04 September 2009

Thyraphobia, or Purity of Heart is to Fear One Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Not Do Again (Pt. 5)

(cont'd from previous post)

We suited up and stepped into our harnesses. The harnesses loop tightly around your upper thighs then fasten around your waist and shoulders to keep you from falling forward and out of them.

I spoke with Wisdaughter's dive-buddy, let's call him 'Joey' (he might be a grad student at GIT), and asked about jumping accidents they'd had at the facility. He told me the very harnesses we were just then strapping on were of recent design and had been implemented when the aforementioned paraplegic had somehow passed out on a tandem dive and flipped down and, due to a lack of lower body muscle control, out of his harness. The new design, which loops tightly around your thighs, purportedly keeps you from doing just that. I credited Joey for his forthrightness, explaining that I had researched the very topic of accidents at the dive facility and was wondering just how someone, -plegic or not, could conceivably have fallen out of a tandem harness. He then went through an elaborate pantomime of the incident, taking care to demonstrate how it simply couldn't happen again. Safety and all that.

My dive-buddy, let's call him 'Andy', is a lawyer in Atlanta. He gets his jollies, and supplements his income, by jumping on the weekends. He was very reassuring. He'd done over 1500 jumps without anything anywhere near an incident, he told me. I told him I didn't want to swing around or go up and over the canopy once we'd deployed our chute. I wanted to hang straight underneath it for the spiral down. He looked a bit disappointed (or that's how I interpreted his look) but agreed. That's the best I could do, I felt the need to explain.

Perhaps sensing my trepidation—the terror in my eyes? the quaver in my voice?—he asked me to practice the specific mechanics of the door—The Door!—exit there on the carpet in the dressing room several times. This, I suspect (principally because none of the others in my group was requested to go through the same motions), was his attempt to have me achieve, behaviorally and physically, what, unbeknownst to him, Wisdoc had managed to achieve, inwardly and psychically, in her own door dream—namely, to give me an outward mechanism, i.e., a set of specific set of uncomfortable tasks, to focus on that would distract me and make me forget about whatever inner turmoil it was he intuited I might have been experiencing.

Fortunately or un-, as the case may be, I do have an inner life, and quite an exquisite one from all indications. That is to say, one not so easily lulled or gulled.

As we were rehearsing our exits, tatooed, spiky-haired instructor Jeff came over and announced that there was some sort of glitch with the plane, and they had to shut off its engines. That meant we would have to wait half-an-hour before they would be able to restart it. So we plopped on one of the shabby sofas in front of a big-screen television and watched jump DVDs of members of the groups that had already completed their jumps. There was lots of screaming and joking around and bad, loud rock music in the background. The participants enjoyed watching themselves on the television. One of them, a woman "of a certain age" with bottle-blond hair, bee-stung lips, Botoxed cheeks, too much expensive jewelry, and long, shiny nails, told us how this was going up on her Facebook page so her step-daughter who lived in Colorado could see it and be proud of her. She told us how this was her first time and how scared she'd been at the door, but how she'd been with her husband whose hobby skydiving is and just gone ahead and jumped anyway and Voila! there she was doing it on the big screen.

I had trouble hearing what she was saying; the music on the video was blaring through huge speakers, my jumpsuit was hot, and my harness was pinching my balls. Yet there was no escaping the inevitable inference: if she could do it, anybody could.

And thus down was the psychic gauntlet flung.

(to be continued)

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