Friday, July 11, 2008


My mother called two weeks ago and said, "Hey, we're going skydiving. Wanna come?"

"Wait a minute, you are going skydiving?"

"I think so. Why, what do think? Should I do it?"

The woman refuses to take her Fosamax because there's a 0.0001% chance it might rot her jaw off, but she'll consider flying her osteoporotic ass 14,000 feet into the air and then jumping towards the dirt.

Of course, I told her to go for it.

My mom, my brother, and my sister were all going to jump out of a plane. Unfortunately, I was out of town when they made their appointments. (Yes, you need an appointment. This ain't no Great Clips.) But then, some sort of parachute unfriendly weather blew in and they had to cancel.

On Saturday, my brother called to tell me that Hurling Towards Their Deaths, Take 2 had been rescheduled for the next day. Without really thinking about it, I told them I would go. I drove to my parents the next morning and we all headed out to the country. That's the best way I can describe this skydiving place--the country. At some point, I asked my brother, "Uh, dude, is this place run by the Amish? Because they're not really supposed to fly, and if you think I'm jumping out of a plane operated by Amish rebels, you're out of your damn mind." It wasn't. Run by the Amish, that is.

When we got there--it's the field next to the trees and behind the corn, if you're looking for it--we started by filling out the paperwork. The paperwork starts with a paragraph IN ALL CAPS WITH A LOT OF BOLD. It says, We don't have insurance and YOU MIGHT DIE. Or be MAIMED. SERIOUSLY MAIMED. Even if the chute opens, you might still DIE. In fact, most people who DIE skydiving, do so after their chute has opened. Sign and date below indicating that you are fine with DEATH and or MAIMING.

And then, for the next twelve pages, you initial under every paragraph. All the subsequent paragraphs say about the same thing as the first, Please understand that you might die. Oh, and if you do die, you don't get your money back. So, don't think that you can save yourself $200 by dying here today. No refunds.

As I was autographing the novella of death, people were landing in the field behind us. I saw all these uncoordinated yahoos, two of whom almost walked into a fence afterwards, successfully landing in the field. I was thinking, Look, even the morons are surviving. We'll be okay.

None of this did anything to comfort my mother, though. She was convinced she was going to smash into a tree, or some corn, or the little building with the paperwork lady's office inside. She pictured herself crashing right through the woman's desk, impaled by ball-point pens, a stapler stuck in her ass.

I, on the other hand, was not that nervous. It was the last day of my one week break between 3rd and 4th year. Frankly, if you had said to me, "You can jump out of plane and stay on vacation one more day, or you can go back to work now," I would have picked the plane. Parachute or not. I would have taken my chances. That's how much I was enjoying my time off.

After I finished my paperwork, I was fitted with my harness (and here we find the results of those misguided google searches) and met my tandem instructor, Pierre. Pierre had a Croatian accent. If you ever jump out of plane, you should do it with the guy with the Croatian accent. It's just...well, you'll just have to trust me on this one. The accent is a nice touch.

We all filed into the plane behind our instructors and straddled two benches. We were all lined up and sandwiched together--instructor, yahoo, instructor, yahoo. My mom and her instructor were on the floor in front of the door because she decided that she had to go first. As the plane rose to 14,000 feet, Pierre yelled things in my ear, except that it was so loud, it sounded like he was whispering. It was a lot of, Where are you from? What do you do?

He's traveled around the world as a competitive sailor. He's owned a few businesses. When he asked, "So, why do you want to be a doctor?" I laughed. The classic med school interview question follows me everywhere.

At about 10,000 feet, Pierre reached around the front of me and clipped my harness into his. He tightened everything and whisper shouted in my ear, "We will go down as one body." And with that, I can honestly say I was no longer even a bit nervous about jumping out of the plane. I was distracted by, uh...all that Pierre I was strapped to.

We got to 14,000 feet, and my mother, who looked like she was going to vomit, jumped. Except that it doesn't really look like jumping. It looks like a person is being sucked out of the plane. So, my mom was sucked out of the plane, and Pierre and I were next.

I don't really know how to describe what it felt like to leave the plane and free fall at 100 mph. I could have done that all day. I saw only of the horizon in front of me, and it felt so incredibly freeing to think about nothing else.

There and then I decided I will do this again.

Next time, Graci's coming with me. I'll make her write a guest post after she gets sucked out of the plane.


Amanda said...

that is so awesome. I mean really.

amusings_bnl said...

this was an amazing fucking entry. i was laughing hysterically, and scared. all at once.


.j.william. said...

great story. You're so right about people looking like they just get sucked out.

Watch out though: it's very addictive (and not a cheap addiction). :)

MmeBenaut said...

Oh, oh, oh. I think I told you I would never do it but having read that description of your incredible experience, I think I may have changed my mind.
Very pleased that Pierre managed to distract you ...

Shan said...

Loved the account :D! I'm glad you made it back to earth with all your organs in tact. Don't get cocky though T. It's probably like gambling, they let you have a winning first round, and then on the second or third time after they get a little money and you get a little fun...BAM! You've been permanently MAIMED and there's no cash settlement waiting for you at the other end of the lawsuit.

Maria said...

It is always more fun if you can accomplish something as one body....

deboo said...


This story is just so incredibly fascinating. I just cannot even imagine stepping out of a perfectly good airplane - in mid-flight!!!!

Well, if I had a Croation to hang on to - that might be the only way I'd consider it!

Good memories. Good times. Something to tell your children about. ;-)

Anonymous said...

You've got guts woman, although being strapped to Pierre makes it all sound kind of fun.

.j.william. said...

"strapped to Pierre" is my new euphemism.

It's just me... said...

This is FABULOUS. Can I get strapped to a Pierre without having to jump out of a plane?

kristi said...

Very cool..I have always wanted to do that!