Sunday, September 28, 2008

DH's High Flying Adventure

This is a post from two years ago when I gifted DH with a tandem sky dive for a wedding/birthday present. Enjoy!

The Journey
DH and I rolled out of bed at about 8 AM which is ridiculously early for a Saturday morning. The need for caffeine was high but so was DH's excitement level. I have printed out directions from the company's website, Google Maps and Mapquest just to make sure we know where we are going. This will be the first time that we cross the border into South Carolina. We know we are in a different type of country after we get off the highway for the remaining 20 mile drive into the middle of nowhere. If by nowhere I mean lots of trailers and junked cars on the side of the road. The strains of Deliverance echo in my head. Unfortunately they are drowned out by DH's radio selection. Hard core rock emanates from the speakers. DH assures me it is this or Christian music. I would have taken the creepy religious lyrics over head pounding rhythms any day. But he's driving so what can I do?

The Skydiving Center

After crossing over two sets of railroad tracks and passing by a very large corn field, DH and I arrive at Skydive Carolina! It is very important to remember that exclamation point. It is integral to the whole experience. After parking the car, DH proceeds to empty out all his pockets and give them to me to hold in my bag. Coincidentally, before we left the apartment that morning I made sure that I had a set of keys and pass to get into the garage. I also make sure that all of Jeremy's insurance policies were up to date with my name as beneficiary. You can never be to careful. As we walk through the pebble filled parking lot, DH stops at the trailer that is really a bathroom which is located about 50 yards from the hanger. This will be the first of many bathroom breaks for DH before he puts his life on the line. Nerves, anyone? We head over to a building labeled "Manifest" which is across from the hanger and a shack that is named appropriately enough, the Snack Shack. Those clever, crazy skydivers! There are a few other people on the deck of the Manifest lounging around just waiting for their opportunity to jump out of an airplane. Surprisingly, no one looks particularly insane. DH and I check in with one of the women manning The Manifest (I have this real urge to call it The Manifesto but things are weird enough at Skydive Carolina! without involving Karl Marx. The woman runs DH through the massive amount of paperwork that he needs to initial, date and sign. Many of you may not know this but Jeremy is very conscientious about reading the fine print before he signs anything. I'm sure Mommy, Esq. would approve. He gets through the first page and a half and an announcement comes over the outside speakers that everyone who is here for their first tandem jump needs to report to Bill who will take us to the training room. The woman tells us to finish up the paperwork later and kindly lets me know that I am welcome to sit in on the training with DH. I'm sure they do this to all the people who accompany the crazies who are planning to jump. There is always the chance that I could be infected and they could score a few hundred more dollars.
The Training

Bill is an older gentleman on the far side of 50, probably passed 60 in fact. He leads us into a small room that has 10 folding chairs. There are pictures and news articles all over the room highlighting the sheer exhilaration that is jumping out of a plane at 14000 feet. I am not impressed. I can tell at this point that DH is getting a little nervous. He's not shaking or anything but is laughing just a bit too loudly at Bill's lame jokes. And he is not alone. Bill says that he has over 7000 jumps. He was in one of the military groups and specialized in air drops. He loved the adrenaline so much that he is still doing it 35 years later. While he is entertaining the crowd all I can do is stare at his very wrinkly, sagging knees. Seriously the man could really benefit from a knee lift. I'm sure it is a legitimate plastic surgery option. Bill fiddles with the AV equipment as as he does so he explains that in this video we are going to learn about lawsuits. Yep, not how to actually prepare for jumping out of a plane but, as he puts it, why the contract Jeremy is signing means that "you can't sue us and even if you do sue us you can't win". DH and I spend a few seconds muttering to each other about the merits of that statement. According to the video (which highlights their skydiving attorney) we can't sue them, the instructors, the pilot, the equipment manufacturing and the cook of the Snack Shack should anything bad happen. Now, I am no Mommy, Esq. but I have to believe that no matter how iron clad a contract is that there is always room for a nice lawsuit. The video now over, Bill launches into his speech about what exactly each person has to do when preparing for a jump, actually jumping and then landing safely. He talks about a mile a minute. Given my experience with Mommy, Esq's speed talking in childhood I have no problem following what he says and fill in any blanks for DH. About 15 minutes after we enter the tacky classroom, all of the attendees are now ready to jump. I'm like, that's it? Seriously? I know that DH will be jumping with another person but what about the practice jumps off a low stage? Shouldn't there me some kind of physical practice? Nope. Everyone is good to go.
Welcome To The Land Of Weird

