We couldn't have asked for a better day. The air was cool and crisp, and the sky clear and blue. After years of talking about it, Jason and I had finally decided to try sky diving. Granted, it would just be a tandem jump, but neither of us had the scratch required for the full course needed to be cleared for solo jumps. Still. We were finally doing it. Later that day we would both plummet 14000 feet, a free fall time of thirty seconds, followed by roughly 5 minutes of gently floating on a parachute. We couldn't wait.
I met Jason at his house early (for us) that morning and we headed out to San Marcos to meet his friend Daryl, and Darryl's girlfriend Tracy. This was to be her Valentine's Day present. The conversation en route was filled with wild speculation concerning sky diving, life, death, insurance, wills, and if the video was worth 75 bucks.
We were gleeful as we arrived, our euphoria further spurred by the sights of the parachutes in the sky, and bumper stickers on the cars that proclaimed the motto "Shut up and jump." Quickly we found our friends, and the proper introductions were made. In a funny series of coincidences, I had actually met Tracy before at my job. My store had accused her once of shoplifting. Oops. Luckily, it had been a rather understandable misunderstanding at the time, and so became an amusing anecdotal story that ended up sending Jason into giggle fits.
Quickly we checked in and were sent to watch the warning video and start on the rather lengthy process of initials and signatures needed for the waiver. Finally finishing that chore, we were sent to pay our dues, and in the end, both Jason and I ended up with the video also. After all, it wasn't everyday you fell out of a plane, and our friends would undoubtedly require verifiable proof that said event took place.
Next, it was just a matter of waiting three hours for our turn. We passed time by wandering the small area, chatting with numerous other folks, taking pictures of various people skydiving, and practicing juggling tricks. Eventually our number was up and we were called to the desk to meet our tandem partners, the experienced instructor who would be responsible for deploying our chute, for keeping us from killing ourselves inadvertently. My instructor started things off by accusing me of lying about my weight. After much reassuring on my part and Jason's, we finally convinced him that I really am a scrawny bastard, we were off to slip into the sleek, fashion savvy, neon green jump suits. Instructions, sneakers, and goggles were given to us, and were ready to go.
At least so we thought. More waiting would insue, now we spent it adjusting goggles, excited banter, and importantly, an introduction with our cameramen. They were pretty easy to pick out, honestly...the cameras duct taped to the helmets were a dead give away. Jason has always been chatty, and struck up a conversation rather rapidly, at least until he realized that the camera man was filming him. Suddenly Jason become a bit on the tongue tied side, and soon clammed up. Luckily, the plane taxied up at that point, and off we went, our camera men filming our approach, as if we were the crew of the space shuttle.
The plane was a small affair, and we were facing towards the back, where the door we would soon exit was. I was closest, and couldn't wait...finally, it was almost time. Upward and upward we spun, rapidly rising to the necessary altitude, and my tandem mate snapped us together. It had been decided that between Jason and I, I would be the first out of the door. I was asked if I was ready, and enthusiastically I yelled yes. My camera man opened the door, and climbed out onto the tail of the plane, holding onto a handle designed for just such a maneuver as he waited for us.
A tap on my shoulder, and then I was duck walking forward, we turned and I looked out, staring at the distant squares of land that looked like a patchwork quilt, so far away. I couldn't wait to go, and in my excitement forgot about the camera. My instructor yelled at me to look right and give a big yell, and so I did, hollering and whooping into the camera as we leaned forward and then we were...
The wind ripped past me, so loud in my ears it sounded like a thunderstorm pounding on aluminum siding. My cheeks billowed and flapped as I laughed and grinned in sheer, unadulterated glee. The ground was rushing, rushing, faster and faster but always so far away. I looked up and there was my camera man right with me, moving around and around me giving me the thumbs up. On and on and on and on and on we fell, arms and legs outstretched. Thirty seconds was an eternity, and sensation washed over you in a steady flood.
Then the chute was pulled and my body jerked upwards, legs awkwardly flinging below me and all became utterly still. I watched the camera man continue his plumet, dropping far below me. The instructor shouted into my ear, telling me to look up at my bro, and there he was, coming out of the air plane, tumbling downward just as I did. I watched him fall rapidly, shooting downward, even past me in his free fall until finally his own chute was deployed. Then my tandem partner told me to reach up and grab onto the handles, to take control. He had me pull harder and harder to the left until we were spinning, and then had me relax the left hand and yank upon the right. This is the first time I felt my stomach drop out as my body suddenly began to spin back the other way, seeming to lay me down in the air for an instant as inertia flips me. Then I was in another spin, until I slowly released the handels and let the instructor take back over. He told me to pull my legs up, and then to start pumping my legs like I'm running. We set down and I tried to stand woozily, still high on adrenaline and thrill, wishing desperately that I could go again as I was unlatched from the instructor and gave him the necessary high five. Jason touched down a few minutes later and we rejoiced.