I have a fickle fear of heights:  I like the adrenaline rush, but I don't like the thought of plunging to my death.  According to Wikipedia, acrophobia

is an extreme or irrational fear of heights.

Extreme; irrational:  adjectives that we don't like to use to describe ourselves, right?  When we take part in activities that are designed to give us a rush (hang gliding, skydiving, filing our taxes), there are usually safeguards put in place to ensure our safety.  Buckles, latches, safety nets, harnesses, unconsciousness, all mechanisms used to ensure our safety.   If one of these fails, SPLAT!!

Which brings me to my next subject:  can we overcome our fears by putting them to the test over and over again?  These people are doing the 'Toes Over Toronto' tour, at almost 1800 feet, and they are asked to allow themselves to dangle over the edge and trust the safety mechanisms.  The video is over 12 minutes long, but as soon as a minute into the video, you get the gist of what is going on:



That's way up there!!  I get jittery sitting here at ground-level just thinking about being up there.

I went skydiving a few years ago with one of my best buds.  She had gotten an invitation to go, and her boyfriend was having no part of it, so she called me.

My experience was pleasant; we showed up at the 'office' two hours ahead of time (presumably to get 'trained'), had a bite to eat, and then waited.  It was a processing plant in there:  people would walk in, get signed up, suit up, hit the door and climb into an airplane.  We must have seen 40 people jump before it was our turn.

Skydive 1

Something struck me weird, though; my friend, Sherrie, was getting some training from her instructor, but I hadn't even met mine yet.  He spent over 15 minutes with her, twice!  Showing her what to do, letting her know what she was going to experience, telling her what to do in the event something 'goes wrong'.  All I was being told was "Your instructor is Kevin.  He's 'up' right now", meaning he was jumping.  Again.  He made 8 or 9 jumps before I even realized which one he was.

Then, one of the employees explained it to me:  the instructor makes $35 or so per jump.  After the jump, it takes him several minutes to re-pack his chute, so he may miss one or two jumps while re-packing, therefore losing out on some money.  So, to remedy this, he hires a 'packer':  as my instructor would hit the ground, he would disconnect the spent chute and grab a fresh one from the packer (who gets $5 per packed chute).  So my instructor was losing $5 per jump, but he was able to get in so many extra jumps that it more than made up for the loss.  So, that's why I hadn't met my instructor yet; nor had I received any instructions!!

Finally, it was our turn to jump.  I walked out to the area to meet up with "Kevin", and he had me step into the harness and walk with him to the airplane.  So I'm thinking "I am about to get on this airplane with NO training what-so-ever!!".  My fear of heights was about to be overtaken by my fear of death!

Skydive 3

As we are walking to the airplane, he goes into his training mode:  His voice is clear, his instructions precise.  He made me repeat each thing he said, and he said everything at least 3 times.  He checked each strap, buckle, and gizmo over and over again.  He would stop every so often, mid-sentence, and ask me if I was feeling okay.  And he did all of this for almost the whole ascent, taking two short breaks to ask me about my life, etc.

Skydive 5

The ascent took a little longer than normal, due to 'traffic' in the area.  Normally, they would go to 10,000 feet, but on this jump we were above 11,000.

Now let me take a moment to tell you this:  at no time during this amp-up to the event was I ever nervous or scared;  I thought it was odd that I didn't get any training on the ground prior to getting into the airplane, but no jitters, no sweat, no butterflies:  I was surprisingly calm.  Go figure.

I was strapped to the front of a man I had just met (when I was younger, this would have made me VERY nervous).  As he spoke to me over my right shoulder, he CONSTANTLY checked the straps/buckles, etc.  Sherrie was strapped to her instructor sitting right behind me (we were seated straddling a bench-type seat, facing the rear of the aircraft), and I could hear her laughing from time to time.  She would let out a big "ARE YA READY JOHN MACK??" (she calls me John Mack), and before I could ever answer, she was whooping and hollering, obviously ready to go!

Skydive 7

As we neared "Go", we scooted to the back of the plane.  They opened the door, we stood up (as much as we could, we had to remain crouched so that we wouldn't bump our noggins on the ceiling of the plane), and we shuffled to the door.  They send up a cameraman with each skydiver, and he was ready to jump.  Kevin and I were standing right next to him, and asked me "Are you ready?".  I nodded, and as soon as I did, we got REALLY CLOSE to the cameraman.  "When the cameraman goes, just step out!"  It wasn't a question, nor a request:  this was it!

Remember those words 'extreme' and 'irrational'?  As I think back, I am wondering if my feelings, right at that time, were 'extreme' or 'irrational', but in the opposite way ---  I was feeling NO fear, nor nervousness.  I had developed a slight urgency to pee, but I knew that would have to wait!

Okay, back to the airplane.  The cameraman jumped.  Disappeared.  Gone; a now-you-see-him, now-you-don't kind of thing.  Even though it was only a second later that we exited the aircraft, it seemed like a minute. I still remember lifting my foot as if to place it on an imaginary stepping stone right outside of the airplane, and then, in slow motion, leaning forward and 'falling' out of the airplane.

According to Wikipedia, Terminal Velocity

is the speed at which an object in free fall ceases to accelerate.

Within a few seconds, we were free-falling at 125mph.  Miles per hour.  One hundred and twenty five of them.  Down.  Towards the ground.  I still needed to pee.

I wasn't wearing a helmet (if I were to hit the ground at terminal velocity, I don't want to be wearing ANYTHING that might keep me alive for an extra 1/2 second.  Nope.), but I was wearing goggles.

Skydive 2

The free fall lasted about just under a minute, and then Kevin pulled a cord that causes your lungs, kidneys, liver, stomach, pancreas and half of Iberia Parish to get crushed up all together and sit on top of your bladder.

Skydive 8

We started our descent 'under canopy' (which lasted about 4 1/2 minutes) and I must say, other than the constant "Don't pee!!  Don't pee!!" coming from the back of my brain, it was quite peaceful.  A slight breeze, swaying back and forth, the great state of Texas spread out before me like a giant's road map.  Farmland here, city there.  It's amazing that, at over 7,000 feet,  I could still spot the Port-O-Lets.

As we got close to the DZ (slang term for the skydiving center, or "Drop Zone"), we bent our knees and prepared to hit the ground.

Skydive 9

As we made our way back to Sherrie's house, we marveled at the amount of professionalism and sense of safety exhibited by our skydiving instructors.  I never got nervous, had no apprehensions about jumping, had a relatively pleasant experience, as did Sherrie.

Skydive 10

I still had to pee, though.









More From 99.9 KTDY