Never before has the simple act of breathing seemed so technologically complex. I mean, sure, it's nearly a miracle that the human body can coordinate the whole diaphragm/lungs/airway setup, but I figured that was complicated enough.
Now, after obtaining an air* cylinder and SCBA harness (the complete package weighing just a hair over thirty pounds), it seems like the basic act of breathing will be initially hindered by our need to know flow rates, volume limitations, and various other specifications. Later this week, we'll be having a practical examination where we have to explain every facet of the harness/cylinder assembly, as well as precisely describe the steps of SCBA operation and testing.
For right now, however, we're confined to the classroom. When we start donning our masks while at our desks, I have the feeling that my mind will keep jumping back to some photojournalism I saw a number of years ago.
"Child Wearing Gas Mask."
An Israeli child in a classroom wears a gas mask, in preparation for the expected chemical attack by Iraq in the Gulf War.
(c) David H. Wells/CORBIS, ca. 1991.
*EDIT: Thanks to a commenter for pointing out my glaring mistake. It is in fact an air cylinder on our backs (just the normal stuff we're all breathing right now)—all that damn paramedic training must have gone to my head, causing me to slip and call it an oxygen cylinder. Whoops!