Monday, June 22, 2015

Remembering that time…

   … That semi dry wet suit tried to kill me.
   Here's the story: back in May, just weeks before the scuba instructor certification exam, I was bracing myself for what was going to be some very cold lake water. The shop didn't have a semi-dry suit that would fit me, nor were they able to order one… Everything was on backorder. So I got the OK to buy online. Which is great, except that you can't try before you buy when you buy online.
   Flash forward to a few days later when I received my semi dry suit in the mail, I was so excited to try it on, and if I remember correctly, it was a Tuesday afternoon. Nearly all of my friends were working, because that's what normal people do on a Tuesday afternoon. Unemployed people are buying fancy scuba gear. It was over 80° and quite humid that day, but I was resisting putting my air conditioning on, and was fairly comfortable in the house without it. You can probably already see where this is going.
   I opened the box and removed the suit, excitedly hoping that it would fit, so it would keep me from dying in the cold, cold water. I pulled over my legs. I cannot stress this enough: the ankle, wrist, and neck seals are very tight on a semi dry suit. That is exactly how it keeps you warmer than a wetsuit. It prevents water from freely transferring in and out of the suit. So pulling it over my feet, and up over my hips and onto my waist, required a good deal of effort. Then I started putting my arms through. The wrist seals were so tight that it was like they were giving birth to my hands. It was very, very difficult to get them through, and to pull the fabric of the arms up over my shoulders. But I did it.
   Then I moved onto the trickiest part of donning a semi dry suit: the double neck seal. You pull the first seal over a hole barely big enough to fit over your head. And then you pull the next seal over from the back, and then grab the sturdy zipper on your left bicep, pulling it up and across your chest and over your right bicep. The suit was so tight on my chest and shoulders that I wasn't sure it was going to be possible. And with my own strength, I was only able to zip it to just passed my right shoulder. It would take the help of another person to finish closing the suit.
   The whole time I was thinking, "I just don't know if this thing is going to be big enough. It's so uncomfortable here on dryland, that I can't imagine it's going to loosen up enough to be tolerable in the water." But I still didn't quite know how much trouble I was in.
   I started noticing that I was incredibly hot and sweaty. As soon as I got that suit up over my body, it started to cook me from the inside. The 80° room suddenly felt like 1000°. And the suit was just so darn tight that I suddenly, intensely wanted it off.
   I was able to unzip the zipper with no problem. The problem came when I tried to get the first neck seal back off. This thing was so tight that every time I try to pull it up over my head, it would get caught around my chin, and the pressure of the tight suit was resting on my larynx, literally crushing it in preventing me from breathing. I tried a few times unsuccessfully to work it over my chin and thought that if I could get that far, I'd be home free, because at least I could breathe. No such luck. Did I mention that this thing is incredibly tight? The next sale wasn't going anywhere, and in fact there was so little movement that it seems impossible that I could have gotten it on in the first place.
   Now I was really getting hot. I could feel the sweat running down my four head, my cheeks, my back, and my chest. My mind started to wander to the thought of what I would do if I couldn't get it off myself. Because it was pretty obvious that I wasn't going to get it off myself. And unfortunately, I hadn't realized that might be a possibility and planned my attempt accordingly.
   Because as I mentioned, all of my friends were at work, and wouldn't be home for several hours. I thought about grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting the effing thing off my head. Every second that it was on me felt like days, and I was quickly getting to the point of sheer and utter panic.
   I tried frantically to call my neighbor, Abby, a stay at home mom. She didn't answer. Seconds later, I tried her phone again. She didn't answer. I sent her a text and begged her to contact me as soon as possible if she was home. I didn't know whether or not she was.
   About 15 minutes later (I had to check the clock repeatedly in disbelief because it felt like ours), she called me to ask what was up, and asked me to come over because her boys were sleeping. She took me down to her family room where the boys wouldn't hear a struggling, had me kneel on the ground because she's short like I am, and she tugged mightily, until she finally popped that thing off me. Words can scarcely describe the relief that I felt. And then the shame, because I was only wearing underwear underneath.
   We had a great laugh about how this was going to bring us closer as neighbors and friends, and I ran back over to my house to take a shower, now that I was all sweaty. I packed a thing up, take the box tight, and back to the store it went.
   So that's the story of how I set my dry suit tried to kill me, and the reason why I will probably never try one again.