Some people talk too much. Like I've got room to talk; at London web agency GT, I was voted Biggest Mouth (narrowly out-gobbing Sime White...he was mortified). But at least most of what I say is vaguely interesting, or at least funny. If you disagree, you've probably already stopped reading. But Americans talk far too much for my liking. And not many of them are as cool as my mate Shawntelle in San Fran.
We had a family of them on the boat. Norm Snr ("Norm The Great" he'd said, so I wrote that on his kit crate) and Norm Jr ("Just Norm" he said. Crate duly labelled). The daughter was in tow, too. Mum had stayed back in West Virginia. Probably for a bit of Peace & Quiet, I reflected by the close of the day's diving. The ride out to Akitsushima felt like an eternity once they got going. I was treated to lots of facts and figures about Virginia, how clean and friendly it is.
"It's so safe I leave my keys in my ignition overnight..."said Just Norm. "And I never lock my house. You know the film Dirty Dancing?"
"Unfortunately. I dump girls who think that film is a classic."
He wasn't listening. "They filmed that right nearby us. About 20 kilometres."
"Actually, it's around 25K" said his sister.
"Yeah, around a 25 minute drive."
"There's one of the biggest dams in America near us."
"They found a body in there once. They suspected foul play." She'd started making puppy dog eyes at me as she pulled on her wetsuit.
"They find bodies all the time where I live in London. In the canals. Hands chopped off, teeth smashed out...stuff like that..."
She looked shocked. Just Norm never missed a beat.
"Our county is the biggest producer of peanuts in the United States."
"But they don't roast them there..." Great Norm pointed out.
"No, they do that in the next state."
Kill me now.
Not only did I determine never to visit said county, but I was starting to consider actually descending to the ocean floor without an air supply. Or staying down there til it ran out, rather than surface to this.
At the end of each day, myself and Gerd have a little debrief. How the dives went, problems encountered, who impressed us, who needed an eye kept on them in-water. Also who was good for a laugh and the like. He asked me what I thought of the Americans. "Nice" I said "but really, really dull..."
Part of a DM's job is keeping the clients entertained. I enjoy this, and usually have no problems being sociable. One guy who was a definite struggle was a man I nicknamed Mr Chatterbox within 10 minutes of meeting him. Chatterbox entered the shop, a small but pretty hefty 61-year-old Texan. He was returning to diving after years out of the water. The info he gave us about the old days of diving was very interesting, and I thought he'd be great to have on the boat. But then he digressed into his lack of reading and writing skills until he was 15, and the fact he now has 7 degrees, including one in swine management and another in sleep apnea. "You know what sleep apnea is?" He makes sure you don't know first, then explains...because he does! We raised eyebrows as he went to sign his Liabilty forms for the Advanced course. Immediately he was talking to Gerd's wife, who'd been manning the desk not 3 feet away. "One of my degrees is in sleep apnea..." Very bizarre. He talks. And talks. And talks. I actually had a sweepstake going with another diver on how many times he'd mention the 7 degrees.
Now this odious fellow lives in Angeles, and constantly sang its praises. You all know my feelings on this shithole full of losers and I couldn't believe he was waxing lyrical about the town. On his last day with us, Gerd decided it was time for my official Customer Liason rating test. So I had to chat to him between dives while Gerd smirked and relaxed at the other end of the boat. Chatterbox shared some details with me I'd rather not know. His girlfriend is 21 and "far more fun" than his last one, of 20. He says there are some sick guys in Angeles (pot and kettle, mate) and one case in point being his best friend. "I think he's a paedophile" he told me as I choked on my Coke "he's always nudging me and telling me a girl smiled at him. When I look round, the girl's usually around 12 years old." And he hangs around with this person? I told him pointedly that I'd have decked the guy. "He's OK...his new girl is 18." This was some test for me, and I kept comically glaring at Gerd, who was loving this. I think the most stomach-turning sentence this creature uttered was in answer to my question about the age differences between the men and the girls. He said "Well, usually when they get past 21, they've been moved out of the circle." That phrase "out of the circle" made me want to throw up. Or throw him off the boat.
I know business is business, but if it was my dive shop a guy like this wouldn't get any diving with me. A local who lives over the road, Jim, is from the States and told us "This guy is full of shit". His diving notebook looked like an ink-covered spider had had a fit on it, so I think the guy is a bit of a Walter Mitty character. He said he used to teach Survival years ago. Well if you'd seen him underwater on his Navigation dive as part of the Advanced course, you'd have swallowed as much seawater as me laughing at him. He didn't know what to do with the compass. Gerd gave up with it in the end, he didn't have a clue. "Remind me not to get lost in the wilderness with you" I quipped when back on the boat. "We wouldn't last long." Gerd said I shouldn't be so hard on him. But the image of his fat, sweaty carcass rolling round on top of some poor young Filipina makes it very hard to disguise my contempt.