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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Singlutionary's Scuba Story

SCUBA diving isn't something you can do solo. You need a buddy.

I've got lots of buddies but none of them are into scuba diving. In fact, I'm surprised that I'm into scuba diving. As a kid I was alternately enchanted with and terrified by water. I'm not athletic and although I am adventurous, I've never been into activities that require a lot of gear and investment. So I've enjoyed activities which require little startup costs: hiking, running, biking, swimming.

But last year I went and surprised everyone, including myself, and got SCUBA certified. I took a class at my school where I am a graduate student. It is a Physical Education class and was filled with mostly 19 year olds. Everyone was skinnier and younger than me including the sexy hick instructor. The financial considerations were difficult but possible to overcome: I just had to postpone paying off debt and invest in a wetsuit and pay the extra fee instead.

I figured it was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday.

When the class was over, I was certified to dive but I still didn't have anyone to dive with. None of my young classmates were potential buddies and I didn't really know anyone else who dove. So I took another class. In the Master SCUBA Diver class, I had 3 classmates: Two almost identical looking 19 year old boys and another woman in her late 20s. I was excited about the other woman, thinking I might make friends with her -- until we dove together. I had to help her put together her gear because she "didn't like that part" so her boyfriend usually did it for her.


This shit keeps you alive underwater. You'd think you might want to know how it works!

She was a nice person but not buddy material. Plus, she already had a built-in-buddy -- one who would do her thinking for her.

So a couple weeks ago, for my 31st birthday I went on a dive trip to this spring fed pool in West Texas that I'd been dreaming of going to even before I began scuba diving. Imagine a giant swimming hole with crystal clear water in the middle of the desert? It is a full 6 hours from any major (or minor) city. This place is called Balmorhea and it is a mirage -- but a real one.

I signed up for a trip with other divers, thinking that there would be other people going without a buddy and I would have a whole bunch of potential future buddies to choose from -- kinda like a singles mixer for scuba divers. Of course I had to pay double the "per person" rate because I didn't have anyone to share a room with. A month before the trip was about to depart my best friend and roommate, the Handywoman, decided she would come. I had already paid for the room so all she had to do was drive (not an easy task really since Balmorhea is the very definition of "middle of nowhere").

Handywoman doesn't dive but there was swimming and hiking and lots of other activities.

We got there late on Thursday for the night dive. There were already some other divers in the water so I waited for some new divers to arrive. I saw one girl getting her gear together and undaunted, trotted up to her and asked if I could join her.

"What?" was her response. She acted like I was an alien -- maybe I was, I mean, we were near supposed alien territory -- the Marfa Lights.

"Do you mind if I get my gear and join you?" I asked again.

"Well. I already have a buddy" she said awkwardly and yet at the same time proudly since she obviously wasn't an alien like me trying to make friends with the already buddy-ready humans. "I don't know," she continued "are threesomes allowed?"

They were -- since the water was so clear and shallow but I could tell that she definitely wasn't interested in having a threesome with me and her boyfriend.

All of a sudden I felt like the uninvited guest to an orgy.

"Nevermind, I'll just wait for someone else to come down." I said.

And I did.

But nobody else came.

The next day was similar. I showed up to the pool at about noon and asked the group leader if anyone else had come without a buddy. She listed off a bunch of names and said another group was arriving at 2pm. I waited until dinner time but no other lost aliens-sans-buddy showed up at the pool. I did some swimming and taught Handywoman how to snorkel. I ate cheese and crackers and watermelon in the sun. I had a good time. But I was waiting.

I wanted to dive.

And more than wanting to dive, I wanted a dive partner. I wanted to make a new friend to dive with in the future. Someone with similar skill and interest and someone who would be fun to talk to in a car for 2 hours. It didn't seem too much to ask for when I had paid the double fee.

It was time to go to dinner and I still hadn't been on a dive. I was being positive on the outside but honestly I was frustrated. I had missed the night dive and now I had missed a whole day of diving. The next day was slated for hiking. I had to be more aggressive if I was going to find a dive partner. The dinner was my only hope. It was a group dinner with the other people on the trip and I hoped that I would meet some of the other buddyless divers there.

I was quickly disappointed. There were the dive instructors and their families at one end of the table, a mother daughter team and then an entire family of which only the mom & dad & daughter dove. The daughter was a teenager and the parents were parents. Plus, they all had each other to dive with and could afford to go on week long dive trips to exotic locations. I needed someone who could dive locally and, like me, would have to save up to go on a big dive trip.

