Saturday morning the thermometer read 32 degrees- yes, freezing my friends. I was scheduled to arrive at Sky Dive Carolina, located in Chester, SC at 9am sharp. After registering and signing not 1 extensive waiver but 4, releasing the school from any liability in the event of my injury or possible death, I ran to the bathroom for my first nervous tinkle of the morning.
In the lobby were other first time tandem jumpers, most of whom were barely 21 years old and college students at USC. Yes, it's true I was the oldest person jumping that morning. Okay, not including the already trained professionals. Actually, I wasn't sure why I was the oldest person there, but I can tell you that it was not at all comforting for my 45 year-old ego.
So, first you sign your life away, agreeing that even your future heirs may never sue the skydiving company for anything. Then your group is taken into a room for actual jumping instructions. Part 2 was a hilarious instruction video featuring a lawyer (in suit and tie) reminding you that you just signed your rights away. Should you chicken out at this point, your $50 deposit is gone forever. Seriously, the video in all fairness gave you the basics: Keep your chin up, cross your arms and arch your back when exiting the plane. Landing correctly was also briefly demonstrated because each tandem instructor has his own method hitting the ground safely. Again, such comforting advice.
Next, an cool instructor entered the room and said, "Uh so did you watch the video?" "Any questions, ha ha?" He was wearing a jumpsuit unzipped to the waist, and spoke in this like totally surfer dude language. I thought he just woke up and hadn't had his first cup of coffee yet this morning. Nice... Nobody asked too many questions. I think we were all too afraid of being the stupid one in the class, raising our hand only to be humiliated. I dunno. Maybe I'm wrong. So, I leaned over to my husband and said, "Okay this is what you do for exit, this is what you do for landing right?" He nodded. Time for nervous tinkle #2 which would be my last before my jump.
At this point we were suited up in a lovely gray jumpsuit, a rubberized helmet and goggles that reminded me of Madonna's bra, all pointy and uncomfortable. We walked outside and into the hangar with our instructors and were put into harnesses suitable for beasts of burden. Two straps between the legs, straps at the shoulders and another belt around the waist. My instructor kind of lifted me up and into my harnesses and then began the fun process of tightening each individual belt to the point of killing any circulation in my lower half.
I chose to have my adventure photographed and videotaped so my camera man Quincy began to pepper me with questions. He was in my face every second on the ground and in the plane. And then of course, he jumped out of the plane a second before my jump so he could record my exit and take lovely still photos of me, mid-air screaming JESUS! or AWESOME! He encouraged the thumbs up sign too, alot. I think he was also there to remind us jumpers to breathe because it is a known fact that first timers tend to hold their breath and panic :)))
I can honestly say this was the biggest thrill ride of my life and it was over all too soon. Free falling is an amazing experience and my instructor also let me steer the parachute right or left. After the initial fear of jumping out of the plane, everything else allows you to see God's beauty and creation first hand. It was amazing and I look forward to Jump #2 next spring... So for now, I proudly cross this item off my 101. Another fear conquered, another amazing story for this middle-aged mama. P.S. My instructor's name was Alan. Coincidence? I think not.
Until next time breathe.