All my anxieties and fears aside, I consider myself to be quite a budding adventurer. So imagine my mixed emotions when my co-workers started to talk about jumping off a plane. Let me clarify that it wasn’t because of the stress of their daily lives at work but for fun. I listened quite intently and participated in their enthusiasm secretly thinking it’s all talk and they’re crazy. As the conundrum around the idea grew and it became certain noise, I grew worried as peer pressure would require me to participate despite my vertigo. The day came when they finally booked their outing and I did what any self preserving, height fearing, sensible person would do. I refused to go.
So the party went to skydive and successfully completed the adventure. Predictably, when they came back they were excited and that’s all they wanted to talk about. Again, in the interest of self preservation and to avoid ridicule, I avoided them and any talk of skydiving. But I saw the pictures and videos and I thought to myself, “Oh Shit! Now I have to do this.”
I set a date to rendezvous with my fear and gathered a few people to go with me because I am what you would call a… Chicken. The day before I had to go it rained, so I thought maybe my dive will be cancelled and I would have a respectable reason to not do it. But it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day with blue skies. Damn it!
As we drove to the skydiving centre I made polite conversation with my co-passenger and grew quieter as the destination got closer. He was quite excited about it and was ready to jump if you said the word so I guess that helped. We filled out the necessary paperwork, which need I say is pretty scary. It absolves you of all your rights including that of an attorney and of any damages. I signed at least a hundred spots and all I could see was “INJURY”, “DEATH”. I thought if I back out now I don’t have a ride home so I stayed on course. We waited 2 hours for our turn and then it happened.
My instructor “ROB” comes to me and says, “I’m not gonna tell you you’ll be alright but I’ll tell you what to do.” Well done sir, very comforting to a person who just signed away all his rights. Anyway, I suited up in what looked like a Blue power ranger outfit and listened to all the life saving instructions which I vaguely remembered. Before I knew it, we were heading to the plane which had a hole instead of a door. As I stepped on I wondered about its stability in turbulence and then had to shut my brain down or I would scream.
As the plane began to climb, I kept looking at the altimeter and wondering how high is 13,000 feet. Looking out the window when I thought we were high enough I looked at the altimeter in my hand and the needle said 3,000 feet. “What?! We are high enough, this thing must be broken”, I remember thinking to myself. But we kept climbing and finally reached a point where I heard “GO! GO! GO!” It was like I woke up from a dream and before I knew it I was on the edge and my tandem jumper was counting down to 3. I personally think they should count down to at least 20 so people like me can acclimatize themselves, but what do I know.
At the count of 3, it happened. I JUMPED OUT OF A PLANE AT 13,000 FEET! (Now that’s a sentence I didn’t think I would ever say sober.) I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen off a wall or a ledge or a tree and felt the sensation you get when there’s nothing beneath your feet and your heart jumps to your mouth for a second. That, in this case, lasted for about 10 seconds. I screamed as a jumped off but I was falling vertically towards the ground probably at about 120 MPH the air filled my mouth and lungs and kinda shut me up. I was unable of rational thought at this point AND I couldn’t scream.
In a few seconds when I caught my breath my tandem jumper brought us in a free fall parallel to the ground so now I could see the cameraman falling parallel with me asking me to pose for pictures and videos. I managed a few smiles and thumbs up signs all the while scared out of my mind.
Before I knew it, I had already fallen about 6,000 feet and I got the signal to open my parachute. As the chute opened and broke my fall, a sense of relief immediately washed over me. And then in a second, my hyperactive, height fearing brain told me I am still dangling about 6,000 feet above the ground and panic returned.
I remember being happy and scared at the same time. It’s pretty much like falling in love for the first time. You’re happy that it’s happening but you’re sacred that it’s all happening too fast and you could hurt yourself (weird, I know!). In due course of time it was time to land and we raced toward the ground. I pulled the strings as instructed and we landed, ON MY ASS. OUCH!! Just like true love.
I could not believe myself. I looked up and then I looked at the parachute on the ground. I could not believe it. I was almost hysterical at this point and could not stop jumping up and down. In a minute or so I got myself to calm down and head back to base.