OK, I’m Crazy—Next Question?
Speaking of gravity, it doesn’t seem so benign when you’re two-and-a-half miles over DeLand and powerless to resist its effect on you.
Photo By Scott A. Miller
There are two questions you have to contend with when you tell people you’ve jumped out of a plane:
1. Are you crazy?
2. Did you poop yourself?
The first inquiry is rhetorical. It’s a given that no sane person would do such a thing.
The second question is meant as a joke, but once the laughter dies down, there’s an awkward moment of silence. That’s your cue to admit to what is presumed a natural reaction to the extreme fear that precedes a sudden and fatal encounter. And just to make you feel comfortable with admitting “it,” the curious person standing before you shares that he would definitely have gone, you know, had he leapt out of a plane.
Maybe it was the double-dog-dare years of my boyhood—like the time I climbed a water tower at night, and without shoes on, so I could swim in it—that prepared me to leap out of a plane at 13,500 feet a few months ago. Whatever it was, I had no qualms about making a freefall jump as my initial skydiving experience for the purpose of writing about “out-of-the-ordinary” things to do in Orlando (the theme of our cover feature, page 38). There wasn’t so much as a butterfly fluttering around in my belly. I went to the door of the plane and out I went.
Piece of cake.
Then I froze.
The same thing happened to me after I climbed out of the water tank and began my descent from the 50-foot-high tower. I was 11 at the time and dripping wet as I began to inch my way down the first crossbeam. Panic usurped bravado as my cohorts and I realized the gravity of the situation: A slip or misstep meant injury or worse—our parents finding out what we were up to. We manned up and made it down.
Speaking of gravity, it doesn’t seem so benign when you’re two-and-a-half miles over DeLand and powerless to resist its effect on you. You’re falling—fast. The earth is rushing toward you—fast. Your brain is processing this wildly foreign environment you’ve thrust yourself into and telling you how to survive in it—not!
Houston, we have a problem.
Fortunately, like my trip down from the tower, I was not alone up there. With me were two Skydive DeLand instructors, and the one on my right, Nikki Eliasson, smacked my helmet. The jolt got my brain to power up. I had been out of it for only a few seconds, but in that time my altimeter told me I had lost several hundred feet of altitude. At 5,500 feet, about 50 seconds after I left the plane, I reached behind my back and grabbed the ripcord on my parachute pack. From that moment on, I was on my own, as my handlers peeled away and my chute unfurled, yanking me upward.
It was a pleasant ride to the drop zone, though my landing wasn’t pretty. Still, I walked away from it without a scratch. Oh, and since you’re curious, the answer is “no” on No. 2.
Skydiving is the most daring, extraordinarily fun experience of the 23 we came up with in this issue. If it’s not for you, no problem—just find something else that could interest your adventurous side, like hang gliding.
You would have to be crazy not to try that. It’s a blast.