Lodi, 20 March 1999.
Can't stand it. Either I'm lyin' awake, thinking, or waking up early to lay there and think, or learning way more about femur and tib-fib fractures than I ever wanted to know, from the newsgroup. A couple long weeks before I can make it to ground school, and the freakin' magazine still hasn't shown up. Last weekend, too bummed to sneak into Safety Day...
It quit sprinkling early, so it's off to the Parachute Center. Forty miles from my rats'-nest. Big open space, "well-loved" hangars. Kids and dogs and a few dozen people in jumpsuits, none of which bite.
Even "just looking" is soothing. And then there's this developing fixation with windsocks.
Slinking in to double-check my spot in the AFF class, three arid weeks away. But wait... static line class is every week? As in, next weekend...?
Yeah, but I need to do a tandem there first, and let the JM know I'll be needing to learn the lay of the land. Ho-kay. But, thinkest I, gotta do the tandem beforehand - so if I wanna be ready for next week, why, I'd better do that tandem. Now? But the afternoon's about gone, watching and dreaming. Tomorrow, then.
A vague apprehension. All those accounts of broken femurs?
Sort it out. More aware of the risk, but that's not the big deal. Finally got it, southbound 99 almost to Galt: washing out. What if that weird "healthy respect" for the door of the plane (when it's 13,000 feet above anything solid) kicks in with a vengeance? Suppose I forget to put my feet up and back, or my arch isn't okay?
Failing is of more concern than getting hurt. That order's gotta be the reverse of what it should be. Or, to look at it another way, this was probably the last jump where I wouldn't be solely responsible for a pain-free landing. Ulp.
Crunch into the parking lot, get my thermal shirt on - and after a moment of debate, go ahead and pull the t-shirt from Sebastian on over that. Let 'em think what they want, the whuffo-ness must decrease so I can increase.
"You again," the DZO says. Music to my ears. Fork out the dough, initial all the blocks on the form, watch the video, get my load number...
A gentleman somewhat older than myself motions me over. Mike's not in JM chic, but he's the one who'll be on my back. He oozes DZ vibes. Decent.
I don't get to pull the ripcord this time. We may slide into a landing on our butts since the wind's been contrary. And we'll get to see the underside of the plane. Other than that, the briefing goes much like the first one. The jumpsuit was unexpected. It's a little small, and it feels weird... We talk about the training methods, jumps I'll need.
Maybe ten minutes after getting into the harness, the plane pulls up. And people trot out to it... that's our plane, we're supposed to be on it, c'mon. Running alongside, poor Mike didn't even grab a 'suit...
"You get to be co-pilot." And he wasn't kidding - the plane was full. Squeezing through, to a friendly reminder to duck through the cockpit entry, smiles here and there. "First jump?"
"Second," I get to say. Belted in, smooth taxi to the northwest, and we're up -
Tap on my shoulder - it's Mike. "Great job," he says. Grins from those in the immediate vicinity. Oh. Well, if only that was the tough part...
Since I wasn't sitting on the bench, Mike was deprived of a JM's natural right to spook his cargo. Leaning together to review the essentials didn't lend itself all that well to teasing. Eventually I edged into the back, got hooked up, tightened down the straps.
The plane levelled off, and the real skydivers made... a noise. Spontaneous little exclamation of interest, something like a pride of lions about to start in on a felled zebra, ummmnh. A low "grrr" would not have been out of place. And there they go, seeya, I know where to find 'em.
We'd be last ones out. Story of my life. The odd shuffle to the door was easier, the air looked more friendly this time, and I really wanted to see the plane from the outside. Arms crossed - "Head back, and - now -"
And out. Again.
There it is! Shrinking plane. Gonna have to ask Mike how we rotated. Or is a good arch as magical as they say? And what do ya know, being at the door of the plane wasn't bad at all. Mike taps my shoulders and I make like a W. The pilot (?) chute flaps mightily. Instead of being dwarfed by foothills and buildings, everything is clouds, mounds and patches of 'em.
Mike points - below us. Three tiny 'divers (or maybe more) making a formation, way far below. Relative work, I think to myself. RW. What a weird term. Relative to what?
Breathing takes effort. Adrenaline gets in the way, they tell me, and the diver's reflex to hold your breath. The air is just fine at 13,000, and the rate of descent is not the problem. But I can breathe, so that's okay. Mike holds his altimeter in front of my face. 7,000. I nod nice and big. Scanning all around, looking under. Eyes not watering this time, excellent.
Did Mike signal, or did he actually yell in my ear? I was paying attention at the time, really I was... Crossed my arms again, snick clack tug and it seemed we jerked up instead of just slowing.
Concentrating on the feel of the deployment, I... uh... forgot to watch the chute open. Initially.
But that wasn't my big mistake of the day. When we loosened the straps a little, I was told to put my hands straight up. My left hand found the main line ["riser", actually] and closed around it - and even as it did, I was thinking, That's not a good idea -
"Let go, let go," I heard. Seems my hand was just a little ways above a certain pouch (handle), (the reserve chute) release - and I had known better, even if I didn't know exactly why. Listening and nodding, meekly. But we remained under the main chute, and only that one... Did some turns, went over the landmarks below. Where I'd be landing next Saturday, what the socks were telling us about the wind. More arm-strength - time to dig out the dumbbells. My tone's not bad but I hope it's just the excitement that takes a sneaky toll, made me a little wobbly.
At 800 feet, the analogy of being at the top of an eighty-story building didn't work, not exactly. Didn't seem to take as long, but then again I was less dazzled.
Little S-turns, and then we were coming in. It would be a butt-landing - flare, and skid. But not very far, and it was smooth, if humble. The chute tilted down and surrendered, since the fickle wind had dropped again. No fight left in it, unlike what I saw yesterday.
And as if that weren't enough, Mike got me a log book. My first log book. Another mystical icon. License requirements in the back - and y'know, one by one, they're not too hairy to d- Oh, hey, is that all it takes for a 'B' ... ?
Jump number one (tandem at Sebastian) -
Jump number two (tandem at Lodi) -
3 - 7 (starting static line) -
8 - 11 (finishing static line) -
12 - 14 - 15 - 17 - 18 - 22 - 23 - 29 - 30 - 34 - 35 - 40 - 41 - 48 - 49 - 58
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