H2 Oh no!

I’m pretty sure that cars aren’t airtight. But last fall, when Andy and I were sleeping in our car in a downtown Seattle parking garage, I swear we almost ran out of air. On separate occasions, while the other slept, we each woke up feeling air-deprived and opened the car door to let in some of the chilly, October air. Oxygen, sweet  oxygen! We talked about it later and never came to a good conclusion as to why an hour-long catnap almost ended in suffocation.

That is until now.

Hello. My name is Julie and I’m an air hog.

But lest you think we make a habit out of sleeping in parking garages, let me explain. In short, it was a day trip that was so long we should have just committed to an overnight trip. Andy’s company set him up with a crack-of-dawn appointment at the Seattle Passport Agency to get a second passport. Until then I thought only spies had multiple passports but apparently that isn’t the case; handsome electricians who travel all over the world can get more than one as well.

73 floors up!

At the Columbia Center’s observation deck on the 73rd floor… after our nap.

After our appointment we returned to the car to get ready for our day of shopping and sightseeing. However, seeing that it was still dark when we’d left Portland, we found ourselves too tired to enjoy the city with the zest we’d hoped for. “I’m just going to close my eyes for a minute,” Andy said. Following suit, I curled up in the backseat and shut my eyes too. An hour (or two) later we woke up.

But I digress – I’m an air hog. This discovery was made 18 meters under the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean while Andy and I got PADI certified as Open Water Divers in Honduras earlier this month. We learned to use the equipment, properly weight ourselves and prevent our heads from exploding from excess pressure.

Diving along the coral.

Lots of other stuff to be found down there, but not a lot of spare air!

Over the course of our class, we also learned several emergency ascent methods. Like learning CPR, I tucked these skills away in the good to know but will probably never need section of my brain. I never suspected that I would actually run out of air at any point now or in the future – and definitely not on my third day out.

But I did.

Always the good student, I did what I’d been taught and breathed deeply and slowly during each dive. Part of our training was to continually check our air gauges, which I did diligently. Simply put, we started with about 3000 psi in our tanks and at 500 it was time to head up. Our instructor, Sergio, frequently had us report our status to him. On this dive, I’d reported every 10 minutes or so but for some reason (namely that I’m an air hog) the last bit of my air seemed to go like the last bit of gas in a car – way too fast.

When I neared the 500 mark I anxiously waited for Sergio to turn around so I could alert him of my situation; the last time he’d checked I’d been at almost 900. I watched 500 come and go and then 400 and 300. He finally turned to me as I was just closing in on him. I signaled ‘2 with my fingers and he stared blankly for a brief moment before it registered that somehow one of his students had gotten down to 200. Then, somewhat alarmed, he swam too me and started the procedure for me to share his air. Yep, this was happening.

Sergio saves the day!

Thanks to Andy for documenting my dilemma… Sergio to the rescue!

So share we did. Meanwhile, Andy had seen Sergio earnestly question my 200 by also holding two fingers up which Andy had mistaken for a sign that Sergio was about to show us two of something really cool. Andy quickly readied the camera and when he realized the cool thing was actually the not-so-cool situation of his wife nearly running out of air, he snapped a few photos anyway. Thanks babe.

Just keep swimming

Putting the emergency alternate air ascent into action. Good thing we’d already practiced!

The good news is I now have another situation under my belt that assures me that if I ever find myself in a life or death emergency, I would indeed keep my cool. Well, I suppose this one counts as life or death. You just never know if you’re going to panic and so far in my life, I never have. I safely surfaced with a good story, an even better lesson and the new information that I use more air than the average bear. This will be good to know for the next time I scuba dive – or if I ever try to sleep in my car again.

Chillin' underwater

I’m cool as a cucumber on our next dive… a sea cucumber!

Undersea Shamblins

All smiles and no air… but this time it was just for the photo.

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5 responses to “H2 Oh no!

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