Monday, November 5, 2007

Skydiving

So last Saturday I jumped out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air and dropped to the earth at 120mph. It sounds scary when I say it that way (better dramatic effect).

It's one of those things I've always wanted to do. I'm sure everyone has at least one thing they think, I've always wanted to _________ (see the sunset over the Pacific, ride a Gondola in Venice, see an ex boyfriend when I actually look good etc). It is quite a powerful accomplishment when you actually do one of those things. For two days I've had this feeling that if I can jump out of a plane I can do anything. (I chose appliance shopping and folding laundry)

Two years ago we almost did it, Danny wanted to surprise me for my birthday so he sent in a deposit for us both to go. The day before my birthday he came to me and said, "Ok I was going to surprise you and take you sky diving but the company just called and said one of their planes crashed and if we want we can have our deposit back. So do you still want to go?"

"Uh…No, let's wait on that one."

This time around we got no such call. But in the days leading up to our adventure I was very nervous. I wasn't nervous to jump out of the plane or that the plane would crash but I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about three things.

That I would fart and/or throw up on the dude strapped to my back
That the "relaxing" float down after the parachute opens would just be one long awkward silence between me and the dude strapped to my back.
That I was too fat to skydive. I got butterflies in my stomach at the prospect of some 24-year-old guy yelling "Hey Bob! We're gonna need the X-tra large chute over here!"
I got over my fears and we headed out to Palatka bright and early with our friend Alisa, who we found out on the drive has an incredible amount in common with both of us (including causing trouble in Catholic school and being a Scorpio).

We were all jumping tandem so we didn't have to take a class but we did have to watch a video made circa 1985 that featured a lawyer who was perfectly, neatly manicured except for his 6-foot-long ZZ Top beard basically telling us that if we died or got hurt we couldn't sue. We signed about 18 pages exempting people from fault. And I mean EVERYONE, we can't sue the pilot, the jumpmaster, the parachute manufacturer, the landowner, the butcher the baker or the candlestick maker.

After we signed it was time to pay up. That's when I saw the footnote on the price sign.

*Persons over 230 lbs must pay $1.00 per pound over the limit

Holy shit, how embarrassing if you had to stand there and calculate your poundage. Would they trust your estimate? Or would they make you get on a scale like a package to be mailed?

We went to a covered outside area where Art (the owner) explained all we needed to know. The ground rules were pretty basic.

Try to curve your body like a rocking chair.
Do not grab a hold of my arms or I will bite your ear off.
All around us people were on the ground packing up parachutes. I felt a prickle of excitement when I looked over in the field further on and saw chutes dropping out of the sky and people in jumpsuits landing at a run.

I imagined that the plane ride up would be the scariest part. And it was. The plane is tiny tiny tiny. It fit about 12 people, all straddling two long benches and there's no room for shyness, everyone spooned the person in front of them. The comraderie was a lot of fun though. We all teased and laughed. Gary, my jumpmaster, threw a tattered shoestring in my lap, "Oh my god something just came off!"

I was fifth in line to go out. My grandfather told me weeks ago that there was no sensation of falling, so I wasn't scared like the way I feel when a roller coaster is cranking up to the big fall. I honestly did not feel scared. That is, I didn't feel scared until the door opened and people started leaving the aircraft.

I cannot do justice to explaining JUST HOW WRONG it looks to see people tumbling out of an airplane and dropping like rocks toward the ground. It goes against everything your brain tells you is natural and right. That's when I felt scared. This is the image that will forever be burned in my mind. There is my friend Alisa sitting in front of me…and there she is rolling out the side of an airplane 13,000 feet above the ground.

Holy Shit.

But when it was my turn to go it felt too hectic too be scary. I scooted my butt to the edge and hung my legs out just like Gary had told me to, and then we were gone, in a crazy wind tunnel. When I opened my eyes I could see the fields and earth like I was seeing them from space. It was hard to look straight down because of the wind. We were going fast, so fast it was hard to breathe. I saw one of the other men from the plane dart past us like superman diving down in a straight line.

And then out of nowhere everything was still and silent. (Because the parachute opened…not because I died). It felt amazing. We were unfathomably high in the air, just dangling. Gary did some twists and spins and pointed to Danny whose chute had just opened. After 30 years on this planet it's not very often I get to see something I've never seen before. It was an odd sensation to watch my husband dropping through the sky like a pebble and then abruptly stopping under a blooming orange balloon.

Five minutes later we were coming in for our landing. To be honest, a lot of it is a blur (I'll have to go again to remember what it's like). To sum up, it's all thrill and no scary roller coaster feeling. But the adrenaline high has lasted for days.

On the car ride home we talked about how weird it was to continue on with our normal lives after a morning spent jumping out of an airplane. Alisa went home to do her laundry and Danny and I went shopping for appliances.

But in our heads we were planning the next adventure. So who wants to go hang gliding????

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