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Typical Day

Tim Tankmeister gathers his Open Water Diver class materials and settles down at the kitchen table. He slurps some coffee and shovels in a bowl of cereal while he reviews the day's plan. His 10-person class has spent several weeks reviewing SCUBA diving physics and dive planning, not exactly the most stimulating subjects, but necessary. Everyone has passed the quizzes and the written exam, so this morning they're meeting at the pool for their first open water session. Tim needs to get there about an hour early to get the dive gear organized before the session begins. He's got some doubts about a couple of the students, but he'll reserve judgment until after the swim test.

Tim grabs a protein bar as he sprints out the door, and makes the short drive to the dive shop to pick up the gear. Good thing he's been keeping up with his weight training, as shlepping a dozen tanks back and forth would otherwise wipe him out. He also gathers enough regulators, masks, snorkels, and fins for the entire class.

Tim arrives at the pool, sets up the gear at several stations, and waits for the students to arrive. They drift in about a half-hour later, ogling each other as they mill around in their bathing suits. Tim puts a stop to that by lining them up for the swim test. Each student has to swim 200 yards using any stroke they want. After that, they must tread water and float for 10 minutes. If they survive that, they're good to go for the SCUBA session.

Eight of the students breeze through the swim test without any trouble at all. The ninth student looks a bit tired, and has slowed down, but she's still plodding along and looks like she'll finish. The 10th student, a kid just out of high school, looks like he's spent way too much time with the video games and not enough time at the gym. He's stopping and starting, again and again. The kid looks wiped out, like he's got nothing left. Tim calls him to the side of the pool for a chat. The kid realizes he's in way over his head, and decides to get in better shape before he tries the SCUBA swim test again. Fortunately, he's already bought his course materials, so perhaps he can slip into the next class with better results.

With the kid trudging off to the showers, Tim turns his attention to the remaining nine students. Tim will have to buddy up with somebody for the water work, but he's done that before. After the students return from a bathroom break, Tim demonstrates the proper way to don and adjust a mask and snorkel. Now it's time to practice that skill. Most of the students have clearly done this before, as they chase each other around the pool, spouting water through their snorkels as they go a little too far underwater. Even the ones who seem to be snorkel-breathing for the first time are doing well.

Now it's time to introduce the regulator and tank. Tim points out the regulator's parts as he discusses how it works. He also throws out a few stern warnings about the dire consequences of not keeping the regulator properly maintained and inspected (e.g., the hoses could rot, o-rings could deteriorate, etc.). He assures the students none of the outcomes are pleasant. Moving on to the tank, Tim explains its parts and function, and provides an equally unsavory description of how a faulty tank can really ruin a diver's day. However, he also notes that the dive shop or dive boat operator is responsible for keeping the tanks inspected and maintained.

Okay, time to put on the tanks. Tim doesn't really enjoy this part, as he ends up shouldering much of each tank's weight while the student gets it positioned on his or her back. Then the students typically stagger around the pool deck until they adjust their body's balance to reflect the added weight. Some get it more easily than others. This group seems to be taking longer than usual, and Tim's pool time is almost up for today. He'll have to revamp the next day's schedule to include introductory tank work in addition to mask clearing skills. Good thing he can combine a lesson or two down the road.

During later pool work, Tim will teach the students how to replace their masks underwater. Then they'll face the real test: practicing the potentially life-saving skill of "buddy breathing," or sharing a regulator to help a buddy who has run out of air during a dive. When Tim is satisfied that each student can perform this important task, he'll introduce the schedule of five skill-building pool dives. After that, it's on to the four open water certification dives, conveniently scheduled for January in the Florida Keys. "Yes, it's a tough job," Tim thinks, but he'll make the sacrifice for the good of the students. He's just that kind of guy.