To add insult to injury, in walks the humanoid-buddy-girl and her boyfriend. At first I attempted to make conversation with them but after overhearing a conversation she had with my roommate (which made no sense what-so-ever) I tried to avoid eye contact. That was fine with her as she proceeded to get drunk and interrogate her boyfriend about his family. It was impossible not to overhear but it was also like being on someone else's first date. I was impressed that people could be an official couple and know so little about each other. No wonder she was so reluctant to have a "threesome".

I did end up diving the next day. I just got in by myself and found the other folks who were down there -- an older couple who had told me that I could join them. I tried to get another night dive in but everyone else was done with diving by then.

The trip wasn't a total bust. I enjoyed it, enjoyed the time spent with Handywoman and got to see a place that I'd been dreaming of for a long long time. I got to dive once and the place is so small that I saw everything there was to see. Although I would really have liked to do the night dive because critters come out at night that hide during the day -- like turtles.

But I didn't find a buddy. Everyone already came coupled -- and not just with a scuba buddy but with a partner. I realized that scuba diving is something that couples do together. They get certified so they can go on vacation together. It is a couple-y thing to do.

Whenever I've wanted to do something that you're "supposed" to do with a partner, I've just done it by myself. But what happens when its an activity that can not be done solo? My first response was to join a group. But what if the group is already made up of unalterable partnerships?

I'm not sure what to do next to meet single scuba divers who need a buddy. There is a scuba meetup in town that I can attend when I have time. Meetup tends to have a lot of solo people looking for folks to do things with. But for right now diving is on hold. Plus, its getting colder and the drought has left our already nasty lakes even nastier.

Finding a scuba buddy is turning out to be a lot like finding a mate: a pain in the ass. But while I can continue to live my life without a partner, I can't go diving without one.

At least I have until the spring to save up enough hope to try again.


Special K said...

This is who you are...when wanting a buddy, you honor that want, and you follow the sense of disappointment and follow it to the roots. I would show up with you in a heartbeat. But maybe completely asking 5 people to go with you (almost strangers) would be better than being let down by those that are supposed to be committed with you.
Sad! and frustrating. The challenge isn't finding someone. It is seeking your desire to want someone and honoring that.

hebba said...

go to a scuba shop and ask if they have group dives. Or join a dive club. (dive shop good for that, too) Lots of times they have group dives posted on a board or in a newsletter. OR save up some money and go on a dive vacation in the Carribean. Tons of single divers there!

The Singlutionary said...

Special K - thanks!

Hebba -- the dive I went on was with a dive shop. This is the second dive that I've gone on with them. The first time I thought I'd met a buddy but then all of a sudden he sent me a text about his girlfriend and I haven't heard from him since.

I guess part of the problem is that I have very limited time and funds to pursue diving right now and I feel that I've spent a lot of that time looking for a dive partner instead of diving!

I know that the right circumstances will come around eventually and I'll have diving friends and time/money to dive.

Its a different situation for me to be in a partner-dependent activity.

Anonymous said...

Good on you for getting out and not letting it stop you doing something you had really been looking forward to!

Some ideas -

- does the scuba club have a "club area" where you can put up a sign asking for a partner?

- can you go to a few scuba diving shops and leave posters / written messages seeking a scuba diving pal?

- is there anything on the web that you can use - I've seen 'ads' on meetup where people post ads for tennis partners etc etc. Maybe you can search and post a message there ........

Good luck with it - hope you find someone :-) :-)

:-) i0lan...

Sixty and Single in Seattle said...

This post makes me remember my loneliest week: Cycle Oregon, on my own. And at least there I could bike fine all by myself! What got to me was the embarrassment of feeling like the only one on the trip without a buddy.
So sorry, Singlutionary! Hope you find somebody!

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Anonymous said...

I too, am a single diver and quite frankly, if you go out on a boat, the dive master always just "assigns" you to someone or to a couple if you don't feel comfortable asking other folks -- that's much better than the situation you mentioned where it sounds as if you "dive at will." I've never had anyone act as if I were an imposition. I've also done some "live-aboard" trips by myself with the same result. All being a "buddy" really means is having someone close by in the event you have trouble -- so basically, you're all just more or less swimming together.

The Singlutionary said...

Anonymous -- thank you. This is very helpful information. I was afraid to go on a more expensive dive trip without a buddy in tow because I didn't want the expense to be wasted. It is hard to find a compatible friend for local dives because the diving here is so crappy and it takes so long to get to the crappy spots! Your experiences make me feel more comfortable with doing my usual thing -- just going solo and letting it all work out -- without a fear that I will be wasting all my money!