The dumb things to complain about: I'm all wrinkly and smell like a bleached out sink. The air in the pool area was really cold. Chlorinated water in my eyes hurts. There were no showers or hairdryers in the changing room. The taxi to the dive place cost ten quid. The little missing tiles on the bottom of the pool cut my feet (only a little though).
So two months ago I bought this "Groupon" thing to learn how to do scuba diving, since I said I was going to learn how to do it five years ago as a turning forty kind of thing then didn't actually get around to it that year. It was for the "London Scuba School" which is, as it turns out, in Surrey, only in East Grinstead by which I mean train service only every half hour AND you have to take a taxi to get to the school from the station.
After buying it I called to set up a date and discovered that my class was only a partial class, that needed to be filled out either as part of a two day class (extra 40 quid) or by buying a book and video (45 quid) and doing a bunch of self study beforehand. I was aggravated that it wasn't inclusive but also that it wasn't in London, so decided to do the self study route and find my own books to do it with.
I get pinged on Wednesday and told by the school to bring the following X forms to class, as well as a towel, suit, packed lunch, and the 5 knowledge checking exams. Fair enough, I thought, they need to make sure we've read the material.
Now I was good and started in reading the book last week, started in on the videos Sunday, and spent the last several days slowly getting through the videos and the chapters, only of course I had a bit of a rush last night with the last two chapters and the last two videos. While reading chapter four I discovered I wasn't actually able to do all of the exercises in the book because I was missing a chart that explained safe diving times. Ooops. Well, I got through the work I could do and headed off this morning for my train.
I arrived and immediately was given a test to take, about 60 questions. Most of them had been in the knowledge exams (which I'd finished on the train), but I hadn't realized I was going to have to memorize so much of this stuff. I also discovered that in order to answer three of the questions, I was going to need a "dive calculator." What the heck was one and why didn't I have one? It was the chart I mentioned above, but also it existed as a kind of specialized calculator. I told the teacher I didn't have one and wasn't going to be able to do those questions unless he lent me one and helped show me how to use it. "Hmm," he said, "it's going to be awfully hard for you to finish the final exam, then, since 10 of the 50 questions use a dive calculator and I can't really teach you how to do it right now."
Then the girl next to me (who'd already finished her test) said, "It's not that hard, here, use mine - here's the instruction manual." And I picked it up and I started from scratch and by God I made it through that test, even before some of the other people, and I got all of the calculator questions right. I reviewed the ones I hadn't understood (i.e. correct things to do in case you have to ascend without enough air, in the order of preference).
And then we were given the final exam. Bam. Like that. Right away. Without ever having touched any of the equipment. Like, wow. I started on the dive calculation questions first, struggling through them until the girl sitting next to me had finished all of the rest of the questions (then handing her back her calculator) and then continued to struggle through them when she was done and able to give it back to me. Net result? Somehow (aiming for 70% and above), I passed the test. I don't know how, I really hadn't studied for it. And of the class, two of the six failed it. They will have to return to retake it in order to get their certificates.
Then it was lunch (at noon), for me, peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And then, in case we were feeling like the morning had been too easy, we had a swimming exam. 10 laps in the pool and then ten minutes of treading water or floating - all this in a rather. chilly room that was not pleasant to be in in just a suit, or EVEN with a shorty wet suit on. Brrrr.
So, exhausted and brain dead ... we started to learn how to breath through a tube with a mask full of water over our eyes and nose.
I somehow made it through. I almost left half an hour in. But it got better, eventually, after I had enough weight to stop floating off of the bottom and was able to slow down my breathing so I wasn't gasping for air constantly. At one point, I figured my trip to Egypt was going to be a total wash. But I did it all. I passed the test. I'll write more about it later. Tonight, I am bone exhausted and going to bed.