From BCs and Abba CDs to computers and kinky underwear, it's amazing what divers manage to lose - but some examples of forgetfulness are downright bizarre, as Gavin Parsons explains
Would you miss five grand? No? Well, you're either Sting or whoever left a briefcase on the London Underground. Somebody carried the case onto a train but left the £5000 to ride on the Piccadilly Line until it was handed in to Lost Property.
Now, you'd think the distraught owner would go on a voyage of Jason-like proportions to recover his or her property, but no. The briefcase has sat in Lost Property for months, without so much as the initials being correctly described. The words 'crazy' and 'fool' spring to mind - but wait.
I'll give you another story. A diver went for a day out with a well-known dive centre on the south coast of England. He probably had a whale of a time, and at the end of the day packed everything into his car and left.
In fact he didn't quite pack everything. He left behind his left shoe! How did he manage that? Didn't he notice a cool sensation around his left lower leg area? And how do you drive home without realising that you're shoeless?
Who is the more stupid here? Forgetting a briefcase could happen to anyone, I suppose, but overlooking one shoe is hard to explain. The forsaken footwear has never been reunited with its owner and has become just one of thousands of bits and pieces that build up at dive centres over the years.
The expensive stuff - computers, regulators and the like - is generally claimed or returned to its owners one way or another. At Frankie's Dive Centre on the Mediterranean island of Gozo, for example, gear is found by maids in guests' rooms, or it falls down by the wash tank and isn't missed until the next trip, but the centre says it always tries to reunite item with loser. It might send it home with a friend, or hold it until the owner returns, possibly even the next year.
The European Diving Centre in Turkey, in an act of kindness for the terminally forgetful, once gave a regulator a full service while it waited a year for its owner, who had also managed to leave her BC behind.
Such care is pleasantly common throughout the diving industry. Call a centre to report a missing item, and if it finds it you will probably get it back in the end - somehow.
I once left my glasses behind. At the time I wore contact lenses a lot, and I was about 36,000ft above the Atlantic when I realised that people would have trouble calling me 'four-eyes'.
The glasses, I recalled with that sinking feeling you get after doing something dim, were on a cabinet next to the bathroom mirror. This in itself wasn't a problem, but mirror, cabinet and bathroom were in a hut on a small island off Cuba.
The tour operator, Diving World, got through to its ground agent in Havana, who promised to help, but the island had no phones and was 120 miles from the city.
I wasn't hopeful, especially as I had left my specs in one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, where basic items are a luxury. However, those glasses travelled from the island to Havana by boat and then taxi, from Havana to Rome, from Rome to Frankfurt, from Frankfurt to Paris (I have no idea why) and then to London. I was finally reunited with those well-travelled spectacles about a month later.
Not everything is reclaimed. I'm sure my glasses would have found a home, had I chosen to abandon them, which is what the owner of a pair of false teeth did in the Canarian island of Tenerife. They now adorn the wall of Los Gigantes Dive Centre, but I keep imagining the owner asking for a liquefied lunch on the flight home.
For the most part, divers are not so much stupid as forgetful. Weymouth Scuba Centre, for example, is forever finding dive computers by the roadside. Divers, it seems, leave them on top of the car while everything else goes in the boot, then drive off without noticing. A few days later they phone up in a desperate bid to track down their property.
Most divers are very grateful and probably a little embarrassed, although not quite so much as one guy I heard about. I can't divulge the centre's name, as some severe ribbing would befall the poor soul.
I'll set the scene. It was a beautiful summer's day. The morning broke warm and still, perfect for diving. The group turned up early, having been on the road since around 4am - we all know how that feels. Off they went on the RIB.
Back at mid-day, they devoured packed lunches while some caught up on much-needed sleep. Had the culprit done the same, he might have been slightly more alert by the end of the day.
The afternoon passed as jovially as the morning and by 4pm the men were back showering, settling bills and generally milling around.
Within an hour they had all gone, but as the weary staff locked up, they realised something was wrong. There was still a vehicle sitting at the far end of the car park. No one was due to dive the next day and no one else was around.
Yes, you're way ahead of me - our weary diver had forgotten his car! The proprietor tracked him down on his mobile, but he was adamant that the vehicle wasn't his - until they read the number plate to him!
Forgetting that he had driven himself, he had hopped into a mate's car for a lift home. His mate hadn't even asked him why, so as penance he had to turn round when no more than 10 miles from home and take his absent-minded buddy back to fetch his car. The staff opened up next day and the car was gone. There was no word of thanks from the diver, and they haven't seen him since.
It takes some doing to be that separated from your brain, even more to forget your G-string and bra - especially when you're a man. Yep, a club full of males arrived at a dive centre in Malta, and spent the week diving and enjoying themselves. They had no girlfriends, wives or even daughters with them, so the staff were perplexed as to how a black G-string and 36B cup black Wonderbra (made famous by Eva Herzagova) was left behind. They didn't want to contact the group in case the culprit's secret fantasy was outed. After all, that's the sort of story told in the pub long after the perpetrator has fled in embarrassment.
The European Diving Centre had a similar situation, though this time the knickers were crotchless. They were the same colour - black - but without a matching bra, and this time the owner did claim them. It was a guy, diving on a five-day package - alone.
Dive-centre staff suffer dilemmas when it comes to these more embarrassing items. How do you explain to a diving officer that one of his club members is a secret Abba fan and has left the entire back catalogue on CD in a bag at the bottom of a locker? Most of the time, when it comes to bizarre practices, staff let sleeping dogs do what they do best.
It's easy to see how dive centres can steadily fill up with unclaimed towels, robes, masks, dive booties, weights and belts, fins, spares kits, torches, keys, trousers, pants, kinky knickers, socks, hats, hoods, BCs, suits, talcum powder, zip wax and gloves. By the end of a season, a friend of mine who owns a dive centre in Italy could start a beachwear shop, with a healthy sideline in secondhand diving equipment. It's the same around the world. So what happens to it all?
Well, weights, weightbelts and the like usually find their way onto the centre's inventory. Customers lose large quantities of such stuff, so if it isn't claimed, it's put to good use. Larger, more expensive equipment is hung up or stored away somewhere. Nine times out of 10 someone misses a BC, regulator or suit and calls the last place they dived, only to find it's been on a hanger for six months.
Towels, robes, swimsuits, booties, hats and sunglasses are another matter. Some items are adopted by staff if unclaimed after six months, some go to charity shops and yet more are dumped.
It seems such a waste. Perhaps the answer is for dive centres to hold charity sales or auctions, or for mega-sales to be held at dive shows, with every centre contributing its unwanted kit.
Such events would be useful: for example, you don't take your best BHS towelling on holiday, but for 50p you needn't worry about getting one covered in salt or deck grime. You'd know that somewhere a baby seal was being rescued, or a piece of marine heritage was being made a little more secure!