a beacon for hungry predators of the deep, so enchanted was I at the spectacle.
I don’t remember much more about that trip – other than the fact that we also did a dive off the coast of Miami one day. I thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride out to the dive site – but as soon as we anchored, the bobbing and sway of the boat made me horribly nauseous. The guide assured me that once I was in the water, the nausea would go away. However, that was not the case. We were the last group in the water – my mother descended along the anchor line first, then the guide, and then me. I don’t know if it was the nausea or nerves (again – sharks), but I couldn’t clear my ears. If you’ve ever had a cold on a plane and your ears wouldn’t pop as you came in for the landing, you know how that feels. You just can’t dive if you can’t clear your ears. I motioned to the guide to stop and gestured to my ears. He had me tilt my head this way and that and try again, to no avail. Then he gestured that I should go back up to the boat.
So I did – and no one came with me.
I surfaced and grabbed onto the dive platform of the boat and attempted to haul myself onto it. With each wave, the platform would raise two or three feet, causing me to lose my grip. With the weight of the tank and weight belt I was wearing, I just didn’t have the upper body strength to manage it. At this point, I was pretty terrified – I was alone in the ocean and, at this point, I couldn’t see what was underneath me (and surely there was a Great White, just pondering which leg to eat first). I couldn’t get back onto the boat and I was quickly becoming tired. It sucked.
You know what sucked worse? Several minutes later I managed to get a leg up onto the platform before it rose out of the water again and I was finally able to roll myself onto the dive platform. After resting for a bit, I took off my fins and mask and climbed into the boat — which was still rocking and bobbing and swaying. The seasickness came back full force and there was nothing I could do about it. I took off my tank and weight belt and laid down on one of the bench seats. That was a big mistake. If anything, it made it worse. I sat up again and looked for other boats – maybe I could signal to them and they could come and take me back to shore! There was not another boat in sight. I contemplated the radio – could I call for help? Nope – I didn’t know how to work it. I wanted to vomit and get it over with, but my stomach sadistically refused to purge. I sat on that bouncing boat for what seemed like hours, alternately crying and wishing for death.
You can imagine my joy when the heads of the first returning divers broke the surface. I was even more elated when everyone finally got back on board and we started for shore.
When I tearfully accused my mother of abandoning me to my fate, she explained that she hadn’t even known I had gone back to the boat until the guide joined her at the bottom – and then he wouldn’t let her go back up alone. I believed her at the time – but now that I’ve had to weather the teenage years of three mercurial daughters – I can’t help but wonder…(and I can’t really blame her).
PS – For this trip, I’m taking Dramamine before I get on the boat.