Go peel a banana with your feet

I is so woke. I admit I have monkey-privilege. That’s the inborn advantage in brachiating that my fellow simians are just so unaware of. Even those who can’t climb a ladder, or were kept in a cage without a climbing frame. Because PRIVILEGE. And I can hang upside down and peel a banana with my feet. Other advantages being born a monkey is that to be smarter than your average monkey (a situation most humans deceive themselves into believing they are) is relatively easy. You just have to learn not to throw poo at the audience, and get them to throw peanuts at you instead – or at the very least to tell the difference between the kind of audience who will throw peanuts, and the kind who won’t. This ain’t bad advice for writers, entertainers, musicians. I was going to say politicians but we’re really not sure if they’re life as we know it, even if they’re often invertebrate.

Next time you see a celeb or actor flinging insults at a set of people they don’t like… but from whom they derive income – you know where they fit on that scale…

I had one of those ‘am I going to live through this?’ experiences on the weekend, which tends to make me more profound… ok, profoundly boring…. (sigh) ok, more ridiculous than usual. Blame it on anoxia (which makes the biologically unlikely assumption that I have a brain, so I’ll take that, as the flattery that it is.)

I was down at 30 feet, next to my dive-buddy, who was roughly waist deep in a narrow crack between the rocks, wrestling a roughly 10 pound spiny lobster. We try to watch each other in these situations because they are potentially dangerous. He’d just handed me his torch, and the catch-bag tumbled down onto him. We had a current running – strong on top, still there at the bottom. So I put down my spear (A hand-spear I carry in case of a good fish coming along) grabbed the bag with my other hand and pulled it up the slope – and had my air STOP.

As Zelazny said in LORD OF LIGHT – ‘none sing hymns to breath,’ said Yama, ‘but oh to be without it.’ Not one of anyone’s happy moments. It’s not one of those times when you have a philosophical muse on the meaning of life, or deep session of angst – no matter how often these are inserted into prose in these scenes by authors. I suppose – having dealt with a couple of drowning people whose panic would have killed them if I hadn’t been there – some people would panic. And die, unless exceptionally lucky.

This particular time I didn’t panic (not making any guarantees about future times, but as I’m still alive and as I keep getting into fairly dangerous situations I can say I haven’t been that quick to panic in the past. Too dumb, I suppose.) I sucked at the reg again, and looked at my dive buddy – a stream of happy bubbles coming from the hole he was down. Now, I’ve been exactly where he was – both hands on big bug – and I know from prior experience that it’s like when the hero is matched with is deadly foe in that fantasy duel – and his side-kick yells at him. Well, in the duel, if he hears it at all, it’ll probably get him killed. Most likely, he won’t hear. Likewise in this situation… I still grabbed his fins and yanked, because the bug might put holes in him, but only getting stuck and losing his air will kill him. Still, I knew that his response was going to be slow, and the best thing I could do was start taking appropriate emergency ascent action. He could follow and let me buddy breathe if he got there fast enough.

All of this took less time than it took to read it. I wear two weight-belts for just this reason (rather than one) I dropped one fingers finding the quick release. This means instead of shooting upward (especially fast at the end) you have time to do the right things. This also means the fear lasts longer, you just don’t rupture your lungs as easily. You just have a better chance of drowning – filling your lungs with water.

You have to do the right things… in spite of knowing you can’t breathe, that you’re in dire shite, and you don’t have a lot of time (MUCH more time than you’d like – if you get the distinction) You have to make decisions. You can’t agonize about those, you can’t think twice. If you get them wrong, you have to try and deal with that.

So: I’m diving on hookah (air pumped via an oil-filtered special compressor – do not try this with a garage compressor) on a 150 foot hose with a second-stage regulator. The hose is secured by passing it under the weight-belt or belts (remember this it is important. If I was writing this as a piece of fiction I’d have slipped 3 mentions of it in – in a casual not-making-a-point-of-it fashion. In my case typically making a joke about how awkward it was. The reader notices and remembers because it was amusing, without realizing they’re being primed. It supplies you with air, and attaches you to the boat.) If you’re putting this in a book, it doesn’t come into the action scene. If you have to explain it, do it well before the action scene. Occasionally hoses kink (they aren’t supposed to but it happens). Now usually that means air flow is severely restricted, but still there. Some air, even if you have to suck like hell for it on the way up, is better than none. If you swim upwards and towards the compressor, it can ease the kink, and upwards reduces pressure… I’ve had this happen before (we bought thicker hoses after that) and that worked then, so I did the same now, swimming hard up and towards, exhaling, sucking – not getting air.

