Wandering Dive Bum and regular columnist for DIVE magazine
Crowley's Blog - We Didn't See Sharks! We Want Our Money Back!
In order to protect the innocent – or the simply miserable - divers around which this story is based, I have changed the species of critters involved in order to prevent anybody from thinking that this story could in any way, shape or form be misconstrued as something that happened very recently, by which I mean, for example, just last week.
It’s not a new story, actually, because it’s happened a few times before, and the general gist of it is that a customer is dissatisfied with their dive experience because they visited a particular location to see the Sharks, Mantas, Mola-Mola mating frenzy or the Humpback Whale pro-tennis championship or whatever and their dive centre of choice failed to provide those key ingredients of what would otherwise have been a most fantastic diving experience in some of the best and most splendiferous coral reefs on the planet.
Perhaps you have encountered this yourselves? Sitting on a dive boat being regaled by some self-satisfied nitwit who has seen the best that this ocean planet has to offer because they were lucky enough to see both a shark (or tuna fish) and a dolphin (or tuna fish) during their Advanced Open Water course and with their vast experience of 42 dives, with a combined total of almost – er – 20 hours underwater spent in the most luxurious of exclusive resorts (and by the way, have you seen my titanial regulator with the Aquatastic Me-flex hosepipes with my stainless steel clip and my camera that looks more like it’s a mis-directed Russian spy satellite than an actual camera) and blab, blab, blab there is no more informed or experienced diver than they could ever possibly be and this is the worst dive centre they have ever had the misfortune of visiting because they didn’t have double 18-litre twinsets to compensate for their hyper-experienced breathing technique and what kind of shoddy operation promises to mix 32% nitrox but it only analyses at 31.9% - which was because the analyzer was subjected to an initial burst pressure of 200 bar in 0.3 nanoseconds and gave up due to a stress-related nervous breakdown - and whinge, whinge, whinge, I’m so perfect and YOU – young man, you mere dive guide, you, who only do this for a living, know NOTHING about ANYTHING and you promised me the world but you only managed to deliver 71% of it and so I want my money back.
So – on this particular occasion, which was not at all last week, I was checking the tide charts and the surf reports and the current phase of the moon and also the auspiciousness of the particular day in the local calendar and determined that it would not be even remotely possible to attempt a journey to the local dive site where we can find manta… er… I mean sharks of course, not manta, because it wasn’t MANTA Point they wanted to visit, it was – er – the… er… um… the other point. Let’s call it Frillypinkshark Point, so there’s no mistaken dead give away of the circumstances I encountered last week. I mean, not last week, but at some time in the past. Exactly.
In order to do that whole customer satisfaction thing, I said – okay – the sea is unpredictable, so we’ll go and have a look but if the swell is too big, then we’ll have to turn around and go someplace else.
Long boring story short – sent divers off in boat – the captain took one look at the ocean and said “NO!, No way, never, not I”, and turned around in favour of a dive site where he was less likely to capsize and, for example, drown everybody on board, including himself, and so they went diving on a beautiful coral reef with many interesting things to see but no manta… er… I mean clownfish ping-pong tournament, not manta.
And they came back.
Oh, was I in the shoveled bovine excrement.
“We are so disappointed in your centre. You said you could take us to the manta – sorry – underwater pigeon races – and you said we could go but the captain turned around because the waves were too big and we didn’t see any manta… sorry… pigfish.”
What I really wanted to do was take them down to the beach and show them the two metre tubes breaking over Laceration – oops – I mean – “the local break” – and point out all the bronzed Australian surfer dudes with the Greek warrior style bodies who are hanging onto their boards looking at the waves saying things like: “looks a little sketchy” and the passing beach girlies are strolling by admiring their tight and compact buttocks because waves like that will tighten and compact the rear ends of any human being on the planet, and it’s not because of a well-honed workout, it’s because your buttocks are clenching to ensure nothing escapes into your board shorts that would otherwise normally be deposited into a lavatory.
