Ever looked round at the other occupants of a dive boat, and considered that perhaps not everyone is having as much fun as you? Monty Halls has.
For a brief period several years ago, I belonged to a technical diving club based in the South-west. The technical revolution was beginning to stir, with black kit and shiny D-rings making their presence felt, and twin cylinders shyly reappearing on many a dive boat.
One of our members was a true techno gladiator, bristling with cutting-edge technology, a walking tribute to financial excess and black-as-the-night, Special Forces, storm-an-embassy-or-two dive kit.
He would stagger to the entry point, bleeping and clanking, before crashing headlong into the water to vanish from view in a welter of fizzing bubbles and flailing hoses.
An interesting part of his preparation for any dive was a contemplative silence on the trip out to the site, coupled with a certain pallor and fumble-fingered attempts to assemble his kit. He would assure us that he suffered from acute seasickness, and indeed occasionally threw up over the side of the boat as we rocked gently at anchor.
I always bowed to his superior experience, and thought how terrible it must be to be so ill, even in a mild sea. It was only after several months with the club that the horrible truth dawned.
Our man was terrified, mute with the prospect of descending into the gloom. He wanted to be home, watching football. He was caught in a nightmare roller-coaster ride of peer pressure, brought on by his own tales of diving exploits and derring-do. He was miserable.
It's a novel thought, and one that should cause us all to pause for a moment, that on just about every dive boat, for every dive, there is probably someone like our reluctant hero. A diver who, deep down, isn't too happy about being there.
We've all seen it. The nervous laughter, followed by the look of bovine, trembling acceptance as they move towards the yawning gulf of the entry point. The final glance skywards at wheeling gulls and blue skies as the waters close in a muffled embrace around our quaking aquanaut, our final glimpse being a wide appealing eye and a pitiful grimace.
OK, all of that is slightly over the top, and of course a little nervousness is a good thing. As we all know, there is nothing more lethal than some lame-minded, hairy-chested oaf with little perception of his own mortality, who thinks that tables are for slack-jawed village idiots, and decompression sickness is nature's way of telling you to sell your kit.
No, I'm thinking more of the rational, erudite, decent, well-trained individual who is new to the sport. The straight-limbed cove who has taken up diving because he or she has always wanted to, but has never had the time, or perhaps has been a little intimidated by the image.
We dive today in an atmosphere of user-friendly, pink and fluffy, touchy-feely diving. The macho diver is a rare species (thank heavens), and it seems that a huge range of people are flocking to the sport as never before. Equipment is a vision of hydrodynamic colour co-ordination, high performance at low(ish) prices. Suddenly. the undersea world isn't quite as exclusive as we all thought it was.
Now, more than ever, we need to be aware of peer pressure. I would hazard that there are more divers in the sport on the edge of their own ability, perpetually teetering on the very brink of their own hastily stoppered apprehensions.
There are more part-time divers, more divers trained on holiday, younger divers, older divers, divers who actually have leisure activities aside from a weekly pilgrimage in the club boat.
And they are all welcome, the more the merrier. It is, however, more important that those with greater experience or higher levels of training cast a beady eye over the others. One of the best skippers I ever dived with was a master at this, a combination of diplomat and psychologist, who could effortlessly defuse a potentially dangerous situation by spotting a nervous diver.
I even saw him create utterly fabricated excuses to allow rattled divers to bow gracefully out of dives abundantly beyond their ability or comfort zone. Such excuses were latched onto with a gratitude born of quiet desperation. Who knows how many incidents he shrewdly prevented?
If every skipper or diving officer possessed such silky man-management skills, would we see fewer headlines telling us of yet another diver lost while struggling to inflate a BC or control a ballistic ascent?
So remember, we're all doing this because we enjoy it, and your idea of Utopia (zero viz, icy cold and a rattling two knot drift) may be a very long way from someone else's. It is so much better to have someone on the boat wishing they were in the water, rather than in the water wishing they were in the boat!
Ignore this fact, and a buddy of yours could swiftly find themselves under pressure and out of his or her depth in every respect.
Appeared in DIVER - April 2000