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Falling

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I imagined “Drop Zone” and “Terminal Velocity.” But it was a tandem jump so we jumped out at 14,000 feet and not an inch higher in my altimaginationmeter. Looking back, and if given the choice though, it would have been at about 100,000 so the descent would be that much longer. The instructor, on my back as if a human backpack, turns us on our backs so were free-falling. At this point I saw the belly of the plane. It was hilarious when my wife told me about her experience, when they turned on their backs and saw the belly of the same plane, her life literally flashed before here eyes and was scared shitless like she was falling to her death. It was weird for me because I have acrophobia, but only when I’m looking down from a building, a bridge, or some high place (during our Vegas vacation, we went on the ride atop the Stratosphere called X-Scream. I thought I was gonna shit my pants).

But I was calm and serene until probably 3 steps before looking down from the door. When I did, I was like, “Let’s do this!” The free-fall was amazing, with the air violently pressing against your face and you can see everything as if you were Superman (more on that later). Then all of a sudden, the instructor flipped us (still getting used to say “us” as if we were a couple engaging in an intimate dance while hurtling down from the sky) over on our bellies and proceeded to spin rapidly — as if we were a spinning top — first clockwise, after which I gave a thumbs-up, which in my mind was, “I’m OK now that it’s over.” But before I even finished forming those words in my mind, he spun counter-clockwise, and at this point it felt like my brain was being scrambled like an egg, so I frantically gave two thumbs up. Without saying a word, it felt as if he was gonna spin again so I panicked and gave two thumbs down. He stopped. I think he understands. Skydiving hand signals should probably be part of the orientation. Maybe the guy with the most awesome beard in the orientation video can show us some ways we can communicate with the instructor without resorting to slapping, head-butting, or kicking him in the nuts.

After that he pulled the cord at 7,000 feet and — I don’t know how to describe it — it felt like somebody yanked you from a lethal free-fall (is there any other kind?). The descent slowed down significantly at this point. The thoughts that occurred to me range from, “This is amazing,” “I’m actually doing this,” “WOW,” “It’s nice up here,” “So this is what flying feels like,” to “Shit, I gotta do Superman!” and so I do it. I stretched out my right hand, at the end of which is a balled fist, and my left hand right by my side, in a balled fist as well. I could get used to that. The flying superhero part, I mean. I have never had a doubt when answering the immortal question, “What superpower would you prefer to have, given the choice and opportunity?” But now that I’ve experienced it first-hand, I am more certain. My wife and sister-in-law had a good laugh after I told them about this, because they say I’m such a dork that I’d be the only one who thought about doing that. Of course I know they’re wrong.

At about 5,000 feet (of course I couldn’t have seen his altimeter so I pulled that number out of my ass — figuratively, of course), we floated as if a leaf from a tree — a very tall tree, maybe Jack’s beanstalk — and the instructor did the maneuvers swiftly but deftly, left, then right, then left, then right, you get it, in a series of turns and yanks, until we were directly atop the landing site. We talked the entire duration of the parachuted descent… what my favorite part was, to which I said, “This slow descent,” and I volunteered that the worst part was the spinning — to which he chuckled, “I thought you liked that!” Good thing he understood what the two thumbs down meant. He has jumped 4400 times — just a little bit more than me, he assured. He has jumped in the Philippines (at the airport, probably for some airshow or event of that nature). I say that skydiving must never get old — and he agreed, maybe not so patronizingly. He has not tried skyboarding or skysurfing because it’s old school, that “people don’t do that anymore.” That was probably the response that shocked me to this day. Well, pardon me, Mr. Extreme.

Right before the landing he told me to lift my legs and touch the ground at the right time so I won’t slide on my rear… which I did, clearing my doubts about my eye-foot coordination (I was always better at handling one thing at a time — eye-hand and eye-foot — but never anything like drumming. I suck at the drums on Rockband.) Bitin ako. Ang bilis. My adrenaline was still coursing through my blood as I get up and take off the harness. I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the high points of my life. No pun intended.

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