Friday, July 29, 2005

Plane Crazy

Sophie called me one evening while I was watching a movie in my small, one bedroom, San Francisco apartment on Lombard Street -- and yes, that is the curly one, but eight blocks west towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Scott, how would you like to go parachuting with me and Brian," she asked me sweetly in her sing-song French accent, diluted by years of residency in the states.

"I've always wanted to try it!" I exclaimed.

"I know," she replied, "now you have no choice but to go through with it."

"Ok, I'm in. I'll see if Eric wants to go to."

The four of us met at Yolo County Airport, a dusty airstrip in the middle of rural farm country, somewhere between San Francisco and Sacramento. Sophie and Eric were apparently good to go, feeling no pain and looking forward to the jump, while Sophie's husband Brian was turning pale. My anticipation was building too, so Brian and I tried to rally one another while our counterparts picked fun at us.

Our jump was to be from thirteen thousand feet, with an instructor secured to our backs with a tandem harness. We were separated into groups and told what to do, and assured that if our first chute didn't deploy, a backup would deploy automatically at 2000 feet.

We filed into the plane like army ants, and took our seats inside the cabin. I was the second to last in line, which made me the second jumper to go. Three guys sporting California tans sat by the open side door wearing nothing but shorts and chutes, and were chattering amongst themselves. They jumped out one after the other at eleven thousand feet, screaming like wild monkeys. I was reminded of Point Break and felt a surge of envy.

When we reached our elevation, the man in front of me, a mellow looking Mexican man, took his place at the edge of eternity, froze solid and refused to move. After some cajoling, he finally jumped. Then it was my turn.

After watching my predecessor's embarrassing display, I was determined to go without pause. I stepped to the edge and looked at the green and brown checkerboard below me, and nearly lost my nerve. The instructor was yelling something at me that I couldn't make out, but I bent me knees and leaned over the edge, only held up by the instructors resistance. He gave up on saying it, and grabbed my hair and yanked my head back, as I was taught to do before, and finally let us teeter overboard.

We twisted in the air to look up at the receding plane, already the size of a child's toy. We turned back towards the ground, and the rush of air was intense, like riding on a motorcycle with no helmet on a desert road at full throttle. I felt like Bruce Banner as he transforms into the Incredible Hulk; every inch of my body was electric.

The instructor grasped my wrist and pushed my arm down. We spun like a helicopter blade, and I had to close my mouth and tighten my stomach before it came out like a bad meal. It nearly did me in as I panicked to lift it back up, but he held down tight, the shock of which angered and shamed me to a degree, so I upped the ante and jerked my arm farther down, which spun us even faster. It felt like a hammer ride I once rode at a carnival, where the G forces were so intense that my face felt like it was clamped in a vise. It was his turn to panic, and he yanked furiously at my arm, but I didn't budge -- right away. I let up when my point was made.

He was none to happy with me when we hit the ground, but the adrenaline coursing through my veins dulled my ability to care. I unstrapped while I watched the three half naked guys shoving at one another.

"Don't hit me from behind like that man!" The one yelled. Apparently they had also watched Point Break and were reenacting some crazy scenes.

Brian landed next and was just as jacked as I was, and we hurriedly told each other of our experience, with the instructor still glaring at me nearby. Sophie and Eric landed soon after, and both were worse for the wear, looking like extras for The Night of the Living Dead.

"Jesus! Are you ok Sophie," I asked.

"I think I'm going to be sick."


Mrs.T said...

I am not sure I could ever do this. I'd love to say, Yeah Id totally do it.. but I just can't.

mr. schprock said...

Nice description, Scott. I might give that a try someday.

Mr. T said...

Its something I've always wanted to try... just never the chance.

Beth said...

My husband would do this in a heartbeat. I would wait on land for his descent. =)

jenbeauty said...

I have never wanted to jump out of an airplane. There is enough to get me killed right here on the ground.

And your friend getting sick, that would be me.

Scott said...

Thanks everyone, I was hooked, really loved it, but I never went again. There is only so much time in this life for hobbies, and I chose a different path.