SCUBA diving isn't something you can do solo. You need a buddy.
I've got lots of buddies but none of them are into scuba diving. In fact, I'm surprised that I'm into scuba diving. As a kid I was alternately enchanted with and terrified by water. I'm not athletic and although I am adventurous, I've never been into activities that require a lot of gear and investment. So I've enjoyed activities which require little startup costs: hiking, running, biking, swimming.
But last year I went and surprised everyone, including myself, and got SCUBA certified. I took a class at my school where I am a graduate student. It is a Physical Education class and was filled with mostly 19 year olds. Everyone was skinnier and younger than me including the sexy hick instructor. The financial considerations were difficult but possible to overcome: I just had to postpone paying off debt and invest in a wetsuit and pay the extra fee instead.
I figured it was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday.
When the class was over, I was certified to dive but I still didn't have anyone to dive with. None of my young classmates were potential buddies and I didn't really know anyone else who dove. So I took another class. In the Master SCUBA Diver class, I had 3 classmates: Two almost identical looking 19 year old boys and another woman in her late 20s. I was excited about the other woman, thinking I might make friends with her -- until we dove together. I had to help her put together her gear because she "didn't like that part" so her boyfriend usually did it for her.
This shit keeps you alive underwater. You'd think you might want to know how it works!
She was a nice person but not buddy material. Plus, she already had a built-in-buddy -- one who would do her thinking for her.
So a couple weeks ago, for my 31st birthday I went on a dive trip to this spring fed pool in West Texas that I'd been dreaming of going to even before I began scuba diving. Imagine a giant swimming hole with crystal clear water in the middle of the desert? It is a full 6 hours from any major (or minor) city. This place is called Balmorhea and it is a mirage -- but a real one.
I signed up for a trip with other divers, thinking that there would be other people going without a buddy and I would have a whole bunch of potential future buddies to choose from -- kinda like a singles mixer for scuba divers. Of course I had to pay double the "per person" rate because I didn't have anyone to share a room with. A month before the trip was about to depart my best friend and roommate, the Handywoman, decided she would come. I had already paid for the room so all she had to do was drive (not an easy task really since Balmorhea is the very definition of "middle of nowhere").
Handywoman doesn't dive but there was swimming and hiking and lots of other activities.
We got there late on Thursday for the night dive. There were already some other divers in the water so I waited for some new divers to arrive. I saw one girl getting her gear together and undaunted, trotted up to her and asked if I could join her.
"What?" was her response. She acted like I was an alien -- maybe I was, I mean, we were near supposed alien territory -- the Marfa Lights.
"Do you mind if I get my gear and join you?" I asked again.
"Well. I already have a buddy" she said awkwardly and yet at the same time proudly since she obviously wasn't an alien like me trying to make friends with the already buddy-ready humans. "I don't know," she continued "are threesomes allowed?"
They were -- since the water was so clear and shallow but I could tell that she definitely wasn't interested in having a threesome with me and her boyfriend.
All of a sudden I felt like the uninvited guest to an orgy.
"Nevermind, I'll just wait for someone else to come down." I said.
And I did.
But nobody else came.
The next day was similar. I showed up to the pool at about noon and asked the group leader if anyone else had come without a buddy. She listed off a bunch of names and said another group was arriving at 2pm. I waited until dinner time but no other lost aliens-sans-buddy showed up at the pool. I did some swimming and taught Handywoman how to snorkel. I ate cheese and crackers and watermelon in the sun. I had a good time. But I was waiting.
I wanted to dive.
And more than wanting to dive, I wanted a dive partner. I wanted to make a new friend to dive with in the future. Someone with similar skill and interest and someone who would be fun to talk to in a car for 2 hours. It didn't seem too much to ask for when I had paid the double fee.
It was time to go to dinner and I still hadn't been on a dive. I was being positive on the outside but honestly I was frustrated. I had missed the night dive and now I had missed a whole day of diving. The next day was slated for hiking. I had to be more aggressive if I was going to find a dive partner. The dinner was my only hope. It was a group dinner with the other people on the trip and I hoped that I would meet some of the other buddyless divers there.
I was quickly disappointed. There were the dive instructors and their families at one end of the table, a mother daughter team and then an entire family of which only the mom & dad & daughter dove. The daughter was a teenager and the parents were parents. Plus, they all had each other to dive with and could afford to go on week long dive trips to exotic locations. I needed someone who could dive locally and, like me, would have to save up to go on a big dive trip.
To add insult to injury, in walks the humanoid-buddy-girl and her boyfriend. At first I attempted to make conversation with them but after overhearing a conversation she had with my roommate (which made no sense what-so-ever) I tried to avoid eye contact. That was fine with her as she proceeded to get drunk and interrogate her boyfriend about his family. It was impossible not to overhear but it was also like being on someone else's first date. I was impressed that people could be an official couple and know so little about each other. No wonder she was so reluctant to have a "threesome".
I did end up diving the next day. I just got in by myself and found the other folks who were down there -- an older couple who had told me that I could join them. I tried to get another night dive in but everyone else was done with diving by then.
The trip wasn't a total bust. I enjoyed it, enjoyed the time spent with Handywoman and got to see a place that I'd been dreaming of for a long long time. I got to dive once and the place is so small that I saw everything there was to see. Although I would really have liked to do the night dive because critters come out at night that hide during the day -- like turtles.
But I didn't find a buddy. Everyone already came coupled -- and not just with a scuba buddy but with a partner. I realized that scuba diving is something that couples do together. They get certified so they can go on vacation together. It is a couple-y thing to do.
Whenever I've wanted to do something that you're "supposed" to do with a partner, I've just done it by myself. But what happens when its an activity that can not be done solo? My first response was to join a group. But what if the group is already made up of unalterable partnerships?
I'm not sure what to do next to meet single scuba divers who need a buddy. There is a scuba meetup in town that I can attend when I have time. Meetup tends to have a lot of solo people looking for folks to do things with. But for right now diving is on hold. Plus, its getting colder and the drought has left our already nasty lakes even nastier.
Finding a scuba buddy is turning out to be a lot like finding a mate: a pain in the ass. But while I can continue to live my life without a partner, I can't go diving without one.
At least I have until the spring to save up enough hope to try again.