Forty has been an epic celebration. One of the highlights of my two full weeks of celebrating? Hurling my body out of an airplane at 13,000 feet. Another item crossed off my life list.
I’m still shocked that I did it. I have become a bit of a nervous flyer in my old age, frequently having to remind myself that it is not OK to hold a perfect stranger’s hand when there is turbulence. This, coupled with the fact that Byron has a fairly serious fear of heights, made us an unlikely pair to voluntarily toss ourselves out of a moving airplane. A perfectly nice, safe plane.
Byron surprised me with the tandem skydive. He told me the night before, just before bed. I actually guessed. He had said only that we were going somewhere where we were going to do an activity that required loose clothing. Oh, he also mentioned the possibility that said activity might make me vomit. Happy birthday to me.
After dozen of guesses — Were we going on a roller coaster? Participating in an eating contest? — I guessed skydiving and bingo! I thought I was grasping at straws, clearly, because I would never date a man who would take me to an eating contest for my 40th. I mean, gawd, I’m not in college anymore! A 40-year-old woman jamming hot dogs into her mouth, one after the other, is just unseemly. Which is why I was hoping it was going to be a cupcake eating contest.
But skydiving! Yay!
The next morning we got up and drove to Lodi. When we arrived I was really glad that I’d had a few hours to get used to the idea of parachuting out of an airplane. If I had seen the hand-painted “Skydiving” sign on the side of the highway or the rundown hangar the school operates out of, I may have been a little freaked out without some time to warm up to the idea.
Within 30 minutes we were tethered to instructors (blessedly, not to one another, though the equipment does look like some sort of BDSM accessory) and being led to the airplane. By then I had adopted the attitude that at least skydiving would be a cool way to die.
The ride up was like being on the world’s fastest roller coaster, with the plane corkscrewing up to 13,000 feet in a matter of minutes. We sat, strapped to our instructors on benches down either side of the airplane, holding hands for parts of the ride. I gave Byron one last kiss, just in case.
And then the door opened and next thing I knew the man in front of me was gone. All I could see were his feet dangling in mid-air. This is just WRONG! I remember thinking. But then it was my turn to somersault out of the airplane. So I did.
What I remember most is the noise; it was deafening. Considering my hearing was compromised thanks to skyrocketing up so quickly in an unpressurized airplane, I can only imagine how loud it really was. The other thing I remember is how close the camera man was to me as I dove. I kept worrying that I might crash into him or accidentally kick him in the head. Geez, I really need to learn to stop worrying about other people. I did need to remind myself during the free fall to keep breathing, not because I was panicking but because there was so much wind going into my nose and mouth that it was difficult.
I was calm through the entire jump. Some weird protective thing happened in my brain that kept me from really appreciating what was happening to me. I think my mind just short-circuited. I remember thinking, “Holy shit! I am plummeting to the Earth at maximum velocity!” I must have blanked out for a second or two because next thing I knew I was having the same thought.
“HOLY SHIT! I AM PLUMMETING TO THE EARTH AT MAXIMUM VELOCITY!” But this time the Earth was quite a bit closer.
Once we landed, I was completely and utterly dazed. I forgot where I was, who I was with, that Byron even existed for a minute or two. When he landed and we hugged, I just burst into tears.
Neither of us really knew what to say. We just walked to the car and drove pretty much in silence for a few minutes, until one of us said, “I can’t believe we just did that!” And then we laughed and talked like two hysterical crackheads for three hours straight, about almost nothing but the skydive. I laughed for the rest of the night. Not even many, many drinks could dull the adrenaline high.
It was the Best. Gift. Ever. And I highly recommend that all of you try it.
To view a video of the jump, click here. (And, no, I am not pregnant. The wind up there just makes me look like I am taking my 6-month-old fetus on a joy ride.)
And, just as a side note, when I got the photos of my jump, half the disc was full of pictures of what appears to be a dwarf skydiving. Now that is brave.