Day 156: Baby’s got the Bends.

S.C.U.B.A stands for Self Contained Under Water Breathing Apparatus. Normally, that “apparatus” is called your lungs, but since those don’t work underwater (God’s conscious choice), you have to carry your oxygen with you. Just pack all your air in a lunch box, strap it to your back, put a tube in it and suck the air like it’s a straw. One other thing:  You need to attach weights to yourself because the natural tendency is for your body to float to the surface.

The laws of boyancy and respiration are both screaming “Don’t do it!” What more evidence do you need that it’s a bad idea?

Have you ever watched someone prepare to go scuba diving? It’s like watching a pit crew prep a 747. The more preparation needed to avoid death, the more you should just change your mind and go out to dinner instead. Have lobster so you don’t feel like your huge underwater zoological adventure plans totally went to shit.

I’m 100% sure if I ever went scuba diving, I would end up getting the bends. Let me modify that a bit: If I was patient enough to persevere through the equipment  rigamarole, lug it to the beach and get on a boat with a bunch of people I don’t know who are also unwittingly interested in visiting Davy Jones’ locker, I’m fairly certain I would sink to the bottom, panic, surface too quickly and get the bends. If you got through that last sentence, you can probably scuba dive.

The bends is such an anxiety inducing name.  Any condition that’s named based on its physical manifestations is frightening. Was it named 300 years ago by a bunch of confused pirates who couldn’t understand why the slaves they were sending down for treasure were surfacing with paralyzing gas pains?

So let me get this straight. I plop off the boat by doing that ridiculous backwards fall and I immediately plummit to the ocean floor (inevitable). I panic and want to swim back to the surface where I can breath and eat and my blood has oxygen in it, right? That’s a desire that’s probably very difficult to combat. In order not to get the bends however, I have to make pit stops along the way up so my body can adjust to the pressure. That’s everyone’s dream when they’re panicing – an awkward hang at an underwater base camp staring at a ticking watch.

Happy nightmares to my readers who fear an underwater death! (all of you).

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

4 comments On Day 156: Baby’s got the Bends.

  • Jason! Getting to even be allowed to scuba dive is a long process. You have to go through a class and have a certain amount of hours in a controlled environment to even be allowed to go into water more than 4' deep. When I was young, my family would go to the keyes to go lobstering right before school started. We always got bored on the boat or snorkling while the adults always got to go deep into the water and look at all the cool stuff on the sea floor. When I was old enough, I was permitted to get my SCUBA license. The class was easy for me, but not as much for my brothers. I guess I just ace any type of school. We went through practical applications in a swimming pool, including the ridiculous fall, learning the weights and everything. Plummeting to the floor? No, you needn't worry about that. Your scuba gear has a vest that is inflated when you first 'fall' in. This permits you to get all your….gear…straight. When you are ready, you slowly release this air to allow you to descend at your own pace. Your weight belt is only enough to get you past the buoyancy stage, so you will never plummet, merely descend. Also, weights should be worn on an easy to remove belt, should the need to rise becomes dangerously important. Your vest can and will inflate to help you surface. I've not been diving in ages, because of an inner ear problem….I couldn't equalize, and I imagine the bends would be awful, but short of that, not equalizing is the most painful thing I can think of going wrong on a dive……that and getting sick in the water…But as soon as yer done heaving, you get to see lots of pretty fish interested in your breakfast of oatmeal and toast! LOL!

  • Fred McConnaughey

    Dear Jason,

    Giggle. Panic underwater is deadly. The only time I lost it underwater was a night dive without lights to 200'. I had one, but it was switched off because we were seeking an elusive fish which shows up only at night. After the moon went behind a reef, I got the twirlies and huffed a loaded scuba tank empty in less than 10 minutes. Fortunately, we had hung an extra tank at 10' for just such an emergency. It was the only time, and I'll never know if it was partly because I smoked a banned substance earlier that day. It turns out that merrywanna and scuba diving really don't belong together. Too much detail? Sorry. Dad Mike sent me your link. All the best, Fred

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