“So who actually read the waiver before they signed it?” the instructor asked.
Sheepish grins crossed my entire class of some 10 people.
“Exactly,” he continued, “because we know if you had, not one of you would still be here.” The group erupted in laughter. “Now we are going to watch a video explaining exactly what the document did say.”
Welcome to skydiving.
Ever since I was a child jumping down stairwells onto carpets with my best friend wearing red capes pretending we were Superman, I’ve wanted to fly. More than once, I’ve dreamed of soaring like a bird above the earth. Over the years, I’ve been hang gliding, bungee jumping and even flew through the jungles of Costa Rica on canopies like Tarzan. But through it all–nothing has compared to jumping out of an airplane 14,000 feet high, free falling for what seemed like eternity, and relying on nothing more than a bunch of vinyl to ensure my safety to reality.
The year was 1996. I was a mere 27 years old. Having just finalized a divorce, I was looking to experience all life had to offer to do something crazy, insane and even dangerous. My destination was Hinckley, Illinois- about three hours outside Chicago.
I chose to skydive tandem, which meant I would be attached to clips which would be attached to an expert parachutist. It would be the expert’s parachute that would save us from certain doom.
By going tandem, I would now have to “free fall” for two minutes. If I went solo, a mechanism on the airplane would release my chord the moment I left the airplane. Free fall baby!
Next, I signed numerous waiver forms. I actually did start to read one, but after the first mention of “death,” I stopped reading and just signed. I responded several times to workers’ questions with, “Whatever.”
Then came the video. A religious looking man in black attire with a long white beard spent 15 minutes saying something to the effect of:
“What you are doing is very dangerous. You could really, really die. You could really, really be permanently paralyzed. You could have brain damage. But if you do, you won’t sue. If you can’t walk, you won’t sue. If you die and can’t walk, no relatives will sue…..Have a nice day.”
After the completely ignored message and a quick lesson in terms of what would actually happen, I dressed in what looked like an orange prison jump suit with a helmet and goggles (like that would save me). Then my guide, Bill, clipped me to his gear.
We boarded the airplane. Before I knew it, I leaped to my death–I mean jumped out of the airplane. I was flying! I beamed.
“Fun, huh?” Bill, said as we hurled more than 100 mph through the sky. “Okay, pull the chord.” I panicked. I couldn’t find it.
“Pull it!” I still struggled.
“If you don’t pull it in the next second, I have to,” he said, with worry now.
Success. After we catapulted another 100 feet up, we drifted for another five minutes. The sky never looked so blue. The sun never looked so yellow.
Life has never been the same.