Eleven years ago, I went skydiving and I didn’t die.
When my then-girlfriend and I arrived, we were immediately given a stack of papers to read, initial and sign. Evidently, skydiving carries certain risks to your health, with death being the main one.
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. I found it odd 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.
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.
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. 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.
We got up to altitude. My girlfriend and her instructor jumped first, which made me realize that either this was no big deal, since if she could do it, so could I, or she was just as dense as I was, 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 bent my knees as I’d been instructed in my seven minutes of training, grabbed my harness straps and wheeeeeeeeeee!
We fell at approximately 56,000 miles per hour for about a minute. Then 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. Suddenly, it was quiet. No wind rushing past. Just serenity. The view was magnificent.
My instructor gave me the parachute controls and had me do some turns, which felt great except for the dizziness and nausea. I gave back the controls and enjoyed the rest of the descent. It was so beautiful, so peaceful.
We came to the ground at an angle and had a smooth landing. My instructor disconnected his harness from mine and we stood up. My videographer later gave me a disc with lots of photos and a five-minute video in which he thoughtfully edited out my screaming.
If you’ve never skydived, add it to your bucket list. It is 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. This is one life experience that I will never forget — at least until Alzheimer’s kicks in.
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