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

-Neil Gaiman


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Freefalling - Part 3: Might as well Jump!

As you could see from the video post, Gino is instructing me exactly what I'm supposed to do, while Bergie (the camera guy) films me. We go over the instructions three times. Once in the tandem room, the once before we get on the plane, then once before we jump.

After acting like a doorknob on camera, I get on the plane. Since I boarded first, that means I will be exiting last, and getting to watch everyone go ahead. This is cool because I'm an observer at heart. You can see exactly what to do OR what not to do by watching the other guinea pigs, and that always seems like an advantage to me.

We are all on the plane; it's a DeHaviland Twin Super Otter, and there is space for about 14 people plus the pilot. Gino points to the altimeter on his wrist and tells me we will be climbing to about 13,000 feet and it will take about 10 minutes. Another first for me is that I've never been in a plane this small before. I tell Gino this and he laughs and so does another guy. "This isn't a small plane," they tell me. Well, if the last plane you've been on is a 747 with space for 400 people, then yes, this is a small plane. The pilot taxis down the field and then guns it; it sounds like a giant John Deere lawnmower. VRRRRRRAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAA! Pretty soon we take off and start climbing dramatically. I'm glad I don't feel nauseated; as a kid I was always the one in the backseat of the car holding the empty ice cream bucket, going, "I don't feel so goooooooooood..."

It wouldn't look good to throw up now; nobody wants to sit near a puker, let alone be tightly attached to one.

After a few minutes we are still climbing but we all take off our seat belts and half turn toward the back of the plane, putting our left arm on the shoulder of the person to our left. Gino says this makes it more comfortable to sit. I look out the window and see the ground getting further away; the fields look like a patchwork quilt.

Soon enough we are leveling off and all the tandem people move to sit on their instructor's lap. Gino pats his knees, "Sit on down." This is not the time to be shy, so I sit on his lap while he attaches everything, even the straps on our legs. I'm feeling a little constricted and squished but I remind myself that it's better than feeling loose. Gino tells me to bend over, exhale, and relax my shoulders; he really pulls down on everything now; it's almost hard to breathe. Now I know what horses feel like when they get saddled. It's not comfortable, but it's necessary.

The back door is open now. Gino runs through one more time what I'm supposed to do, hold onto my harness, waddled to the door, put my toes on the line, let him do everything and don't try to jump, we're just going to fall forward. As soon as I fall forward I'm supposed to arch my back, bring my head up and kick my legs back and up between his like I'm trying to kick his butt. After he taps my arms I will put my arms out and we will fly (fall) for about a minute, while Bergie falls with us and tapes and takes pictures. I'm also supposed to remember to look at Bergie and smile when I throw my gang signs in mid-air. all that? No problemo.

A few of the people are jumping on their own and the first guy just walks up to the door, bends over and dives out. I have a sudden urge to laugh; it seems so utterly ridiculous what we are doing; it goes against every natural human instinct. You don't just stroll up to a plane door at 13,000 feet and hurl yourself out of it. I'm giggling nervously but it's hard to hear anything with the roar of the plane and the fact that I have a very snug leather skull cap on; it reminds me of hearing those weird noises that you hear when you're underwater. Everything sounds very distant and far away.

Other people follow; I watch the first tandem person go. Nobody seems nervous; it's too late now to be scared, even if you are you know you're going anyway, there is a certain calm resignation I see in everyone faces, even if their stomachs are turning over. I'm thinking we are all thinking the same thing, only trying to remember what we're supposed to do, to make sure we all do it right, and this is really all our brains can handle at the moment. I think a certain part shuts down and you just focus on the task at hand, and you will have time when it's done to be afraid and start trembling and shaking. I suppose some people describe this as being a surreal moment and I guess that's an apt description. I'm honestly trying to remember what I was thinking as I stepped up to the line and looked out the door and saw the picture of the fields and sky and clouds and knew I would be bending over into it, but I can't remember a thought. I cannot for the life of me tell you what I was thinking. My little brain could not process anymore at that point.

I was completely awestruck.

Then Gino says to me, "Smile and wave at Bergie."

I turn and look, not really seeing him. I think I smile, but I'm still stunned by the view before me. The land looks like an Amish quilt, a blanket spread out with all the squares and lines and patterns and colors. I'm amazed at how beautiful it is. I hear Gino counting. I bend over as he pushes me forward and we fall out; my eyes are open and I see blue and white and green and gold and red and orange and the wind roars past my face.

We are now in freefall.

Up Next: Freefalling and Parachuting

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