None of the Training Agencies seem to deal effectively with the peculiarities of diving etiquette or how to handle socially awkward moments. As far as they’re concerned they’ve done their duty in teaching the social niceties by tagging entry-level courses with vague statements like, “Remember to respect the rights of others.” before casting newly certified divers adrift to fend for themselves.
Bearing in mind that, “Good Manners are the glue that binds the fabric of society together.” – a useful phrase to remember when somebody is openly critical of your choice of rebreather – it is important to recognise that conventional etiquette does nothing to prepare a person for what, in diving, passes as ‘civilised’ behaviour.
What you wear, for instance, is less important than how it’s worn. Take facemasks: Wearing a mask up on your forehead while on the surface is considered bad form. (Unless you happen to be a Deep Air diver, in which case the mask may be worn back to front with the mask strap – because of the cranial slope – passing low across the forehead no higher than one inch above the single joined eyebrow.)
Similarly, What you do is less important than how you do it. For those people who still prefer to de-fog their mask with saliva rather than using one of the commercial preparations, the correct method is to turn your back on bystanders and, with the action coming from the mouth alone, gently spit directly onto the mask lens with a noise no louder than a soft, “Phwittt.”. (A spitting action drawn from the back of the throat or from deep down in the toes and culminating in an explosive, “AAHHRRRRGPHWEWPH.” is considered unnecessary and nothing more than an ostentatious attempt to impress others with your prowess.)
Neither is it always appropriate to offer assistance to those divers less gifted than one’s self. Remember – an offer to spit into somebody else’s facemask will often create a dilemma for the owner.
While an uncouth diver may be tempted to respond to such an offer by saying something like, “What? You’re joking, aren’t you? You’ve still got bits of spinach from dinner stuck between your teeth.”, the well mannered diver understands that a soft rejection is less likely to cause offence. Their answer would probably follow the lines of, “That’s terribly kind of you, but I actually plan to work on my mask clearing technique by allowing it to fog and periodically letting in water to cleanse it. Perhaps another time?”
With few direct parallels to draw on, novice divers are usually ill-prepared to handle the devastating effects of cold water and pressure.
Helping a person to maintain their dignity when – on surfacing – you notice that a minor sinus problem has transferred itself to their face requires finesse. As does explaining to them that it’s not always necessary to cut short a dive because they get caught short.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone standing in a bus queue on a cold day would think to themselves, “Ah. I’ll just warm myself up a bit by having a pee in my trousers.” but many divers see nothing untoward or shameful in having a whiz in their wet-suit.
Although this is not something that is actively encouraged, there are, nevertheless, established protocols in place regarding the practice. It should, for example, never be attempted unless already in the water. And it is considered bad manners to pee in any suit other than your own. A constraint often ignored by the socially inept. (Yet another convincing reason to rush out and buy a suit of your own). And if you really value the goodwill of your fellow divers, remember to wash it immediately after the dive – preferably with a deodorising anti-bacterial wash. Simply leaving your suit to dry in the sun will not only tarnish your image, but that of anything else with which it comes into contact.
Although the idea would probably be pooh-pooh’d by the Training Agencies, there’s a lot to be said for making a course in Diving Etiquette a pre-requisite for all Instructor candidates. After all, who wants to be taught the art of undressing or how to spit by somebody who drinks beer, belches and scratches a lot and tries to command respect by mumbling things like, “Trust me , Cynthia. I’m a diving Instructor.”