of Your Crazy Friends...)
for Gwen, Mom's far away from DC, but I'm getting ahead of
I've always wanted to jump out of a plane, especially since
I've never had the opportunity to do so. All that changed
when Gwen asked if I wanted to join her and some friends on
their skydiving adventure.
Suddenly, the possibility was real and my urge to skydive
wasn't so strong anymore. Thinking of the bragging rights
I'd have once I jumped, I decided to tag along anyway. Still,
something about replying, "I'm game" to the invitation
e-mail made my heart race uncontrollably.
The night before jump day was the most nerve-wracking. For
reassurance, I called a cousin and a friend who had skydived
and loved it. No one was home.
Waking up at the crack of dawn on 9/16 must have been tough
for everyone. Personally, I hadn't been sleeping. Bright and
early, I went to pick up Joe, a guy I had never met who would
be my captive audience for the 15-minute drive to Gwen's.
Poor guy had no warning that I tend to babble when nervous.
"I hear you don't even feel the G-force cuz you're already
traveling at 70 mph when you plummet from the plane."
It's possible Joe didn't appreciate mulling over the details
Once at the drop zone, I was struck with how laid back the
whole affair was. There was a short instructional video, waivers
to sign, a "propellers chop off heads" warning,
blah, blah, blah. Suddenly, my name was called. I walked over
to the hanger and was handed a fashionable jump suit to try
on for size. (The appeal of these pink and blue suits really
cannot be overstated.) Then came the harness and hat (of sorts).
I was directed up a ladder and into the plane. So much for
introductions. "Uh, are you my tandem instructor? What
happened to my dry run?" Bobby cracked a devious smile.
The plane ride was pretty scary. Bundled in all of our jump
gear, we were roasting, so someone casually opened the door
of the plane. As the cool, fresh air rushed in, everyone breathed
a sigh of relief, except me. I don't see what's so comforting
about riding in a plane with an open door, especially when
you're not strapped to anything yet. This may be a strange
fear for someone who's about to jump out of that same door.
looked at Joe, who was next to me, and we exchanged some "nice
to have met you" pleasantries, just in case. I thought
it was probably a good idea to suck up to Bobby at this point,
so I asked him if he wanted to be my new best friend. He said
OK. I told him I didn't mind breaking a leg, but could I please
not die? He laughed and replied, "I like you a lot, but
I like me a whole helluva lot better." Perfect. I was
strapped to a man who valued life, what more could I ask for?
Which reminded me, time to ensure I was actually strapped
to this man. I spent the next 5 or so minutes doubting the
strength of the four (only four?!) clips that separated me
from an unpleasant death, and asking repeatedly if Bobby was
SURE I was hooked to him. Needless to say, he didn't want
to be my best friend after he found out how annoying I could
"OK, now just waddle with me over to the door, NOT GRABBING
ONTO ANYONE'S CHUTES." Yeah, that would have been bad.
Bobby wanted me to put my toes over the edge of the door while
keeping my heels (and thus, body) in the plane - like this
is some everyday activity. After firmly planting my feet somewhere
along the threshold of life and possible death, I vowed not
to open my eyes again until we were in a stable free fall.
Did I just say stable free fall?
Next thing I know, we're racing through the sky and my eyes
are amazingly open. I really had to concentrate on breathing
evenly. It was such an effort with the wind rushing up my
nose. It seemed like a very long time before Bobby gave me
the thumbs up to open my arms into the free fall position.
Unlike my friends, I don't remember feeling cold or appreciating
the view. I was just concentrating on steady breathing and
repeating, "please God, let my chute open" over
and over. At one point, Bobby grabbed my hand during the free
fall, which steered us fiercely to the left. That didn't make
me very happy.
At long last, I felt a jerk and realized we were probably
out of the woods. Evidently, my posture didn't relax, because
Bobby suggested I actually move a little to look up at the
perfectly good chute so that I could enjoy the ride. The rest
was bliss, wildly spinning in huge circles while looking across
the blue sky to the Chesapeake or to Delaware. Bobby's also
a pretty good tour guide. At one point, he informed me that
I was in sole control of the chute and our lives. That didn't
make me happy either.
The landing wasn't exactly smooth, but I can't complain.
After having just jumped out of a plane, a little crash and
burn on the grass was fine by me. I was elated the rest of
the day. The weather was perfect, excitement was in the air,
and I got to act all cool & experienced since I had made
it and everyone else was still awaiting their turn.
In addition to meeting some great people, here's what I learned:
- Tell your parents about hurling yourself out of an airplane
AFTER you've landed safely on the ground.
- Tell all of your friends/coworkers beforehand, so it's
harder to chicken out.
- If at Parachutes Are Fun, Inc., request Bobby. It seems
that he tolerates paranoia (meaning questions) better than
some other instructors. Just don't let him fool you into handing
over your phone number.
Thanks Kristy, Beth, Gwen, & Joe. It's a day I'll never