Collecting the diving log for my class, I head for the door. I am teaching on the barge today. Outside it is one of those beautifully clear spring days in early May. The bright morning sunshine is dancing in a sparkling tapestry upon the smooth seawater that laps ever so gently against the barnacle-encrusted wooden pilings of the inner harbor.
Down at the barge, I wipe black oil from my hands with a red cloth. I am teaching the students how to hand-crank start the diesel air compressor without hitting themselves in the head with the detachable crank. Over the heavy pant of the diesel engine, I faintly hear the pier phone ringing. I catch it on the sixth ring. While trying to blot out the heavy pant of the diesel engine, which rumbles loudly in the background, I hear the voice of Don Santee, expedition leader and chief diver for the Cousteau Society. Don enjoys going for shock value, so he opens the conversation with 11 mind-jarring words, “Steve, how would you like to come work for us?”
Earlier in the year, Don had sat in on my diving medicine class just to brush up on any new changes that had occurred in treating divers’ maladies. Like almost every other diver Don met, I offered him my services should he ever need a diver. I sincerely meant it when I made the offer, but I never expected him to call. I was just voicing a childhood dream I thought was too impossible to come true—particularly since I was an ex-felon, on special parole, and did not even speak French.
Listening to Don on the phone, I cannot believe that my childhood dream is setting down roots. “Don, it would be my absolute pleasure to come to work for you,” I say eagerly.
“Great! You should give the college notice right away. I need you as soon as possible. “Oh, one more thing,” Don adds casually, as if it is just an afterthought, “your title is going to be chief diver and expedition leader.”
‘I’m going to be a chief diver and expedition leader for the Cousteau Society?’ My mind boggles at the thought, ‘Really?’
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