Monday, August 15, 2016

Always Strive To Learn.

I'm a student of human nature. Not in the clinical sense, but of those in stressful situations. Being an instructor for several hobbies that can be life threatening, I will share with you a few observations that I've found to be very telling.

Gods walk among us. There are a few people out there that are uniquely built to handle any emotional situation without any long term or short term issues. I've seen the meekest young lady become a warrior when things go bad. You would have never guessed it, but she handled her life threatening situation like a champ. She had been cornered by three bad guys in a parking lot. She was a waitress at a local pub that is almost always busy. She keeps a small 2 inch pocket knife in her apron to open boxes of straws and napkins with. She fought off three drunk thugs with that knife and walked 200 yards to a drug store to call the police when the thugs decided they were outclassed and left. She was covered in the blood of those thugs.

When the police arrived, they found a very calm, cool and collected little gal with a vivid recollection of the perpetrators and their ride. They were caught when one of them was found at the local clinic getting stitched up while still wearing the same outfit he was in during the attack. His mom brought him in.

During her interview, a very good friend of mine was taking the statement and was just floored by her demeanor. It was like she was telling you about that time she stepped in a mound of dog poop. She wasn't happy about it, but it really didn't bother her much either. After the statement, my buddy suggested she get a firearm and some training. I stepped in and took her to the range for a course. I do this free for abused or threatened people, so it was a pretty informal session to get her used to and desensitized to firearms. She was very adaptable and learned the techniques quickly. She was able to choose what she liked quickly and made strides with regard to accuracy and the draw. She liked the LCP due to it's size and she didn't care about the recoil, it was just a tool to her.

We went to lunch afterward and I learned more about this gal and tried to learn why she was so immune to violence and didn't scare easily. She was nothing special, just a small town gal that couldn't afford college and never got married. She scraped out an existence waiting tables and living in an apartment with a room mate. She's never even been in a fistfight, so past violence isn't why she was so calm in the face of danger.  It was simply how she was wired. Almost dis-associative to her plight. She didn't get excited when she talked about it, showed no signs of stress and it was like telling a bedtime story. We went over strategic thinking and how to keep herself out of those situations in the future.

Next let's talk about my life as a professional SCUBA instructor. I teach deep and technical diving. Technical diving is diving beyond the recreational limits and requires a special person to do it safely. I also teach Wreck and Cave classes which are also very specific and require a very calm and collected personality. I've taught hundreds of people these classes over the years and it's always the same. The loud blowhards are always the ones that fold when the chips are down. The quiet ones are about 50/50 for fight or flight. The fighters deal with the situation and keep it together. The other half lose their ever loving mind. It's my job to make a judgement on them and plan accordingly.

This weekend I taught a deep class and we were in a very dark, deep quarry in the Midwest. The water goes to 140' deep and is 39 degrees on the bottom. It's a very hard environment for equipment and divers.We were progressing through class nicely until we decided to head down to the deep section past 80 feet, where the air you're breathing feels thick from the pressure and cold. The first foray to 110' went fairly well, but they did get what we call Nitrogen Narcosis, which makes deep divers feel drunk. Every 30 feet past 60 feet feels like a martini on an empty stomach for most divers. It impairs you just like alcohol or opiates. The second dive could have gone off the rails like in the past, with a diver bolting from 120 feet in a panic, but the diver that had an issue remembered my training and handled it. He is a repossession agent and deals with stress very well. He felt the panic but remembered my voice in his head telling him that panic will take a bite of you if you let it. His buddy for class is an engineer and folded at the first sign of trouble. He let his buddy get too far away and I'm the one to go deal with it. He was even slow getting up to where we were dealing with the issue. My computer showed 126 feet deep and 40 degrees when we logged the dive.

The gentleman that had the issue, which was an uncontrolled free flow of the primary regulator that dumps all the divers gas, remembered his training and did what he needed to. He might have acted much differently had he not had the training and knew exactly what he needed to do. He's not a coward, but he's not that sweet little warrior waitress either. He's more common to regular society and is a shining example of why training is important for us mere mortals. It's even more important for those that shy away from adversity like a cockroach from light. Your natural fears can become your death sentence if things go badly. Two years ago, I was teaching the same class to a mix of people and one of which folded like a wet napkin at 120' in the same spot when he had a free flow regulator. I had to literally catch him and stop him from killing himself on the way up.

In closing, I'd like to go ahead and get to the point. Not all men and women are created equal. Looks can be deceiving when judging a person. Threats can also come in very unlikely ways, so it's in your best interest to plan for the most likely first and the less likely on down the road. Free Flows are a normal thing in super cold water, floods and power outages are a normal part of summer life in some areas. Plan for the largest danger exposure you have personally. Not all of us can fight off 3 thugs with a 2" pen knife, so you better steel yourself and be prepared if that is something you may encounter in your area. Training can save your life from the smallest of issues. Hydroplaning on the highway can be fatal if you react badly. The smallest puddle could kill you in the wrong circumstance.

Just like the Scouts say.

Be Prepared!

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