Skyfall

23 Nov

AmyJohnson

My heart is in my throat. I take a deep breath and do one final pat down: Goggles? Check. Helmet? Check. Gloves? Check. Obnoxiously bright colored flight suit? Check.

I exhale deeply. Time to free-fall.

The initial rush of air catches me off guard and my head snaps back.

“Relax,” my instructor shouts at me through the chaotic air. “Don’t arch your back.”

Using a series of hand gestures, he reminds me to make myself flat so that I can remain suspended in air. Easier said than done. The wind is intense and I’m flailing. Even when he grabs hold of the handles on my suit to guide me, I feel as if I might fly away and get sucked into nothingness.

“Smile,” he reminds me. I want to give him the finger but we’ve only just met.

I’m only floating for a couple of minutes but if feels like fifteen. Time is fluid when you’re defying gravity.

The instructor grabs ahold of me and gently glides me to the exit platform. I’ve survived my first skydiving flight…indoors.

As a young lass, Jennifer was deathly afraid of heights. Family trips to the Grand Canyon and Niagra Falls were fraught. As an adult, I can’t say the situation has improved. When Mr. Poison took us to New York City, he of course insisted on going to the top of the Empire State Building. He posed with a couple of Icelandic stewardesses on the lookout deck while I sat bored in the lobby for almost two hours.

Something about the potential of falling thousands of feet to my death has always left me uneasy. Many people have suggested that I go skydiving to conquer my fear once and for all. My answer has always been the same: forget it.

As previously stated, every International Woman of Mystery needs a nemesis. Mine would be fear. It seems imperative that I battle said nemesis. So conquer my fear, I must. When I heard about indoor skydiving it seemed the most happy medium. A good place to start. Baby steps, darlings.

When I arrive at the facility, I am not without trepidation. I follow their directives and arrive an hour early for “flight training.” After signing a somewhat extensive waiver, I am ushered into a small room, along with a middle-aged man and a fleet of 7-year-old girls. Apparently indoor skydiving isn’t just for seekers of a safe thrill, it’s also all the rage these days for children’s birthday parties. I should feel embarrassed but I’m actually a bit inspired. If only someone had started me so early. How might my life have been different with less fear attached to it?

No time to get contemplative. After receiving a brief tutorial that is mostly safety instructions, it’s time to suit up.

The wind tunnel is intense. Sixteen hundred collective watts of horse power billow from four fans to create a cushion of air, which human beings can then float on. All extraneous clothing and jewelry must be tucked neatly inside the form-fitting flight suit. Add a helmet and goggles to the mix and shit starts to get real. There are no parachutes for indoor skydiving. No planes to jump out of. You just step into the tunnel, off of the platform, and suddenly you’re in the air.

In spite of my training and the abundance of safety gear, I’m nervous. I stand at the end of the queue and let the young ladies go first. A few of them are experienced, flipping this way and that in the air tunnel. The others look more hesitant but everyone leaves the tunnel all smiles and windblown hair. “That was awesome!” they exclaim, one after the other.

Then it’s my turn.

The cost of admission covers two “flights,” each lasting only a couple of minutes. I spend the better part of my first run just trying to understand the instructor’s cues and hoping I don’t get sucked into the fans.

But by my second turn, it gets easier. I feel like a superhero, arms and legs outstretched, riding the air. Just as I’m starting to love feeling weightless, and the accompanying adrenaline, my time is up. I exit the tunnel. Return my gear to the counter and am presented with my very own completion certificate, made out to simply Jenny G.

I inquire with the young gentleman at the counter as to whether or not indoor skydiving resembles real skydiving. He tells me that the two are actually quite similar. I’m encouraged, though I won’t be jumping out of any planes just yet.

Driving back to the Mystery Pad, I tally up a list of all the times that fear has cost me, the times it held me back and led me to miss out on spectacular experiences. A lifelong fear isn’t easily conquered overnight, but while I was in that tunnel, I think I got a small taste of what fearlessness feels like.

I roll down the car windows and let the wind hit my face again. I could get used to this.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

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