Monday, August 21, 2006
There were snakes on our plane, so we jumped out
We headed out to Skydive Houston Sunday afternoon. It’s located north on 290 out by Hockley. We printed directions from Mapquest, and of course, in true Mapquest fashion, they were wrong. We got a nice tour of the Texas countryside though.
We jumped tandem – a “trained professional” is strapped to you, so instead of having to sit through hours and hours of training you simply sign your life away on several forms, sit through a non-intentionally hilarious video narrated by some guy with a gigantic beard and get about 10 minutes of instruction as you’re being fitted for your harness and ushered off to the plane.
I did notice that the jumpsuits provided for the girls were all actual skydiving suits whereas the jumpsuits provided for the guys were just old Dickies. What’s up with that? I’m bringing my own spandex body suit next jump!
I was thrilled when I found out I was being strapped to the gorgeous 6’-tall tandem instructor. But seriously, how do you impress a girl that spends her weekends jumping out of an airplane?!!!
So we did a lot of sitting around waiting on our turn. We showed up at 2 p.m., and we didn’t actually fly until around 4:30. However, there were plenty of interesting people to chat with while we waited. I actually ran into a guy from my office. Apparently he had already jumped four times and was about to go a fifth. Monetary limitations aside, I’m not sure I could handle that much adrenaline in a day -- I had the adrenaline shakes for like two hours after the one jump.
Our turn to fly finally came around, and we headed out to the plane. It was really cramped with a low ceiling – it felt just like the scenes in little planes in the movies. A couple solo divers jumped before us, but I was the first one from our group to go. To prepare for the jump I had to sit on my instructor Theresa’s lap while she clipped us together and tightened up my harness. I suggested that maybe we should be strapped face to face – you know, for a little extra security (wink, wink) but she wasn’t buying it.
Walking to the door was a little awkward. Being strapped in front you have to lean back with your legs out in front of you – kind of like sitting in a chair, but walking while sitting in a chair. I really wasn’t nervous until we started making the walk to the door. Then, only as I was standing with my toes over the edge of the doorway looking down at the world from 14,000 feet with the cold wind blowing in my face, did I say to myself, “Why the hell am I about to jump out of a plane?”
We didn’t exit with style. I was stiff as a board and Theresa kept tapping me trying to get me to loosen up. There’s something about that feeling of falling. It’s hardwired into my brain to be associated with a hard smack against the water or the ground or whatever I’m jumping or falling on to. The thing about skydiving is there’s no smack – hopefully. Once we were in free fall for a few seconds and I realized there was no immediate smack to be had, I really started enjoying it. I shook hands with the camera man in the air, and he spun us around in circles. It was amazing. The air was rushing over my face at a ridiculous speed. It actually made it kind of hard to breathe just because I couldn’t suck enough air in. Then suddenly, we’ve stopped and we’re just floating over the Texas countryside. It was just total silence as we hung there. Theresa pointed out the Houston skyline to me through the haze on the horizon. Then she let me steer the chute, showed me how to brake, etc. I could have floated all day – drifting in circles on the wind.
Since there were two of us, we had to do a slide landing. Basically you raise your legs and pull the steering cords down all the way right as you get to the ground, and it sets you down on your butt. Apparently that’s the safest way to land with two people because it’s hard to walk anyway when you’re strapped together.
I didn’t realize how much adrenaline I had going until we were on the ground, and Theresa handed me my first jump certificate. My hand was just shaking uncontrollably. The feeling didn’t wear off until at least an hour later when we stopped to eat at PF Chang’s on the way home.
I watched my DVD of the jump when I got home last night, and just watching the freefall section made my heart beat double time. It’s just an amazing feeling.
Will I jump again? Yes. But considering it’s almost $200 a jump, and I'm a poor bastard, probably not anytime soon.