Notice the sequence there. Exhale, suck. Remember when the air cut out… I would only know AFTER exhaling. What I am exhaling is the residual air in my lungs – air that is expanding as I go up.

Air that will rupture my lungs if I don’t.

Trust me on this: this is one of the hardest, longest lasting (or it seems that way) pieces of self-discipline possible. Every instinct says hold your breath. Every instinct is dead 100% wrong, but you try controlling the bastard. If you hold your breath, you will rupture you lungs and die. Standard training often goes drop your weight-belt and scream all the way up. That’s fine, but it is a very rapid ascent (particularly the last bit) and not very well controlled.  Rapid is needed sometimes but it is… fraught. This is controlled – just not easy. Frightening as hell.

IF you could control those base instincts well enough not send neurotransmitters sizzling around to push your heart rate up, thrash glycogen into glucose, chew oxygen, It’d be less hard. Some people may be that cool. I am not one of them. Exhaling on the way up was hard enough.

Now from 30 feet down you can’t actually see the surface (at least not here at this time of year). From about 18 feet you start seeing the silver dapple of air on the other side of water. It is an amazing beautiful sight when you have no air. More beautiful than the Taj Mahal or the Angel Falls. And, while below there seemed a real possibility that you might not reach the surface, now that you can see air… it’s different.

You’re still scared. But it’s a different scared now. You’re burning Oxygen at a frantic rate (because swimming without taking a breath is still hard, and you’re rising with the buoyancy of your suit – but it would take you at least 2-3 minutes to break the surface. Second weight belt would ‘pop’ you up fast – and you know this, but you also know it is far less risky to control it. You can cope with that. You can cope with exhaling. You just can’t cope with not swimming as hard as you can. Suppressing fear only goes just so far – or at least for me. Maybe gung-ho Joe is different. Maybe the fictional fantasy hero is different too. I have to say, I doubt it.

I spat the mouthpiece as I broke the surface, breathed. Breathed again. And waved and yelled at the boat – and they saw me.

Now – It was pretty choppy up there. Even a single weight-belt made me lower in the water.  And here is where I did what many a better man than me has done – made a stupid decision out of sheer relief. A stupid decision that could have killed me – more slowly than a lack of air, but just as dead, over a much longer time.

I dropped the second weight-belt. I had spat the mouthpiece.

I was no longer attached to the hose. Or the boat.

Now they still had a diver down, and an anchor down.

Given that current my landfall could have been South America. And if you have tried spotting a person in the water in strong chop… it’s not easy. Not thinking to grab the hose was incredibly stupid.

Another interesting thing for the writer, I had just been through all of this, being relatively rational for a monkey-in-distress. Noticing my mate’s air, trying to get his attention, remembering to exhale and to swim up and towards the boat, signaling I was in distress first off on the surface.

And somehow managing not to realize I still had the catch-bag and my mate’s torch in my hands?

Yes. Really. Remember this. In extremis your character may remember the important, and forget he’s carrying the vorpal sword. Dropping it would have been sensible – but could be useful later. But you need to explain this, because people expect because some of your actions are rational, all of them are.

So: I didn’t die (or this is a damn fine Ouija keyboard). The deckie and skipper did exactly the right things. The deckie pulled the anchor (so they would drift the same way as me) and skipper hauled my partner’s dive line – both of them watching me. He was already on his way up – with the bug – having come out and seen my reg floating down as he looked around for me and the catch bag. He left my spear there.

I did as much that was sensible as I could – because I knew I possibly in dire shit. I breathed as steadily and calmly as I could, and swam not towards the boat (which would be directly into the current) but towards the shore – maybe half a mile off. I was losing ground – but slowly. That slowly made it easier to keep me in sight, and pick me up. I still had the catch bag. The entire drama actually took maybe at the outside 7-10 minutes. It felt like a lot longer.

Now, in fiction of course the adventure stops there. Or rushes into the next adventure.

