White Trash Scuba Diver (or "Good Luck Moving Up, Cuz I'm Moving Out")

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I am so uncultured that the first time I heard this idiom was in a Billy Joel song. I was like, "Wow, that Billy Joel, he really comes up with some good ones. First he talks about how, if buying a house out in Hackensack is moving up, then he's moving out. And now this whole Rome thing!"

I've never been to Rome. Nor Hackensack. But I've been to Jeddah. And what applies in Rome must apply in Jeddah too, so since I'm in Jeddah, I decided to do as the Jeddawis do. Learn how to scuba dive.

"Is that a pygmy kraken? I want to touch it, and maybe eat it."
There's a guy who gives scuba lessons who chain smokes and respirates on Starbucks coffee. But he doesn't charge much for lessons and he's got big muscles, so at least I know if I'm attacked underwater by a kraken, my instructor can flex his muscles before he gets eaten. I think krakens are super scary. So are dolphins, because they are always smiling. You can't trust things that smile all the time, like Chucky.

I probably will never see a kraken though. I'm not allowed to dive deeper than 60 feet, because I'm a beginner. It's like how when you're a little kid your parents take you to cool places, like a Gloria Estefan concert, but they keep you on a leash. Maybe it's one of those leashes attached to a cute backpack shaped like a monkey, but, I'm not stupid Mom, it's still a leash. I'm not certain, because Wikipedia is silent on the matter, but I think krakens live deeper than 60 feet. But if one ever comes up to attack me, it's no big deal, because even if my muscled instructor gets eaten, we're required to carry "dive knives" with us -- to cut seaweed or prick our fingers to attract interesting sharks -- and I could probably just stab the kraken in the arm, or maybe several arms if I wanted, and it'd probably flee in pain.

My scuba teacher made me watch three or four hours worth of DVD instruction on how to safely dive. The videos mostly advise you to fill your tank with oxygen and not other things, like rum, to not stick your hand in dark holes underwater (could be kraken babies in there), and to make sure injured divers are not underwater, and preferably on land, before you start to give them CPR. I learned some less intuitive things too, like that if you surface and your boat is gone, you shouldn't panic.

My first "open water dive," under the supervision of my instructor, was in the Red Sea at a kind of ghetto beach. I stood there at the edge of the rock shelf, my flippers hanging over the edge, my nerdy yellow goggles on, sporting a borrowed white Fila t-shirt under my inflatable floatation vest so the vest wouldn't chafe me, and a pair of faded swim trunks. I looked like a white trash scuba diver. The instructor told me to jump in, but it looked to me like the water was only three or four feet deep. "Are you sure?" I told him. "It looks like the water's only a few feet deep." "Trust me," he said. So I took a giant step out into the sea. Aaaaaand it was only three or four feet deep. Last time I trust a chain smoker.

We spent about 45 minutes tooling around, only a few dozen feet from shore. But the coral plateaus dropped away not ten feet offshore, forming ridges and deep canyons that we navigated, surrounded by colorful tropical fish. It was super fun. I saw an octopus. And an old muffler. And several lionfish. I was like Jacque Cousteau. But without the silly name.