OUT OF AIR
The Israelis have an uncommon way of teaching. They brand information in your psyche so you instinctively do what you’re supposed to do when necessary. A case in point is scuba training typically directed by ex-military personnel in Eilat.
I boldly entered the sea with the (ex-intelligence!) diving instructor knowing it was time to move from theory to practice, to complete an elective credit for divemaster certification. I thought, “What doesn’t kill me – makes me stronger!”
Within minutes, I was shown a female octopus cradled deep in the cavity of a reef camouflaging itself by continuously changing colors. Mesmerized, I could have watched forever. Especially since I hadn’t noticed the instructor vanish. When I looked up, then all around, I suddenly spotted him suspended upside down 50 meters away, at a depth of 10 meters, with the regulator out of his mouth signaling he was “out of air.” Like a sprint athlete leaves the starting blocks at the sound of a gun, I bolted to his rescue.
Out of breath, once I turned him right side up, I stuck my life support system in his mouth. Holding him by the shoulder straps of his buoyancy control jacket with one hand and clearing the hair off my mask with the other, I watched him slowly inhale air from my breathing regulator as if he were sucking a 7-yard piece of cooked spaghetti. (Protocol is you take two breaths and pass it back).
Now I was out of air! I signaled my critical condition but the instructor stared back at me stone still. I tried to grab my regulator but he moved his head away.
“Game over,” I thought. “I’m out of here!”
As I darted for the surface, his steel grip on my jacket’s shoulder straps felt like a steel anchor. Then, as if I weren’t having a bad day already, he ripped the dive mask off my face and starting shaking me up and down like a martini! Panic.
Although emotions distort the fabric of space-time, it felt like this relentless underwater battle continued for 3-4 minutes. Instinctively, I tried to escape to the surface multiple times while drinking gallons of seawater fighting my need to swallow air.
Finally, I must have reached the threshold of death – I realized I had nothing else lose: if I was going to die – he was going with me: with Herculean strength and five swift moves, I grabbed him with both arms, kneed him in the groin, ripped off his mask, twisted the regulator out of his mouth, and tore off his weight belt.
His mission was accomplished: I got it.
Never relinquish control of your life support system, even in the event of an underwater accident or when buddy breathing. No exceptions ever. Later, I even went as far as replacing my circular “bulls-eye target” Mares regulator with a small cylinder one by Oceanic that fits in my fist so if you want my air, you have to take my hand!
If you, like many people, are wired to help others, I bet you regularly relinquish self-care, life balance or helping yourself before helping others.
Certainly in a life-and-death situation you do try to help. However, when you throw caution to the winds and put yourself in danger, as I did by arriving out of breath and giving away my life support system, sometimes you unintentionally become the problem as well.
Think of a time at home or in the workplace when you’ve tried to help someone else only to become the problem yourself. Personal safety comes first:help yourself before helping others.Failure to do so may result in two problems instead of one. Take it from me: Don’t run out of air.