KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU
AHA, YOU'VE SPOTTED IT - the huge a-z of divers that graces this issue. But have you spotted anybody you know?
My biggest problem in compiling The A-Z was that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, and diving characters are far more numerous. Inevitably, some of my favourites got left out.
Characters like Dive Gigolos - blokes who use diving as an opportunity to schmooze, and will often work their way through every woman in the dive club. Most often seen poolside when a new intake of trainees arrives, sharking the fresh talent. The ideal job for a Dive Gigolo is dive guide at a holiday resort, where the opportunity to impress and undress a different starry-eyed newbie every week proves irresistible.
Natural prey for Dive Gigolos is the Newby Booby: an attractive young woman, new to diving, eager to learn and more than happy to allow a bunch of men to run around carrying her cylinder, adjusting the straps on her BC and looking after her. Newby Booby naively assumes that all trainees get treated like this.
NB certainly adds much-needed excitement into an often stale club environment. Watching blokes - including those who despise trainees - scrambling to assist Newby Booby as she prepares for her first dive from the club RIB provides great entertainment value.
And provides ScubaGIT with material for a satisfying pub-time rant about how women are destroying diving. Bless.
Diving is a group activity, whether the group is a dive club or just a collection of people who happen to be on the same boat. Groups work best where people fulfil different roles and value the diversity. Imagine a boat full of Captain Clipboards, barking orders at each other and duelling for supremacy with sharpened pencils - nightmare! To thrive, we need everyone from the heroic to the hapless and the hopeless.
Sticking labels on people can be great fun, and it provides a neat, shorthand vocabulary to explain some of the social interactions within diving. I only have to utter the phrase Weirdy Beardy to know that divers up and down the country will recognise exactly the type of character (and behaviours) to which I'm referring.
It's comforting to feel that we know ourselves, that we know others, and that we know where we are in the grand scheme of things.
But labelling people can be damaging. The temptation to stigmatise and sneer at others can overwhelm those divers anxious about their place in a perceived "pecking order". So that'll be the vast majority of us.
The surfing community has a great philosophy, summed up in the phrase: "The best surfer is the one having the most fun." OK, it's complete bull, but that'll be surfers for you.
Naturally, people object to being reduced to a stereotype - especially a not-so-flattering one. But every Keith will have his day. We all make mistakes, and should you ridicule other divers for their differences, your words will come back to bite you in the arse at some later date. Under the labels lurk complex human beings. Individuality will triumph.
Anybody familiar with the cult '60s TV series The Prisoner will recognise the following exchange:
"Who are you?" "The new Number Two." "Who is Number One?" "You are Number Six." "I am not a number... I'm a free man!"
At this point an entity resembling a blubbery white ball chases Patrick McGoohan across a deserted beach, engulfs and overwhelms him. Watching this as a child, I didn't find it terribly scary. In fact, it looked like quite good fun.
Knowing this about myself can be quite revealing. And when I look back at some of my ex-lovers, it certainly explains the attraction.