Of course the problem with a lot of fiction is the one that the increasing tiny subgroups of offended snowflakes whine, scream, perform and tantrum while kicking their heels on the floor about. They squall that you can’t have a book without every minority in it, and then you can’t write about it, because you aren’t a necrophilia-obsessed Asian transgendered woman, and how can you possibly understand how they think and feel and act. Now I’m not as puerile, even if I am a dumb monkey. Action, be it including disaster, life-and-death or war, is a lot more important than a Plascon color chart of skin tones and a whole alphabet soup of LGBYQWERTY varieties to fiction. And, let’s be real, very few of us have actually experienced all that we put our characters through. Even if we have we do write about what we have experienced – the memories of actual fight (or swim) tends to be blurred to the essentials. I had no idea, swimming up, that I still had the catch bag or my mate’s torch.

The thing is most our audience don’t have that experience either. Now, if we follow Snowflake logic (if you can call it that) we shouldn’t write the books, then anyone who has experienced real warfare should be demanding Snowflakes never write another book which has characters who zer cannot possibly understand how think and feel and act, because zer’s not one. We have as much right to demand Snowflake exclusion (and possibly more) than they have to demand yours: which is to say, none at all. In practice, you don’t have to read their book, and they don’t have to read yours. How many Snowflakes and hangers on are there, and- as I said at the beginning – were they ever going to throw peanuts anyway?

There’s a lot to be said for trying to do your research well, trying to get out of your headspace and into someone else’s character. There’s a lot to be said for running your book past people with the relevant experience and checking you’ve got it mostly right. But that’s about it.

For the books you may use this in, recovery time is not instantaneous. I’m older than most fantasy heroes, but your body will still be a bit stuffed for some time – once the adrenalin wears off and the inevitable dehydration (you might know it is going to happen – I do – but your stomach just can’t do large amounts of anything) sets in. And seriously, beer (the inevitable hero celebration) will make it worse. It’s a diuretic – and you don’t need that. You’ll pee. Often… and very little, as your kidneys (and liver) try and get your bloodstream back to normal. Even if you’re not injured or damaged nor have ruptured lungs, about 5-6 hours later your dehydration and low blood sugar are going to make you feel fairly faint and generally rotten. And you’ll discover injuries and aches you no recollection of acquiring.

And these details may add veracity, but if your audience don’t care, you don’t have to.


  1. Wow. I’m glad you made it through that and are okay.

    You are okay, aren’t you? Did you ever find out what the problem with the hose was?

  2. Dramatic post
    Makes mental notes about how to describe situations.
    Underlines and rubs lurid highlighter over the mental notes made years ago about not diving because the potential failures are not good

      1. Yes. They are nuts. And then there are people who go down narrow cracks and try to wrestle out critters that can put a feeding claw right through your gloved hand. They are seriously nuts. Batshit insane, in fact. (Yes, that is what I do. And I used to do it free-diving…)

  3. Glad you made it through another tight spot.

    On blocking out stuff: I once carried a tire gauge with me into the ER without realizing it. And when our first made an unexpected arrival, I forgot the number to the hospital – and then had to stop and think how to call information.

  4. Unfortunately, the Snowflakes feel this way* every time they’re triggered.
    Which happens dozens of times a day.

    It’s a wonder the poor dears are able to function at all.

    *Actual milage may vary.

      1. /sigh And I have the misfortune to have just one of those snowflakes as an offspring. Should have home schooled him.

  5. Thanks for still being with us monkey-boy. I do object to your accusation that politicians are an invertebrate form of life though. You’re committing base slander sir. Octopi are a relatively brilliant (especially the ones here in the Puget Sound, the great pacific octopus) creature, and sometimes rather playful, a far better companion than those aforementioned politicians.

  6. That was more excitement than you probably signed up for that day. Glad you made it back safe. Part of me wants to say, what did you learn? Not because I don’t think you know, but accidents are rarely just accidents. Glad you’re safe, just in case I pushed your buttons there.

