Not so Fictional Fiction: Letting Go – Part 1

30 Nov

I’m nauseous. On the entire drive over I wonder to myself “am I really doing this? I mean, like for real real?” I pretend to be focusing on the GPS, instructing Bryan that there is a turn coming up really soon on the left into the little dirt road. “Uh…I think we’re going to turn here…but I’m not sure. Keep watching the road and be careful” I worriedly yell, as if we were in a new land when in actuality we are just on the other side of the island on a beautiful sunny morning. I’m distracted from the road because I’m trying to determine what an appropriate way to chicken out of this whole situation might look like. I paint the scenario of Bryan taking a dramatically sharp turn into the right shoulder of the road, putting the car on park, taking a deep breath, choosing his words in his head and slowly but pointedly saying “look, I know you had your heart set on skydiving for your birthday, but it’s just not safe, and I cannot let you do it” as he stares down into the steering wheel. He can’t stare at me on the face because he doesn’t want to see the disappointment on my face. “Well, if it bothers you that much…I guess I could research the safety a little more” I would say, concerned over his mental state. We’d drive nearby to a Mexican restaurant and have margaritas as we nibbled on Ceviche. “I was going to jump. I was basically on the plane, ready to go, but Bryan seemed like he was going to lose it, so I decided to put him ahead of my own needs” I would casually tell people when they asked me if I jumped. “I will jump, I just have to make sure that it’s not going to hurt anyone.” In actuality, he seems kind of giddy at the thought of me jumping out of plane. When I energetically ask him to join me, he looks straight ahead, allows an excited yet slightly evil laugh and says “no.”

If Bryan were to jump I would feel better. I would feel better because I would know for a fact that someone on that plane would be more scared than me. I’m much more of a daredevil than he. Well, I’m really less of a daredevil and more a showoff. “Try this live oyster, it’ll taste good – here, watch, I can do it.” “Come on, let’s go on that rollercoaster, it’s not that big of a fall, it’s only 90 degrees.” “I really don’t think having another drink will hurt, I’ve had like 2 more than you.” Come to think of it, maybe I’m more of an ass rather than a showoff. Either way, it’s easier for me to pretend to be brave when someone is more scared than I am.

It does not help that Crissy and Liana are jumping too. On the day I was grandstanding on twitter about how I would celebrate my birthday by skydiving and lamenting that no one would join me, Crissy, nearly instantly, tweeted to the world that she’d join me. Nonchalantly she tweeted “@pharoe I’ll go with you. What day?”, as if jumping out of a plane was as ordinary of an activity as going to see the new Muppets movie playing at the multiplex behind Costco. A few weeks later, as my birthday approached, she asked if I had made reservations. A few days later she asked me what time our reservations were. A few hours later she informed me Todd would join us as well. To her, the jumping was a done deal, we just needed to iron over the details. I never bothered to tell her “@CrispyTeriyaki uh…I think I was kidding. I’m actually afraid of heights.” It was too late now. After all, once tweeted it can’t be taken back. So, I logged on to the Pacific Skydiving website, made the reservation, clicked “send”, and that was that. Now…I…Just…Have….To….Not…Throw…Up…or hit a bird on my way down.

Those were my two actual fears: throwing up as I jumped and chocking on my own vomit or hitting a bird mid air freefalling at 100 mph. Either way, I imaged a big mess as I tumbled to the ground. “So how did he die?” they would ask. “Oh, he hit one of those endangered Hawaiian birds on his way down from the plane. Poor bird, there are only 80 of them in captivity” someone would solemnly answer as they read the story out loud to a co-worker from the local paper during lunch. Filled with anxiety over vomit that will lodge in my throat or birds that would pierce mu chest, I did what any logical person would do, I pointed my browser to Google and typed “can you die from hitting a bird while skydiving?” Turns out that bird vs. skydiver collisions are quite rare. Birds fly at a certain altitude. By the time the skydiver intrudes their airspace he/she has already deployed his/her parachute. At that point, if you hit a bird, it might be bothered, but neither of you will probably die nor tumble to the ground. Of course, I’m sure the size of the bird and its mood on that day will impact the outcome of the exchange.

As long as I was on Google, I thought to myself, why don’t I do a bit more research into the safety of skydiving? In retrospect, searching for “skydiving accidents” was probably not the best way to start a search into the safety record of the sport of skydiving. Overall, reading about skydiving accidents the day before you are to jump from a plane is a bad idea. I did learn a lot, though. Statistically, skydiving is basically safer than taking a bath. However, while I must admit that every once in a while I do get afraid about the whole “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…and I’m in the tub!” scenario, a death associated with skydiving seems to have that je nais se quoi when compared to other deaths. I read countless stories about freak accidents of mid-air collisions with other skydivers, a freak story of how a person actually slipped out of his harness. More specifically, I read about each and every single accident that had taken place with people who had taken off from the same airfield I was taking off in the morning. One website tried to ease my fears by assuring me that most deaths associated with new skydivers had to do with plan crashes, not anything associated with the jump itself. Great.

Game day.

To Be Continued….

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