Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Sky Isn’t Falling – I Am

I scratched off another bucket list item recently: skydiving. I had heard that it was even better than sex, which piqued my interest because I was looking forward to an activity in which I didn’t have to pretend to be interested in someone’s inane stories about her honor roll children or her mother’s hysterectomy.

In the days leading up to this adventure I was not the least bit nervous because although I’d never jumped out of an airplane, I had gotten married 10 years earlier, so I already had experience regretting bad decisions.

When my girlfriend and I arrived at the skydiving place, we were immediately given a stack of papers to read, initial and sign. Evidently – and this is something you might want to keep in mind – skydiving carries certain risks to your health, with death being the main one. This is really no concern, though, since statistically you are more likely to be killed by O.J. Simpson.

These papers contained a lot of made-up words such as “absolution” and “exculpate”. Obviously they were written by a lawyer who got a thesaurus for Christmas. What I found odd was that the company that owned this place of business was called Uninsured United Parachute Technologies LLC. Wouldn’t it be great if all businesses were named so honestly?  For example, the Motor Vehicle Administration could be called “Slow, Apathetic Bureaucracy Inc.” So could Congress.

After signing away all rights for legal compensation, we paid them enough money to supply Lindsay Lohan with cocaine for a month. We then received special skydiving training. Since we were doing “tandem”, which is when you are strapped to an instructor who basically does all the work, our training consisted of a few deep knee bends, some hip thrusts, and making sure that we spoke English. This is very important because when you’re ready to jump and the instructor tells you to bend your knees, and you don’t understand him, he has to knock you unconscious with a tire iron, which makes you miss most of the fun.

We got harnessed up and, since we had selected the pictures-and-video option, which cost only an extra week’s salary, a couple of guys snapped photos and did interviews that went something like this:

“What are you doing with that skydiving harness on?”
“I’m going skydiving.”
“Are you excited?”
“I just peed a little.”

Before we knew it we were walking toward a plane that looked much like the one shown at the end of Casablanca, only not as modern. In order to start the engine they had to hook a bunch of car batteries to it. Apparently it is standard operating procedure for skydivers to bet their lives on a flying contraption that Amelia Earhart wouldn’t get in.

So, about 15 of us -- mostly instructors and camera guys -- took off into the wild blue yonder. As we ascended I felt, for the first time, butterflies in my stomach. Then I realized that it was actually that morning’s breakfast, or perhaps the previous night’s baked beans, snaking its way through me.

A few minutes later it was time for us to go. As my instructor and I stood up, with him strapped to me like a human backpack, I thought about making a prison joke, but decided against it inasmuch as he would be the only thing making sure I didn’t die while I screamed and possibly pooped.

My girlfriend and her instructor went before me, which made me realize that either 1) this was no big deal, since if a woman can do it, so can I; or 2) she is just as dense as I am, which would explain why she agreed to go out with me in the first place.

When I got to the death portal, or whatever they call that big opening where you jump out, the view was just as huge and ominous as I’d imagined. I was not very scared because I kept in mind that all these guys had done this hundreds of times, so I was in very good hands. Plus I’d already lived through a number of worse things, such as financial devastation, a severely broken heart, and Showgirls.

I bent my knees as I’d been instructed in my seven minutes of training, grabbed my harness straps, and wheeeeeeeeeee!

The feeling could be best described as freedom. Free falling with no feeling of gravity, obligations or worries. Just a beautiful view of the sky and ground.

I thrust my hips forward and arched my back as I’d been instructed. My videographer maneuvered his way over to film me, at one point grabbing my hands (his camera was attached to his helmet). A little while later my instructor pulled the cord to open the chute. It felt as though I were being lifted upward (in reality my descent was being greatly slowed). All of a sudden it was quiet. No wind rushing past. Just serenity. The view was still magnificent.

My instructor gave me the parachute controls and had me do some turns, which felt great except for the dizziness and nausea. I then enjoyed the rest of the descent. It was so beautiful, so peaceful. It was like a slice of heaven. None of the earthly problems and irritations that we endure. No traffic. No pollution. No crime. No schedules. No a-hole bosses. No jerks criticizing or taking advantage. I find it ironic that most people are afraid to skydive when there are so many unpleasant things that happen to us on the ground.

We came into the landing area at an angle. I slid on my heels and butt, and it was much easier than I had imagined. My instructor disconnected his harness from mine and I stood up. My videographer did one last interview before I headed back inside. Later he gave me a disc with lots of photos and a five-minute video.

This was one of those life experiences that I will never forget, at least until the Alzheimer’s kicks in. It felt wonderful to leap into the abyss, with no need to hold onto anything, and enjoy freedom and beauty unfettered by the problems of this world. I could really get hooked on skydiving.

But I still enjoy sex more.


At 11:53 PM, Blogger Anne Beggs said...

The pictures were great, but this blog is truly fantabulous. Amelia Earhart. And I can't believe they didn't ask if you had an advanced directive.

Thanks for sharing this event in such joyous fashion.

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Stein said...

Thanks Ben. You almost made me snot.


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