    1. heh. I’m not easily offended. I’ve been diving for around 50 years, with certainly some self-inflicted accidents in that. The air cut off/reg fail – not much. It was a new reg, just been for 1 shallow water test. I’ve just been told of a system called ‘spare air’ https://www.escuba.com.au/scuba-gear-33/e043032/Submersible-Systems-Spare-Air-3.0-CF-Kit.html – I think I will invest in. The losing my hose at the surface? I’ve changed my rig from the standard hookah set-up to one that will make that much less likely. I’ve also added a whistle into my catch bag (it can be hard to hear someone over the sound of waves and the compressor.) Every accident I’ve come away from has always resulted in improving my safety in gear and behavior somewhat. Still: it IS dangerous. I am not going to stop doing it.

  7. The sea is a lady, and all too often, a bitchy, vindictive one. Glad you survived the fun, and your misstep.
    I have luckily only had panic get to me a few times in life, and only once as an adult. Twice I’d found myself in deep water and struggled. Once I stepped off a ledger and want really prepared nor was I a strong enough swimmer. I managed to the enough to get a foothold on the ledge and pull myself back to shallow water. Near the same time, I fell off water skis and my life preserver was not on very well so I struggled to keep it on but so short after the near drowning, panic hot again.
    Then I was driving over the tall, curving viaduct on I-20 westbound to I35W southbound, and had a bit of panic for no real reason. One part of my brain was saying reasonable things about the dry roads, no winds etc. The monkey brain was gibbering, we were going to launch off into space. I think exhaustion was partly to blame.
    Otherwise, been lucky in that I have been able to keep my head while others around me were, once literally, running in circles.

      1. The ramp from I-74 W to I-465 S at the southeast edge of Indianapolis feels like a high overpass, but I’m not sure its really all that high, in reality. Nevertheless, I always tense up a bit when I take that long, curvy climb into the sky then drop down onto I-465.

      2. That’s one of the highest in the area from what I recall. It’s been a few years since I was on it.

      3. There really is no other feeling quite like coming over a rise at 70mph and all you can see is red brake lights in front of you…

    1. I know I-35 does E and W thing in DFW… but I’m more used to it in MSP that it’s just a bit jarring that it’s I-20 and not I-90… I suppose that works the other way for you.

    2. There’s one of those in Wichita Falls that I’m really not fond of. And they put something similar into the I-40/1-27 interchange. There are at least three betting pools that I know of for when the first driver goes up, over, around, and airbourne.

      1. The one in Wichita Falls has been added since I lived there as a kid. Nearly a decade ago, when I was in the process of moving from NE TX to La Buttocks, TX, I went through Wichita Falls a few times moving stuff. My first thought when I saw it was “Where did that thing come from?”

        1. Yep, I take that one on my way into the gym, and back out again (this particular gym – WFAC – is worth the drive). At least, at the top of the curve, people slow down!

    3. That interchange does climb gratuitously high, dunnit?

      I’ve had a couple of — supremely focused moments making that climb on the motorbike. I’m confident the engineering of those cute little walls is fully adequate to restrain my errant vehicle…

      Thus ensuring it’s only my meaty self irritating the drivers below.

      Knowing full well the irritable baseline of the average metroplex driver, I endeavor to avoid adding my (fatal) injury to their insult.

            1. I don’t know if it’s a negative I watch so little local news, or a positive since I don’t have to carry it around in my brain. I’m gonna lean positive, I’ve got enough blood and unpleasantness stuck in the synapses.

              It will no doubt poke my awareness up a notch.

              1. Until I went on second shift, I heard a ton of WBAP (when Hal was allowed to be funny, and Mark Davis was still “The New Guy”) ,and most of those were remembered stories from then.

              2. These days, I hardly hear any news, and never watch it.
                I listen to downloaded streams at work, and the local radio does CBS so I rarely put up with their blather.

                  1. These days. it’s pravda headlines and that’s about how far you get before wonk strikes.
                    If one is lucky, you might need all the words of the headline before the wonk strikes.

  8. Beautiful description of why I don’t scuba or sky-dive. I have bad short-term memory, I’d forget something. There’s a lot you can overcome with training, but eventually you hit the limits. Rock climbing is about as far as I go with gear-assisted sports.

    The Snowflake Brigade… we aren’t writing for them anymore. Lela Buis has a short-but-sweet post today that pretty much covers the whole thing.


    I have a long-ass comment there summarizing Grey’s Anatomy over its 13 season run. Short version, if you’re not -loudly- promoting SJW theme-of-the-week, you are a Sad Puppy and therefore beyond the pale. That’s where we are now.

