Monday, August 14, 2006

A Monday I Can't Complain About

I'll use a borrowed line. The ratio of the number of times I've taken off in an airplane to the number of times I've landed is no longer 1.

There was nervous energy in that airplane. Probably because many of the passengers were flying for the first time in their lives without having to wear seatbelts. Easy to explain why there were no seatbelts; because there were no seats! We took our places next to our respective jump masters on the floor. There was a breathtakingly beautiful view from the top, including a picture-perfect rainbow, but I was just storing the sights in my brain. I was in no condition to enjoy them at that moment. A few minutes later the door opened and the first pair of guys jumped out. I was to go second. I peered down to see how the first pair was doing. They had jumped less than 10 seconds ago and they were already just a tiny speck way down there. Here is where a sky dive differs from a bungee. Once strapped and standing on the bungee platform, you fight an infinitesimally long but monumental battle in your head to convince yourself to make that critical tilt. It's quite often vanity that pushes you forward. In a tandem skydive, however, when you strap yourself on to the instructor, you surrender some of your rights. So before I had the opportunity for a second thought I found myself in a free fall. The first few seconds are the hardest to describe. The jumpmaster tapped me on the shoulder, which was a well-rehearsed signal for me to spread my arms out. But at that moment it didn't make any sense. He had to pry my arms open wide. I got used to the fall soon enough to pose for a cameraman tumbling around me. For 40 seconds or so, I actually felt like I was just hovering in the air. Only the chill moist alpine air stinging my cheeks reminded me that I was going down; real fast! I even remember looking at the Brienzersee lake and wondering why it was so green. The next exciting thing was when the chute actually opened. The deceleration is so fast that I felt like I had reversed my fall and was now shooting back up. The canopy ride is one joy ride and I had all the time to soak in the details of the swiss landscape. The landing was pretty exciting too. They make a swooping arc to generate some horizontal velocity, which is needed for a slide-landing. In the end, it felt great to be on the ground again. It's hard to describe what goes on in the mind during and just after the jump. I felt powerful, cleansed, euphoric and maybe a little vain. The most surreal thing is the way your sense of time gets distorted. Did it last forever? Dit it take a small fraction of a millisecond? Keine Ahnung.

Photos here.
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