We head back to The Manifest where DH finalizes his paperwork. We're told that he isn't going to be in the first group jumping as there were too many people who checked in ahead of him. Not knowing how much time we have we decide to check out the Skydive Carolina! store. Upon entering we see two dogs lying by the door. Being dog people we proceed to bend down and talk in baby voices while petting them. We direct a few comments about their cuteness to the sales clerk who mumbles something back. Not really understanding, I look up and quickly glance away again. Why, you ask? Well, I'm not sure how many of you have seen the movie Mask but she is the female version of Rocky. Her lower face is either hideously deformed or she was in a serious accident. Her jaw wasn't really on straight and she didn't appear to have any teeth. She was also drooling a lot. Don't get me wrong, she seemed like a very nice person but it's not every day that I'm confronted with images like that. I'm no Mother Theresa or Angelina Jolie to actively seek that out in third world orphanages. We look through the pathetically small selection of tee-shirts and find one that is not obnoxious and buy it for DH to remember his experience. Transaction completed we head out to the tables by the Snack Shack to wait until his name is called. And to have a smoke too. Ah, I love the South. There were ashtrays everywhere! It was like they were encouraging smoking. I think that it is no coincidence that many of the skydive instructors are smokers. It's like they don't get enough of a thrill from falling 150 miles an hour, they also have to play with death through nicotine and tar. While we are sitting there, a tall, lanky, mulleted shirtless guy with one leg starts playing basketball. Looking beyond him I see an older gentleman who is also missing a leg. I nudge DH and ask him if he thinks they got that from skydiving. He is not amused.

DH's Big Jump

After waiting under the hot sun for about 40 minutes, DH's name is called. In the interim I spend my time reading and DH strains his neck looking up in the air for the divers that just went up. He's chain smoking at this point. Fortunately everyone lands safely. I feel better, don't you? My job, aside from being the adoring wife, is to document this whole experience via my digital camera. I traipse along after DH as he proceeds into the hanger to "suit up". He is introduced to his instructor, Chuck, who picks out a flight suit for DH. Chuck will be jumping in shorts. Once the flight suit is on, then comes the harness. He has DH try on a leather helmet with goggles to make sure his glasses won't fly off in mid jump. At this point the videographer, Robin, joins us. It is Robin's job to follow DH and Chuck around and film the whole experience. He will jump with them and take pictures of the experience. Now, I think that I have a pretty accurate gaydar but I can't tell if Robin is two steps off Broadway or two steps off the Valley. Either way he's high energy and "totally stoked". The announcer tells us, "Jumpers, please head out to the plane." I snap a few more pictures of DH as he cross the gate beyond which "NO SPECTATORS ARE ALLOWED". I wave a few times and the plane heads up to 14,000 feet. I'm sure DH will make you all watch his video and describe the exact experience but let me sum it up for you. 14,000 feet: jump. Free fall. 5,000 feet: deploy parachute. Land. The whole thing took about 15 minutes. I spent a lot of time staring up into the bright sun trying to look for the tandem jumper with shorts. I had no idea what color DH's shoot would be (ended up being a patriotic red, white and blue) so I spent a lot of time taking pictures of random jumpers. DH lands and proceeds to shoot the shit with his instructor and videographer for a while. He is the last one through the gate back into The Land Of Weird.

The Aftermath

DH is practically jumping out of his skin with adrenaline. He strips (dirty!) out of his flight suit and we're told that it will be 15 minutes before we will have the CD with video and stills. We sit at the picnic tables and people watch as he tells me about the whole experience. He definitely wants to do it again. I'm a nice, loving wife who has an insurance policy on her husband (which will be increased dramatically) and I tell him that this could be his "thing". Most people pick up golfing but DH has skydiving. He's all about the rush, I guess. Finally, CD in hand, we walk back to the car and say good-bye to Skydive Carolina! It was an interesting day and if DH has his way, it will be repeated in other states. I don't plan on accompanying him again.
Footnote: Two years later and DH has yet to repeat the experience but he still wants to do it again.

1 comment:

A. said...

8 am is ridiculously early for a Saturday morning? Ha! Just wait until that bambino pops out.

You're a far braver woman than me - I could not have watched M. jump, no matter how large our insurance policies are!