    Greg Hullender woke up a couple weeks ago to find (much to his shock and dismay no doubt) that he was a Sad Puppy. That was the official jumping of the shark, for me anyway. Previously the SJW mob were attacking people like me, which isn’t surprising. They hate us. But now, they’re attacking their -friends.- That’s new. Good old Greg there didn’t jump on the band wagon with the officially required back-flip and half twist. He’s on the band wagon, but he’s not -enthusiastic- enough so he’s excommunicated.

    That is what life under Stalin was like. Everyone terrified to be the first to stop clapping.

    Therefore, I think we should henceforth do precisely as we please and ignore them. Their punishment is well in hand, and needs no further input from us.

    1. I used to open at a convenience store. Even for something as mundane as that, I made a checklist. I’ve found that those who proclaim that they do not need a checklist tend to be those most in need of such. And my reply is of the nature, “Rocket scientists (surgeons, and pilots, and…) use checklists.”

      Though I admit I am bewildered by this jumping out of a properly working aircraft thing.

      1. From several airborne types I know: “It’s not a properly working aircraft… it’s a C130.” And having to ridden in one without the jumping out part, they may have a point.

      2. Yah, but it took 4 decades of the example of rocket scientists and airline pilots to get surgeons to start using checklists. I should know, I’m one of the ones who’s been beating them over the head about it for the past 15 years.

    2. Once the SJW aren’t getting the attention they think they deserve from those they oppose they eat their own.

      They might even have a checklist for it.

      1. The Supreme Dark Lord believes that they do. (Yeah, I’m reading one of his non-fiction books. Interesting to get his take on things. Don’t always agree, but it’s interesting.)

        1. Yeah, I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but his take on SJWs is pretty spot on. And most of the complaints I’ve seen floating around about his racist/misogynist/whateverist views are baseless. Oh, he said this and this about women. No, he was asked a question about how/why some people justify certain views and gave an answer showing how/why it’s done. There is a difference there, folks.

          1. Same here.

            The thing is, SJZs pretty much HAVE performed almost consistently to the list – if they skip over a few to go straight to a different one on the list, that’s just changing the order around. His observations on the SJZs were as needed as Roosh’ defining what a SJW is. (Yet, for the same people apparently agreeing with either of them on one thing/a few things = YOU ARE A FULL ON SUPPORTER AND BELIEVE EVERYTHING THEY SAY… thus proving The Supreme Dark Lord right yet again.)

            These are the retards who jumped straight into his traps and screamed “I DEFY YOU” all the while. I have the mental image of Vox facepalming in the very early days whenever the special snowflakes screeched and jumped headfirst into the proverbial guillotine, then yanked the killswitch themselves, but then I figured he’d now just be nodding and checking the SJW list again every time afterward.

  9. I don’t understand the mechanics of hanging upside down and peeling a banana with your feet.
    Are you referring to the appendages closest to your heads as the banana-peeling feet?
    Are you hanging by your tail?
    Are you hanging by your knees? And if so, how do you grip and manipulate the banana?

    I regret that I am not conversant enough with monkey culture. I am, however, willing to be woke, with respect to this particular area of ignorance.

  10. So, who exactly went back down to recover the weight belts?
    Lead’s not cheap these days.
    And a ten pound lobster, nice catch.
    Oh, glad you’re not dead yet. Good on you for that one.

    1. Answer. No one. We’ll be diving in the same area again (and no one else is very likely) but the chances of finding those 27 pounds of lead are pretty close to zero. Visibility is around 10-12 feet. The area is large, and we were some distance from the boat – the track of which we could follow, but all we know is we were 100-125 feet from that. That’s a huge arc, and the area has no particular notable features. The spear is most obvious to spot, but will probably wash away in the current or next storm

  11. The only instance when I’ve had time to think during a potential emergency was while helping someone stalk a thief in Mexico. [Kids, do NOT do this at home or anywhere else. Just don’t.] Because I was sitting in the dark and waiting for Mr. Landron to show up or not. The other emergencies? No, it was just act, then analyze and shake later. Two events involved vehicles, one happening 250′ above the ground if that high. No philosophy, no fond thoughts of loved ones, just “SH!T!!”, react, land/get off the road if possible, secure the vehicle, breathe.

