"Coffee. Need coffee," I gasp.
"Try the bowling alley across the parking lot. They have a little cafe."
On the sidewalk, reality strikes: I'm wearing a wetsuit and a fleece vest. Um. Not exactly haute couture. On the other hand, it's a bowling alley in suburban strip mall, not exactly a fashion epicenter ... and the coffee monkey owns my back. Surely I can't be the first diver to lump in for caffeine, all suited up, I reason. Go. Go, go, goooooooo.
A family of four just plain stops and gawks. I shoot them my best approximation of urban cool. "Oh yeah," I vibe. "You'll all be wearing this next year. Very retro cool, a la Diana Rigg in Avengers."
The waitress, to her credit, doesn't even blink. She's extremely tired and kind and clearly doesn't give a monkey's what I'm wearing, provided I don't violate health codes. I stuff a big tip in the jar, then hurry out amid a small tsunami of gasps and comedy double takes.
I stroll back into the shop. And the employees all pounce. "How did it go?"
Hmmm. Something tells me I may, in fact, have been the first diver to lump in for caffeine, all suited up...
Jackie and I skim Puget Sound's floor at Redondo for thirty-odd minutes. The visibility is insane: 50 feet instead of the usual five. Schools of perch swirl above us, baby octopi squeegee from PVC tubes. We clown on the submerged toilet and slink alongside the wrecks, three boats and a VW bug. I'm always amazed how laughter carries through a regulator.
Soon, the giggles creep down my limbs, though. Punch-drunk on cold, I'm giddy and spacy and ... in the danger zone. Despite the Avengers fashion statement, I'm a temperature wimp of the first water and no fool. I call the dive. "You lasted much longer than I expected," Jackie crows at the surface, rosy and warm in her drysuit.
"I can't work my fingers enough to remove my fins ... Hands, numb ... I'm a monkey child."
But the true scope of my folly doesn't emerge until the day.
Driving a manual truck in soggy 7mm neoprene?
Don't do it.
The back of my knees are raw hamburger.