So when I was in college I decided my friends and I should totally go skydiving. I did some research and discovered that the first jump would be rather expensive and require four hours of training before we even got in the plane, but subsequent jumps would be less of an investment. “Excellent!” said I. “This will be our new hobby!”
The day arrived, and we dutifully completed our training, which mostly consisted of reminding us over and over again what to do if our chute didn’t open properly and, very importantly, in which order to pull things if worse came to worst and we had to use our secondary chute (deploying the emergency chute before releasing the primary chute would apparently be Very Bad).
Then it was time to get in the plane. I was so excited, and of course I was determined to go first, so I was seated next to the door. The plane reached jumping height, and I looked down, and . . . NOPE. All my bravado melted away. What the fuck was I thinking? I couldn’t even bring myself to dive off the high board when my dad offered me $20 to do so on a dare. There was no way I was doing this. So one by one my three friends clambered over me and exited the plane to fates unknown. Finally, I was the last one left. I had a choice: ride back down in the plane or fling myself out of it like a fucking idiot. Too young and prideful to slink back down to the ground in safety, I somehow screwed up the courage to be a fucking idiot.
Here’s the thing a lot of people don’t know about (some) skydiving: You don’t actually jump out of the plane, or at least we didn’t. What I had to do was creep out onto the plane’s step, then grab the strut under the wing and hang on like Superman until the pilot gave the signal for me to let go. They made it clear that once I was out of the plane, I was skydiving whether I liked it or not (it was too dangerous to try to get back in the plane, so anyone who refused to let go would be waggled off). I inched my way out, grabbed the strut, and closed my eyes. I have no idea if the pilot ever signaled me. I just forced my hands open and flew backwards.
This was static line skydiving, meaning my cord was pulled when I let go, leaving me with roughly eight seconds of free fall before my chute, God willing, would deploy. All of that training was for naught, because if my chute hadn’t opened properly, I’d have died. My brain was offline; I basically ceased to exist for those eight seconds. Then my chute flared, and I was floating.
I wish I could say it was magical, life changing, etc., and in some ways it was, but mostly, for me, it was terrifying. It was an experience fundamentally Not For Humans. The floating was pretty transcendental, and I enjoyed it, jabbering to myself all the while, but soon I started worrying about getting down, trying to spot the airport where I was supposed to land and checking my altimeter to make sure I was following instructions. So when I was meant to be one with the godhead, mostly I was just contemplating what would happen if I ended up on the interstate.
I got down just fine and even landed mostly on target, albeit on my ass (and I’m told that my feet were pedaling like a cartoon character from about 50 feet up). Alive and well, I was elated, proud of myself, and already slightly regretful that I was too scared to better appreciate my first jump.
It was also my last jump. Hell if I was doing that again! But I know full well that these days I would never have gotten out of that plane, so kudos to young jake for giving me an experience that was not quite what I had envisioned, but which I’m glad I had and will never forget.
Have an awesome Night Thread, Avocados!