    Not much of interest to the reader, but I’m profoundly glad that I’ve come through with nothing worse than a few more silver hairs and some mildly interesting stories.

    1. while helping someone stalk a thief in Mexico. [Kids, do NOT do this at home or anywhere else. Just don’t.]

      Don’t! That’s pretty much how Cherryl Tendeland was murdered here. If you love your life, or have people you care about, just don’t.

        1. Yes. Looking back 20+ years, I was [gerund] lucky. The signal light spooked the guy and he departed post haste, but seeing that rather long knife as he started prying the security bars loose on the window… Not a life experience I care to repeat in this go round, thankyouverymuch.

  12. A) Glad you’re not dead, Dave.
    B) Baen better get life insurance on their authors soon if they haven’t done so already. After this and Larry’s off-road excursion a couple years ago it’s gonna be hard getting a policy.

  13. Happy to read that you are still alive and well.
    There is a stfnal connection here. Once upon a time, many years ago, while I was there, Arthur C Clarke visited the MITSFS library. He was looking for a specific very old issue of iirc Amazing, with a story of his in it and its illustration. It was his duplicate feat to ‘I invented the geostationary communication satellite’, which was also his feat. In the illo was a skin diver whose air was supplied by a hose and a pump on the surface. He mentioned that he had recently (in this case 1960s) persuaded someone to develop this gadget, which he said was his invention.

  14. Good God, I’m glad to read that you’re safe and sound! I found my heart pounding as I read, and fear chilling my blood. Drowning is one of my great fears – but that was wonderfully written, Dave. Glad to know you can write it out for us!

    On a somewhat more lighthearted note, we spotted a car yesterday that had a dent on the back. A sticker was put on top of said dent that reads “Tis But A Scratch.” I figure the folks here would find it a giggle.

  15. Talk about keeping your head when all about you (or in the same situation) would be losing theirs, and filling the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance swum!

    Glad you’re still with us, Dave. The incidents and near-accidents I’ve been in seem to split between If I’ve trained for this, I’ll find myself thinking through what to do…sometimes as I’m doing it, sometimes a little behind my well-prepared and motivated body and If I haven’t, “Uh… what just happened? I’m missing pieces! I should fix this…how?”

    Once upon a time, a propane tank filled outside at -30F and brought into a +60F warehouse decided to lose containment while I was getting on the forklift it was powering. I lost the next few seconds, then found myself ducking and running the length of the warehouse. I recall thinking “That forklift is under the unit heater…they have a naked flame…” and while I couldn’t stop running, I could steer myself around to run back and start hitting the big rollup doors to suck all the warm (and propane-laden) air right out into the freezing cold day. It took several days to realize I’d lost a lot of hearing on my left side… and yes, the complete and total lack of awareness of such things as still holding onto my pen and clipboard, until I realized that the death grip on said items was making it very hard to get my radio out of my belt and call dispatch.

      1. Mostly. Trains blowing their horns at crossings no longer hurt, nor am I as fatigued (or distracted) by working in loud environments as some of the young guys, and there are some people who seem to be whispering or mumbling unintelligibly as soon as they move their lips out of line of sight…

        But I can still hear better than some of the old pilots & mechanics I know, at least enough to still enjoy music, so I’m good. (Except choruses. I’m afraid we went to a friend’s choral performance out of support and solidarity for the friend, but between the aviators and the combats vets in the group, none of us could tell what the chorus was singing on most of the songs. Sounded kinda pretty, though.)

    1. When I was in high school, my Dad was in the middle of a chain reaction accident in town. Dump truck slammed into a van, van into my Dad’s car, Dad’s car into pickup, pickup into another car. When the officer got to the part where ‘was everyone wearing a seatbelt?’ the lady in the van couldn’t remember. My Dad piped up, ‘Yes, she was. I had to help her unbuckle because she couldn’t figure out how to get out of the van while still buckled in.’ Strange sometimes the things we remember and those we don’t.

  16. I’m finding that I’m not getting emailed whenever new comments are posted. Anybody else experiencing that? The good part is that I can read through the entire post in the morning with coffee/cocoa and a bagel.

Comments are closed.