I began my career as a scuba instructor at a monstrously large all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya. Teaching vacationers to dive in the warm Caribbean water seemed like a dream come true. There was only one problem with the job – the free pool demo. “Demo,” as it became known among the dive shop staff, happened twice a day for marathon, two-hour sessions. Dive instructors paired off into teams and traipsed about the pools trying to entice vacationers into trying scuba diving in the pool for free.
It was a sales tool used to promote open water courses and discover scuba diving experiences, but more importantly, Demo was a chance for us to gossip, mooch free sodas off the bar, and oogle the tourists.
Usually, we dive instructors were so bored during Demo that we simply walked in circles around the pools like caged animals, sporadically barking out “Doyouwanttotryscubadivinginthepoolforfree” at unsuspecting sunbathers. Sometimes, however, instructors would come back from the demo with interesting stories. Demo was occasionally a time for the unexpected and inane. Tourists with no concept of what scuba diving really was would good-naturedly give diving a try, and the results were comical.
The first time I conducted a Demo, I handed a client a mask and naively assumed he would properly don it without any further instructions. I turned my back to prepare a weight belt when I heard a spluttering, gagging noise from behind me. The client had positioned the mask just below his eyes, with the bottom seal of the mask running across the bridge of his nose and his nostrils exposed to the air.
He had submerged his face to see if the mask sealed – it didn’t. He looked like a soggy toucan or some other long-beaked, bulbous-eyed bird. I stared in disbelief, but held my cool until he stated the obvious, “I got water up my nose!”
I thought this was really funny and shared the story with the other instructors during our lunch break. They looked unimpressed. “Didn’t you tell him to put his nose in the nose pocket?” one person asked, rolling his eyes. Apparently, this was a common mistake. I obviously had much to learn about the art of the free pool Demo and felt ashamed until someone else told me and even stranger tale.
Standard regulator mouthpieces were used in the free pool demo. The mouthpieces are made of rubber and have two bite tabs that fit between a diver’s teeth and hold the regulator in place. A diver simply bites down on the mouthpiece and inhales through his mouth. Most non-divers are familiar with the fact that divers breathe through their mouths due to the popularity of scuba diving in films and on television, but not everyone.
An instructor at my dive shop helped a client to put on the demo scuba gear and then looked away for a moment to answer an on-looker’s question. The client, having never used dive equipment before, became impatient and attempted to figure out the scuba gear on his own. Thinking logically, he figured that since people normally breathe from their noses, divers must do the same. After considerable effort, he somehow managed to shove the two bite tabs of the regulator into his nostrils. My friend turned around to find his client standing in knee deep water, mask less, with a regulator dangling like and over-sized bull ring from his nose.
“I think something’s wrong!” The client squeaked in a high-pitched, nasal voice.