First, a riddle:
What has two thumbs and jumped out of an airplane?
The answer, of course, is D.B. Cooper.
However, I also would have accepted the vast majority of skydivers, including as of June: Jesse, Kyle and myself.
Partial credit to those of you who guessed Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan.
Because while his latest film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara did feature a lengthy skydiving sequence, Mr. Roshan actually has THREE THUMBS!
Oh I guess it's not that bad, he's a handsome, talented millionaire. Mutant.
But back to what I really wanted to talk about, I went skydiving with Jesse and Kyle.
Jesse had decided to get married and has since actually gotten married in a lovely ceremony in the beginning of July. Back in June, however, this was simply "trouble ahead" and so a bachelor party was in order.
Not just any bachelor party, a completely insane, awesome, unforgettable surprise bachelor party.
That's right. Surprise. The day of, the three of us piled into a car with Jesse driving and Kyle giving directions. Keep in mind that Jesse had no idea what we had planned or where we were going, so he grew understandably worried as we drove farther and farther into the country, away from civilization, paved roads, and witnesses.
"Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!"
Finally we rounded the last corner and there before our eyes was the headquarters of Rochester Skydiving.
He was excited.
Oh Heck, we all were.
There were plenty of waivers to sign and paperwork to file, and then some basic instructions to go over.
Since we were all brand-new to this sort of thing, we would be going on a tandem jump. That means we'd be securely fastened to a veteran skydiver who would do the majority of technical tasks, such as keeping us alive.
I was ok with this, knowing that it is the safest form of skydiving, and also if something went wrong I would welcome the company as I rode his soul all the way to Hell.
Oh, another thing I learned: when your instructor asks you if you have any questions, the answer he is expecting is a confident "no." Failing that, uncomfortable silence is acceptable. He is not in the mood to answer your questions.
Him: Now, any questions?
Me: Now when you say arch my back and tuck my legs behind me, should I cross my ankles or leave them side by side?
Him: Did I say anything about crossing your ankles?
Me: No, which is why I was wondering if-
Him: Well now it's in your head. You're gonna cross 'em as you fall.
Me: Not if you tell me not to.
Him: You're gonna get up there and have cross your ankles stuck in your head. Just do what I tell you. You cross your ankles and land that way, that's how you break your ankles. Any other questions?
Everyone: (uncomfortable silence)
Him: All right.
He was also nice enough to explain the proper way of boarding the aircraft, which when it came time to board the aircraft, turned out to be completely wrong.
Oh yes, this was our chariot:
If it looks kind of small, that's because it is. Including the pilot, the capacity is five people. So we had to go up and jump in two groups. But first, it was time to get suited up:
The other guys were clearly jealous of my "prettiest of all jumpsuits." This is what you get to wear if you ask questions during the initial training, I guess.
And then, no more stalling. Get into the plane and get ready to fall back to earth.
Two things. One I expected, and one I did not. First, this was the most terrifying experience I've ever had while awake.
That was expected.
But once the jump happened and I was plummeting rapidly, it was far more peaceful than I thought it would be. I expected a stomach lurching jolt, like in rollercoasters or other amusement park rides. That didn't really happen.
The terror happened at 8,000 feet, once I had been securely buckled to the guy with whom I was to fall. I was kneeling on the floor of the plane, and the side of it opened.
Suddenly I was staring out at two things: the ground, and less far far away, the metal step on the plane's landing gear.
That thing that guy's foot is on.
You see, in order to safely exit the aircraft (oxymoron alert!) I had to willingly extend my leg outside of the craft and put my weight on that step.
I did it, but my brain was not happy about it. It retaliated with an impressive cocktail of adrenaline and endorphins and fear chemicals, which are the body's way of saying "You are being a goddamned idiot."
I managed to conquer all of those feelings, and even let go of the plane itself to cross my arms over my chest, the signal to my tandem buddy that I'm ready for him to throw me into the void.
Which he did.
The freefall was incredible. About 20 seconds that felt like 2. When Jesse and I jumped, it had started to rain, so the exposed areas of my face were being stung by slow moving water droplets, while I was deafened by the rush of the air around us.
Then the canopy opened and... silence.
It was suddenly amazingly quiet. I heard a cackling, maniacal laughter that I gradually realized was being produced by me.
Though we were still dropping at 30 - 40 miles per hour, it felt like floating down like a feather. I looked past my feet at farmland and barns still thousands of feet below.
It was an incredible experience that I don't think I'll ever do again.
Unfortunately, if you haven't guessed by my prose heavy section, I don't have any pictures or video from the falling point of view. What I do have is shot by whoever was on the ground while the others were plummeting. That I took and cobbled together into this video: