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Chix in the Air







Joe's Story

(A Guy, Four Girls and a Parachute)

Joe Checking the SuitDropping out of an airplane seemed like a really good idea when I was in college. But at that point in my life I was still mixing kamikazes in a spaghetti pot. As the years passed, I lost my desire to plummet.

I'm not really sure what happened but somewhere along the way, I developed a fear of falling (although I continue to enjoy altitude when it's divorced from the threat of imminent terrestrial impact). What once seemed like the ultimate thrill ride instead made me sick to my stomach. So it took a considerable amount of mental readjustment to finally end up in the open doorway of a King Air B90 at 13,000 feet.

I initially agreed to join the group of co-worker daredevils because I assumed a scheme of this magnitude would never get off the ground, so to speak. When it was still in the office-chatter phase, there appeared to be no good reason not to sign on for the excursion, but when Kristy eventually announced that she'd made reservations for the jump, I began to panic. So when the first attempted trip fell victim to bad weather, I was actually relieved.

By the time the jump was rescheduled, Gwen and Kristy had taken other jobs, which was sad of course, but ultimately advantageous in that they could no longer physically coerce me to participate. Nevertheless I had resolved to conquer my ugly fears and recapture the devil-may-care spirit that I once owned as a youth. (Also, there was the matter of chickening out in front of four girls.)

Joe in MotionI will always remember September 16th. From the time we assembled before sunrise, there was a surreal quality about the entire experience. It was a beautiful day in Salisbury, Maryland, and when we arrived at the drop zone, we quickly began the rituals of waiver signing and watching instructional video. Once the process had been put in motion, it would have taken a conspicuous and embarrassing effort to withdraw. There were about 15 or 20 people there who were skydiving for the first time and no one seemed particularly nervous about dropping a couple miles out of the sky. The group dynamic was definitely helpful in calming the nerves: I had expected to get queasy but the nausea never arrived. Interestingly, among the first-timers, there was only one other jumper of my gender, and his girlfriend had taken him skydiving as a surprise birthday present. The predominantly female group cast a certain aura of invincibility and I knew I would survive the day.

Skydiving is every bit as exhilarating as I had heard. The freefall was incredible, even though I remember thinking that if the parachute didn't open soon, I might freeze to death from the 120 mph wind. When it finally did open, my affable tandem instructor Chuck informed me that a malfunction had nearly forced us to deploy the reserve chute. To this day, I'm not sure if he was pulling my leg. (Chuck was a bit of an asshole.) And finally, the descent under the canopy provided a breathtaking view, but at that point I was pretty anxious to get Chuck off my back.

I never did figure out exactly where my fear of falling came from or how I got over it. There's nothing particularly profound about discovering that the passage of time brings with it an awareness of mortality, so I'll forego any further pseudo-psychological conclusions. Suffice it to say that I'm thrilled to have been a part of this adventure, but I never would have done it alone, so thanks Kristy and Beth and Gwen and Darcy for taking me along for the ride!

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