You can know anything. It's all there. You just have to find it.

-Neil Gaiman


Monday, October 27, 2008

Freefalling - Part 1

I finally did my skydive last Saturday, and since I lived to tell, I will tell all about it now in disturbing detail.

On Saturday morning I roused myself out of bed; I hadn't slept that well, I tend to ruminate WAY TOO MUCH about things and this kind of reminded me of the first time I did the marathon. Waking up and wondering how things are going to go, what is going to happen, and wondering if I will be able to handle it.

I tend to handle things just fine when they happen. I almost turn into a robot, and I think this has something to do with the way I rehash things in my mind, working over every possible scenario, every morbid detail that could happen, and then I think about the things that could happen that I haven't even thought of yet. The result of this is both good and bad. It's good that I usually am not surprised by anything.

The bad thing is that this train of thought can be exhausting.

Because this very well could be my last day on earth I have a decision to make. What to have for breakfast, or as I called it, my possible last meal. I know that every day can be your last day but this is something you don't usually go around mulling over because if you did you'd probably drive yourself nuts and confine yourself in your house with the shades pulled down, wearing a ratty bathrobe and muttering about the coming apocalypse. That's no way to go through life.

But because today I was doing something that could very well end my life quicker than planned I was thinking about things on a deeper level. Like what to eat for breakfast. I certainly wasn't going to waste it on a bowl of instant oatmeal, I can tell you that.

If this was going to be the end, I was going to go out in style. It was going to be the golden arches all the way, baby.

"McDonald's," I say to Matt. "Maybe we should also stop at Caribou coffee."
"Caribou and McDonalds!" Matt was nonplussed. "Isn't that a little extravagant?"
"Fine, make the coffee at home."

I try to figure out what to wear. Comfort is key, but it is also about 40 degrees outside, supposedly warming up to the fifties. I know it will be pretty cold up in the airplane. I decide on nylon running pants, two T-shirts, my running shoes and fleece jacket. I know I will probably be wearing a jumpsuit over my clothes so I try to pick things that aren't too bulky. I don't really want to look like the Michelin Man on film. The camera adds 10 lbs., you know.

The skydive place is over in Wisconsin, so we stop at the McDonald's outside Hudson. The place is jumping, and watching all the teenagers and retirees working the counter and drive-thru brings back horrible memories of when I worked at McDonalds when I was a teenager. I try to repress them and I order an Egg McMuffin AND a Sausage McGriddle. Yes, it's kind of disgusting when I realize that between the two sandwiches I have eaten approximately 800 calories in 4 minutes, but today is not the day to quibble about sodium and fat content.
"You are totally worth it," I coo to my McGriddle.

Matt scarfs down 2 Bacon McGriddles and a hash brown and examines his Monopoly game pieces. "Crap." He throws them down. "Nothing."

We arrive at the place a little before 11 a.m. It is still cloudy and cold and the clouds are hanging very low. I wonder how cool it would be to fall through them and what it will feel like. I go and check in, pay my money and go to a little room with about 6 other people to sign waivers and watch a video. All of us are doing the tandem jump so the training is minimal.

We sign a ten page document that says we can't sue for any reason, even if we die, or land in a tree, or break both our legs, or a bird shits on us, we can't sue, or if we die none of our family can sue. Then we watch a short video. At first I think this video is kind of a joke: it looks like it was made in 1970 and the guy sitting at the desk talking about the legal document we've just signed looks like he belongs in ZZ Top. His beard is actually touching the desk, and it jiggles and waves when he talks. I look around at everyone else, and we're all like, "Is this for real?" I can't even concentrate on what he's saying because I keep expecting him to jump up and rip off the fake beard and scream, "Gotcha!"
But he doesn't. It's completely serious.

We all turn in our forms (which no one really read anyway, because if anyone had actually read the thing they'd be sitting there all afternoon). Then we get paired up with our jump masters.

We all had to write down our weight on the form, and I hesitated a moment since I haven't weighed myself in a while. I decide that this is certainly not a place to be lying. I have a horrible thought of being given a harness that is for a much lighter person and then having all the buckles break when the chute is deployed. I imagine that I plummet to the ground, and then all the instructor's say something like, "Yep, another one lying about her weight. Again." I decide to put away all vanity at this point and round the number up to be safe.

My tandem master is Gino, and I like him immediately. He is quite a bit older than some of the other guys and this reassures me. I know it would be kind of exciting to be strapped to some young studly dude, but in this case all I care about is professional experience. I think the jump will be plenty exciting all by itself, thank you. My train of thought is this: older man = wiser man that has more training and composure if something crazy happens.

This becomes more evident when he helps me into my jumpsuit and puts the harness on me, carefully folding the extra nylon straps and tucking them in tight. I comment on this.
"Yeah," he says. "Have you ever ridden a motorcycle at 120 miles an hour?"
"You don't want anything flapping around, not only could it hurt, it's just really annoying."
I like my jumpsuit. It's black, royal blue, and has red accents on the side. I know I look totally cool. Gino gives me a pair of black and yellow gloves. "It will be pretty chilly up there." Then he picks out a hat and goggles. The first hat is a little loose, so he rummages around in a bin for a smaller one.

He then proceeds to pull out what I can only call the UGLIEST HAT IN THE WORLD. It looks like a fifty year-old dirty diaper. I almost say something but I can't. I'm thinking that this poop helmet is going to make me look stupid; I had a good outfit going on and this hideous cap didn't match, and because I was spending extra money to have a video made and pictures taken I wanted to look somewhat cool. I now realize that I'm never going to look cool. Not when I was a kid. Not when I was a teenager. And certainly not now. Even when I'm doing something that qualifies as pretty frickin' cool, there will always be something to make me look dumb.

Sometimes I think the universe might let me get close to touch some supreme coolness, but then a shit-head hat will plop down on me to remind me who I really am...


I don't want Gino to think I'm some stupid, superficial girl so I put it on. Then I put the goggles on and Matt takes a picture of me. It's blurry because he's laughing and shaking the lens. I look like I'm ready to board the short bus to a mental institution.

Then we all go outside to the field, and the sun is shining and the sky is blue. We make our way to the plane.

Up next...the actual jump.

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