Friday, August 21, 2009

Nostril Plugs, Anyone?

So these are a couple ideas I've had for new inventions, designed especially to help new ski instructors run their classes in a more efficient manner:
The headband helmet: made especially for little girls in beginning ski school whose parent's don't seem to think about the fact that it will be much harder for their princesses to ski if their hair freezes in a veil over their face. This new helmet will come in pretty girlie colors and have a built-in headband to keep their hair out of their face and mouth. This will also help the instructor because she will know if they are even looking in her general direction when she's explaining some of the rudimentary of skiing.
The yapper trapper: a device like a muzzle to keep children from shrieking about how they want their mommy, that their feet are cold, that they can't move, and that they hate their wonderful instructor.
The kiddie stopper: a big rubber thing that you can stick in the ground that the kids can ski down and run into when they can't stop on the bunny hill (which, by the way, has the vertical incline of a grassy knoll, but they can still manage to start going mach 5 and ramming into the fence and/or the snowboard class at the bottom) that will give just enough that they stop going forward, but will save the poor instructor, whose main job seems to be a stopper for said out of control children, especially the ones that weigh as much as poor instructor.
And finally, the nostril plug: for all ages and in a variety of colors, this hand device is rammed into the nostrils to prevent big snot bubbles and excess drippage that completely gross out the ever-patient instructor, who even if she has Kleenex will inevitably have to put the used ones in her pocket, where they freeze into big green balls.

Night Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

I sit uncomfortably in inky blackness, trying not to fall onto Linton, who patiently bears my weight as I struggle to put on my fins. I'm the last one ready, and probably the most nervous, but I take a deep breath, let it out, and readjust my mask.
"Ready," I say. I put the regulator in my mouth and try to breathe through the tube that snakes to the tank on my back. It's heavy and trying to pull me backward into the water.
"One, two, three, GO!" someone yells, and I surrender to the tank, letting it pull me in. My flashlight points straight into the sky, before becoming obscured by the dark water. I do a flip and end up upright next to the dinghy, held afloat by my vest. There are six others with me, and we're at Bait Reef, an outer layer of the Great Barrier Reef off the Whitsunday Islands. It's my first night dive ever, and I try to control a part of me that's trying to panic. For the moment I succeed, and soon we're descending in invisible elevators into the void below us.
This is different than the experience I had earlier today, in the daylight. Now the water is obscured by tiny particles, like snowflakes that absorb the light. Earlier, the sunlight was caught by schools of hand-sized fish, throwing rainbows everywhere in a shower of prisms. The coral was only slightly blurred by the depth, giving it a dusty appearance: pale rose, chalky blue, smudged green. There were giant clams with pursed disapproving lips in neon colored patterns, like 80's clothing.
Now, the same trip is completely different. What we can see is only what we ourselves illuminate, and it has the appearance of a watery bone yard. The coral has gone pale, and looks like jumbled piles of deer antlers at one point, a huge brain at another. The fish are curious and follow us, using our flashlight beams to find their prey.
I struggle with staying on the bottom, and for a while I have to purposely swim toward the ocean floor, wasting energy and air that I'll want later. I finally realize my vest still has air in it. Once I release it, I sink to within inches of the coral for a better view.
We wander through a chasm between the coral columns, and I am under a dark shelf. When I look up, the coral beckons, pulsating, trying to capture food brought toward it on the current. I know it makes a noise, I can tell, but all I can hear is the sound of my own raspy breathing. It comforts me, because it means that I am alive and this isn't a dream. I am underwater in the darkness of the Great Barrier Reef.
Even though I'm more comfortable now, my initial panic uses up my air, and I have to surface with my buddy before the rest of the group. We look up, and the water is lit above us; you can see our air bubbles illuminated from the flashlights below, and from another source of light above them in the dark night. When I clear the surface, I am looking right into the source: a golden honey-colored moon has just risen, right behind the masts of a sailboat. I look straight up into a smattering of stars, and around me to the lights of the other boats on their moorings. When I look down again, I'm over the coral, and it glows in the moonlight, beckoning me, waving in the current.
I let a whoop, and my salty lips stretch into a smile that takes up my whole face. My after-dive euphoria is the only buoyancy I need, and I will float on it for years to come.