The Value of Leaving Your Ego on the Dock is Priceless
By Amateur Diver, Eric Sampson
Just recently I went on a family trip down to Longboat Key, Florida, about an hour south of Tampa. A couple months prior I just so happened to inherit a bunch of dive gear from my father since he wasn’t into diving as much as he used to be. Needless to say, I thought this would be a good chance to put some of this gear to use as well as get my feet wet again. It had been a long time, probably the better part of 12 years since my last real dive. I did put the same set of gear on probably about 6 or 7 years ago when someone lost their keys off our dock at our shore house. Yes, I did find them but I still would hardly consider that a real dive.
I did some poking around on the internet a few days before heading down and was able to find an operation called Scuba Quest in Sarasota. They were a local dive shop and they booked dive charters with Blue Water Explorers, about 20 minutes north in Cortez. This worked out quite well since Cortez was right by Longboat Key. Once I arrived in Longboat Key, I took a drive down to Sarasota to have my regulator and bc checked out since it had been a while since they were both used. They tested just fine. So a big thanks to Eric Tobin at Scuba Quest for doing that for me free of charge. He then told me they would be going out for a two tank dive Sunday at 1pm. Without hesitation, I booked it, paid for the dive and smiled to myself as I would be in the water in two days, weather permitting.
Sunday came quick. Almost as quick as thunderstorms appear in Florida during the summer and the past two few days had been no exception. But somehow I lucked out. It rained briefly in the morning and then the clouds parted way and moved on to reveal what was to be a gorgeous day.
On my drive there I was a bit nervous. I think I remember the word trepidation crossing my mind. But I think it was more because I was pondering if this was the right adjective to use. I wasn’t really nervous because of the dive itself, I think it was more so that I just hadn’t dove in quite a while and I wasn’t feeling "on top of my game" so to speak. I’m one of those alpha types that likes to feel like they are in control of the situation and that am I am really knowledgeable in what I am about to do or embark upon. Today was not the case. Today I was feeling a little edgy and excited at the same time. This was not necessarily the worst thing as what it did was put me right in the seat of some of my past students and made me start thinking about the advice that I profess.
For a number of years I taught professional trackday instruction for motorcycle riders and racers. In addition to this I have taught a number of people how to ride motorcycles with them having no prior experience with two wheels. Feeling like a student made me think about the people I used to instruct and the advice that I used to give them. I remember one of my most spoken pieces of advice, "Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice or help. There is absolutely no shame in seeking out the advice and help from others that are much more experienced than you. Chances are they will be more than glad to help out." I nodded to myself. That’s good advice I thought.
Switching mental gears from a slightly unnerved diver with rusty skills to an eager-to-learn student, I pulled into the parking lot, unloaded my gear and made my way towards the dive shack and dock. With each step, the butterflies seemed to find their way elsewhere instead of swarming inside my stomach. I greeted the Captain, signed in and filled out the requisite paperwork and made my way down the dock towards the dive boat.
I found a slightly shaded spot courtesy of a natural palm leaf umbrella stuck into a picnic table in the middle of the dock, set my gear bag down and started taking my stuff out. Then, not really knowing what else to do because I didn’t know who anyone around me was, but wanting to still say something, I looked in the general direction of everyone on the end of the dock and blurted out, "It’s been a while since I last dove so I need a buddy and some technical assistance with my gear."
Almost instantly I got a reply from the back of the group with someone saying," You shouldn’t ask paying customers. I’m the dive master. How can I help you?
My first thought to myself was, "Wow, that was blunt...Almost rude..." But in half a second I was like, "She’s right. I should have asked for the Dive Master right off the bat." Everyone else was there to enjoy their dive. Besides, I don’t know anything about anyone else’s ability as a diver. They could all have basic certifications with little time or be in the same situation as myself.
After that flash of a thought, a gentleman came up to me and said, "I’m a dive master as well. My name is Drew. What can I help you with?" I said," Well, it’s been about 6 years since I strapped any of this equipment on and I can’t even really say it was to do a real dive. Someone lost their keys off my dock." "Did you find them?”, he quickly responded. "Yeah, I found them. It only took me a few minutes." "So it was a successful dive then?" "I chuckled and smiling, I said, "Yes, I suppose it was a successful dive." I quickly followed up with, “ I did take the regulator and the BC to a Scuba Quest in Sarasota and had them both given the thumbs up after a pressure test." I had also forgotten the clevis to attach my regulator to the bottle and Scuba Quest had kindly sent one along for me to borrow. However, as DM Drew started helping me hook things up he asked where my second stage was and I went, "Oh.....shoot. I didn’t even think of that." I completely forgot that I have a pony tank with a whole separate second regulator setup. And I didn’t pack it because of the weight. If I had thought ahead I could have possibly taken the regulator from my pony tank and plumbed it in the primary one. But I wasn’t thinking that far ahead when I was packing for this trip.