After completing my masters degree I returned home but could not find a job. At least I could not find a job in my field. I was told that there was no funding or that I was overqualified or in some cases underqualified for positions in teaching.
I was struggling to find work and I got into a discussion with my mother’s neighbor Scott Higgs.
He owned marine works marine works. I told him that I was having difficulty finding a job. He told me that if I add a scuba certification, I could work with him as a contractor cleaning the pools at Atlantis.
Shortly after that, I found myself at Dolphin Cay Atlantis working to vacuum sand from their dolphin pools it was very physical work and it was work that could only be done in the evenings after the guests had returned to their rooms and the hotel was mostly quiet except for the nightlife activities. But the dolphins needed their pools cleaned.
I had already applied to be an aquarist at the Atlantis hotel on aquarium but it had been months and I had not heard back from them at all. Dolphin key though once I showed an interest in the work they’re hired me almost immediately. For while I was pretty dissatisfied with the turn that my life had taken because I had finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in record time I might add.
However I could not find on appropriate job for my field in my home country and I was now vacuuming sand and sea lion poop from the bottom of these pools.
I worked there for 14 months and it’s one of the reasons that I regularly tell people that as human beings, if you can do something for a minute, you can do it for an hour, you can do it for a day, you can do it for a year.
Although I was unhappy with the job and the requirements I was scuba diving or maintaining trash pumps and lugging heavy equipment around from 4:00 p.m. to midnight almost every day.
The work was necessary because I was saving up for a wedding.
Yet almost every day I experienced conflict with leadership or my coworkers because of differences in experiences, prejudices, or misunderstandings. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I had gone off for higher education where as most of my coworkers did not have more than a high school education.
Sometimes I was perceived as being arrogant and often I did nothing to assuage those views towards me.
Eventually though I really developed a positive working relationship with the men that I was working around. It came to a point that I was not just working around them I was working with them.
I developed positive relationships with several of the younger guys to the point of something akin to mentorship. I remember explaining the issues surrounding dive safety and issues surrounding the mechanics of things like the bends.
One of the divers told me one day after I taught him how to drive the cart with a trailer attached and the forklift that I could teach a rat to eat cheese. That turn of phrase as always stuck with me.
I think that day actually made me kinder to all of the divers around me and it also made me feel like part of the team. I was no longer just passing through as a means to an end but I wanted to make the entire team better more successful and safer.
Around that time, I started reading through the dive safety manual and the protocols for the area more thoroughly. I began to help to point out to the newer teammates what issues were prevalent around us and what we could do personally to make our space safer and more efficient.
I even started to enjoy diving there again. We would make plans to finish our work more quickly so that we could all go to dinner together. We would get some time to kind of slack off or play in the pools that didn’t have dolphins or sea lions in them.
In all my reading I eventually also came to find out that scuba divers were one of few groups within the hotel that were not able to receive tips because we were behind the scenes workers and also not allowed to join the union and receive common pool gratuities. Common pool are the gratuity for people who are behind the scenes. These gratuities are included in many hotel room rates or other fees paid to a hotel and ostensibly allow those who are behind the scenes and never get to see a guest the opportunity to gain some additional income for supporting the broader hotel.
After speaking to my teammates they agreed that we should be getting common pool gratuity and so I made calls to the head of the union and I spoke to the management. I was invited to become the shop steward. I did explain to my coworkers what getting those gratuities could mean for each of us financially I talk to them about the responsibilities of being a shop steward but ultimately I could not accept the position I did not feel that I would be able to commit the time and energy that would be necessary for it.
But I did fight for that benefit for the community that I had come to call my own.
I recently asked on Facebook for my friends to let me know some memories that they had of me. One of those divers posted that his memory was that I fought for them to get common pool. And that about a month after I left it came through and that I fought for them to get something that I never benefited from.
He reminded me of a saying: ” Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in.”
I don’t know if I really like him referring to me of an old man but I appreciate the sentiment.
This episode in my life gave me lots of perspective. I look back at it fondly and I hope this helps you to look around and appreciate where you are even, if it’s not where you want to be or planned to be.
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