One of my favorite movie scenes is from Along Came Polly when naked SCUBA Claude awkwardly invites the nervous honeymooners to an underwater party. He declares himself the unofficial SCUBA king of St. Barts and wants to show them the beautiful coral reefs underneath is sailboat. His big sailboat. Lisa, played by Debra Messing, is very much for SCUBA but her tightly wound New York husband Rueben, played by Ben Stiller, is unsure about the whole set up. He is right to be wary and catches Lisa in an affair with Claude which sends him back to the City where he meets and falls in love with Polly. Its a great scene and a fun movie but could I bring my own SCUBA party to New York?
Bryan and I recently moved to Harlem and got set up in our new apartment. As soon as I got into town, I went to visit the Adventure Scuba shop with my fresh dive resume and PADI Open Water Instructor license. They were very friendly and invited me to co-teach a class yesterday out in Long Island.
One of our goals in moving here was to simplify our lives and that meant getting rid of our car. Plus, it’s stupidly expensive and a huge headache to own a car here so I am learning to navigate around without my own wheels. Fortunately, New York is beautifully designed to get just about anywhere on bikes, trains and buses so here I go. I loaded up all of my gear on my back and headed first to the C train underneath our building towards Penn Station.
Another thing that I love about New York is that nothing phases these people. A dude schlepping all of his SCUBA gear on the train didn’t raise an eyebrow. They just don’t care – but in the nicest possible way. You do your own thing here as long as you don’t get in anyone else’s way. Penn Station is just a couple of stops from our place and then I transferred to the Long Island Railroad for a pleasant ride east to the Lindenhurst station where I met my co-instructor Tom. We shared an Uber to the dive shop and did some last minute planning on what we wanted to cover. Our students were on time and eager to learn. The day went perfectly and we were able to get through of our skills with time to spare.
This was my first real teaching experience and it was awesome. The excellent training that my instructor Bruce laid down came out automatically. I demonstrated the skills, stated the values, gave positive reinforcement and corrected in real time. I swiveled my head like Linda Blair underwater. It’s so important to keep a close eye on all of the students and I chuckled to myself as I remembered Bruce’s Linda Blair reference from The Exorcist that he drilled into us during our instructor course. The best part of the day was when I slowed down the skills and spent extra time with each of them until I felt comfortable that they achieved mastery. It was so fun to see the three different learning styles come out in these students and to adapt to those on the fly. That is what makes this so interesting. Watching the light bulbs go on and watching their eyes get wide in their goggles when they nail the skill. Those first breaths underwater are so fun to watch and I left feeling so good about what I was able to pass on. I thought I liked diving but I think I like teaching it a lot more. I have the privilege of introducing a whole new world. 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water and I get offer that up. Sweet!
I was on Cloud 9 the whole way home. I found a path to do what I love in a city that I adore. I felt so relieved that the instructor course prepared me so well for this real life experience and in so many ways the learning has just begun. Now I get to let my joy for this sport come through in a way that helps others find all the happiness it has brought me. As I finished my last leg of the journey home and came up from the 110th Street train station, I was greeted by a great impromptu jazz ensemble right outside of our apartment. I stopped for a few minutes, left some money in the tip jar and soaked in the moment. This is why I wanted to live here. I made the right move after all.
The City has been so kind to us so far. We love our place, Chuck and LD are happy and Bryan found a delicious Hungarian pastry shop around the corner that serves amazing hamantash. On the professional front, I start an exciting new job tomorrow as general counsel for Equitable Facilities Fund. It’s a lot of change all at once but it’s all very exciting and hopeful. This is what I wanted out of this year and it is coming together. I know we are all going through a scary time but there is a lot of good out there. Hang in there. Better times are coming.