Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Guess It's Reassuring that it's "Skydiving" not "Skydying"

Seven years ago I was a hunk of human man meat, hurtling towards the earth at 120 MPH, terminal velocity. That's right, that was the one and only time I ever engaged in the act of skydiving, and this is the story.

Skydiving is a series of points of no returns. I signed up for the jump in Madison, WI and we were taking a bus down to Chicago for the jump. Signing up in Madison and putting down the $60 deposit was a point of no return. The next day when I got on the bus was a point of no return. When the door closed, point of no return. Getting out in Chicago, point of no return.

Skydiving Jumpsuit
The jumpsuit is definitely the most
fashion forward point of no return
In the cashier's office they had an article The Chicago Times wrote about the place. The article mentioned in its “20 years in the business, only nine fatalities have occurred.” On one hand that's reassuring, because it's relatively low. But on the other hand... what caused those deaths? It didn't elaborate, which drove an extra pang of fear into an already stressed body. Oh, and point of no return.

Once arriving at the jumpsite, the point of no returns kept coming faster and faster. Pay the $90 to do the jump, no return. Have the “skydiving class” where the “skydiving teacher” explains how scary it will be, no return. Fitted for a jumpsuit and goggles, no return. Get on the jump plane. Get strapped into a burly skydiving guy. Plane takes off. Plane crosses 3,000 feet. Plane crosses 6,000 feet. Plane reaches jump altitude. Person in front of you goes. Burly man who you're still strapped to starts walking you towards the door.

No point of no return is scarier than when your knees are jutting over the edge of a perfectly good airplane. You so don't want it to be a point of no return, but the burly guy strapped to you makes it a point of no return.

With a count of three, we fling out of the window. And with the flinging out the window, I immediately black out. I come to about five seconds later and I see the earth hurtling at me at a rate that's far too fast to even think. I react in the only way possible by yelling a profanity at the top of my lungs. My profanity rhymed with “I really should not be falling at this rate. I very well could hit a truck.” Yet the ground keeps rushing at me. With all the air hitting me, nobody hears my yell. I keep falling.

There's a point in the jump where you're supposed to pull the ripcord and have the lifesaving parachute launch out of your pack. With my arm flopping around (due to the massive influx of wind hitting it) I thought I had zeroed in on when I was supposed to pull the cord. I started reaching to it, when suddenly the parachute shot up.

The burly man had pulled it.

“We needed to do that 10 seconds ago,” he said as we floated down to the earth at a much slower rate than we had previously been moving.

While I did live to tell this tale, it did have an effect upon me. I made this jump over seven years ago. While some of the details have washed away due to the deficiencies of memory, what will always remain is the reverberations of my profanity echoing all through out the Chicago skyline. I can still hear it even now.

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