We arrived at the skydiving locale on a sunny afternoon and spent two hours learning what to expect and what we'd be expected to do. Then, we met our instructors (who would tandem dive with us) and put on our gear. We wore jumpsuits with headsets and mics so our instructors could converse with us and give us last-minute directions. At first glance, my instructor was a little intimidating. Picture Woody Harrelson as he looked in such movies as "Seven Psychopaths," "Zombieland," or "Natural Born Killers." Now, scrape his throat raw to darken his voice and toss in a Texas twang. That was my guy. A former Boeing employee, he had more than 10,000 jumps under his belt, and after spending a lot of time together, I discovered he was also a sweetheart beneath that scary exterior. Once our instructors felt we were ready, they assisted us on to the plane that would take us 14,000 feet up for our moment of temporary insanity.
Sounds crazy? Maybe. But it was an event I'll never forget. Just standing at the open doorway, waiting to push off into oblivion, is terrifying and yet, oddly, thrilling at the same time. All too soon, the sound of "Go!" hit my ears. My toes left the edge, and we were out. The wind slapped my cheeks with so much force, I heard my skin flapping. The view as the earth hurtled into focus evoked a sense of wonder. The altimeter on my wrist, which I'd been directed to keep an eye on, marked our descent. And just when I thought I'd panic from the realization of what I'd done, we hit the right altitude. I pulled the cord, the parachute opened, and with a quick jerk, our speed slowed to a gentle waft. By pulling on the handles on either side of my 'chute, I was able to control which direction the wind took us. For the next several minutes, we drifted through the clear blue sky to the green grass far below. It's beautifully peaceful as you coast to land again, your heartbeat slowing to a more normal rhythm, the world growing bigger and bigger beneath you.
Once on the ground, I understood my instructor's passion for the sport. Skydiving is an exhilarating experience, and I highly recommend, if you don't have a phobia about heights (or plummeting), you try it...at least once. You gotta have a story to tell, right?
And by the way, the Fates stopped messing with me after that.