Big World, Big Mistake
I made a grievous error on vacation this week. One which I expect will have ramifications for years to come, if not for the rest of my life.
We had decided to skip the standard tourist Florida fare and be a little unconventional. Staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, surrounded by such rock 'n roll memorabilia as Elton John's platform boots and Spinal Tap's Flying-V guitar, we seemed to be off the beaten path.
We bypassed Epcot and Disneyworld, choosing instead a Jazz Club and the Orlando Science Center.
Wanting to see alligators, we chose a wildlife preserve instead of one of the many "watch-the-crazy-man-stick-his-head-in-the-gator's-mouth" places.
I felt pretty good about the choices we'd been making. However, I did want to go snorkeling. Although that activity seemed pretty touristy, I felt that it was adventurous enough to be acceptable.
At dinner, while surrounded by family members who were unknown to me mere hours before, I mentioned my intentions. Most nodded in agreement, but one outspoken second-cousin-in-law told me I'd regret the choice.
I was pretty certain I wouldn't, but she pressed the issue. She said that snorkeling was largely unsatisfying. That it was voyeuristic, distant, and - worst of all - non-interactive. "Scuba diving," she said, "is what you should be doing."
The idea was tempting. But then reality set in. "I'm not certified," I protested. "I wouldn't be allowed to go."
She explained that there are many places in Florida that offer crash courses. A bit of training, and - before you know it - you're in the water.
She went on to describe the ocean as a doorway to another world. That scuba diving was like being Superman, flying weighlessly over the terrain of an alien planet. That it was incomparable to anything else I'd ever do.
Intrigued, I acquiesced.
Back at the hotel, I found a place and made the call. I was booked for private instruction on Sunday afternoon. After some training, I would be exploring a coastal reef and a century-old shipwreck.
This I did.
I don't have any desire to try to articulate the experience. But I do need to focus in on one disastrous moment, an instant when something happened which can only be described as terribly costly.
In about 20 feet of water, while examining fish of inestimable number and infinite variety, something hit me hard.
It wasn't the shark which I'd see several minutes later.
It wasn't the boat, anchored high overhead which had struck me.
Was it an embolism? A case of the bends? A coronoary infarction? No...
It was an addiction.