That’s what I wanted to say, but the customers were clustered around me, invading my personal space, three at a time, and asking why I could not deliver them to Manta – er, I mean, Peachfuzz – Point, so I gave a very professional apology and spoke – again, at length – about the tides and the waves and the sea being an occasionally capricious mistress and that most of all, in order to maintain a safe and successful business, we would prefer it if our dive boats were not smashed into small pieces of driftwood by a swell that is approximately the same height as a two storey house.
Seriously. What do you want me to do? Is there a special water dance I didn’t learn in my instructor course that I should have performed in order to soothe the savage seas? Should I have raised my hands like Moses and asked some of the water to be over here and some of it to be over there? Would you prefer it if I took a deckchair into the water and sat facing the oncoming tide like some silly Canute ordering the entire Indian Ocean to retreat? Would you like to borrow my mobile and dial +1 for the Almighty and speak to him (or her) directly? For *bleeps* sake! The only three-pronged-trident I possess is the fork I use to shovel scrambled eggs into my mouth in a morning; I am neither Neptune nor Poseidon nor any other controller of the sea! Rather like my ex-girlfriend, I do what she tells me, not the other way around!
I’m an instructor and guide. The only things I am capable of moving are large quantities of paperwork, tanks, weights and equipment, and sometimes, divers who are about to swim head first into a large rock. And beer. I can move a lot of beer. I cannot promise that I will deliver the manta or sharks or octopus arm-wrestling contest to you in the same way that I cannot call Pizza Hut and ask them to deliver a small but exciting hurricane with my Big Mac. I can’t order the sun and the moon and Uranus to swap positions just because you paid me some money to go diving. Sorry, but Uranus is sort of intractable, and often acts contrary to your wishes.
71% of the Planet’s surface is water, and even though 97% of my own body is made of the same stuff, I’m not even a tiny drop in the Ocean. I’m a microscopic manifestation of hydrophilic minutia. I do the best I can, but asking me to defy the laws of physics – physics that even serious people wearing lab coats and scientific goggles don’t understand even a little bit – is like a tree frog trying to order the entire Amazonian rainforest to make itself more conducive to inter-arboreal hopping.
They told me a “guy on the beach” was going to the manta place the next day. So. Clearly the vast experience of me, my company and my colleagues are trumped by a “guy on the beach”. And my two of clubs trumps your royal flush.
I do appreciate that people visit certain places to see certain things and in many cases, especially at Manta Point and Manta Bay here on Nusa Lembongan, it really is the case that sightings are almost guaranteed. It’s not always so; it never is with these things, because it’s not like I can phone Mr. Manta and ask that he passes by with his friends at exactly the same time we are going to be visiting – but if conditions on the day mean it is either dangerous or simply impossible to even get there, then I’m not going to take the risk. I’d prefer people to complain they didn’t see something rather than complain that an accident – possibly involving loss of life – occurred because me or my colleagues were somehow remiss in our duties. That’s just me – I don’t know how other people feel but I reckon most would agree that’s it’s a fairly sensible and pragmatic approach to dive planning.
I’m a diver before I am anything else. I love being underwater. I have seen the most amazing things, and I endured the frustration of waiting 2,500 dives (ish) before seeing my first whale shark, when others have been lucky enough to see one during their Open Water Class. I have so many wishes, but I cannot deliver the Ocean upon command. She is my mistress, and I am her servant, not the other way around, and I’m sorry if you don’t like that, but actually, I couldn’t care less. If you want to take your business elsewhere because I can’t promise you “Big Stuff” then that’s fine, because I don’t want your business anyway, and I absolutely promise to call every other dive centre in the area to warn them that there’s an idiot approaching.
Being underwater is the only thing in my life that brings me – or has ever brought me – peace. I know it’s a business and I know it’s my job and I know that people pay money and expect to have a good time – which most of my customers do – but I can’t promise the Earth, or the Oceans, and I sometimes wonder why people expect that I can.
I’d love to see the octopus arm wrestling thing though. It’s not something I have ever seen, and it’s not something I can ever promise, but you can ask the guy on the beach, if you like.
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