Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Skydiving Days (Part 2).....

**I have no idea how many parts this will be. I may not post them all consecutively either. Just in case you care.**

You can read Part 1 here, if you just wandered by and don't know how you landed on Part 2.

I don't remember making a conscious decision to go back to the drop zone after my first jump. I'm sure I wanted to get it right, but I also didn't just want it to be something I had DONE.

It wasn't convenient for me to go skydiving. As I mentioned in Part 1, it was a drive of about two hours. And my car didn't have air conditioning. It also wasn't cheap, and I was a poor college student. But I went any Saturday I could afford it and had the time to go, and sometimes if I were particularly flush I might turn around and drive back down there on Sunday.

I don't know why it never occurred to me to buy a tent and just camp out at the drop zone. I'm sure other people did it. I was single and had no pets or other obligations, and it would have been cheaper than driving back and forth. It may even have saved enough money for an additional jump. Maybe I thought camping was something you only did in the woods. Who knows.

I mentioned in last night's post that I wish I had had DJan as a skydiving instructor. It may not be fair to characterize the people who taught me skydiving as bad instructors. I also wasn't a very good student. I didn't ask questions (mainly because I didn't know WHAT to ask), but I did sit and absorb. There is a LOT of sitting-around time at a drop zone. Waiting for your turn to load. Waiting for your jumpmaster to come back from HIS jump and sign off on your logbook. Waiting for there to be a full load of students. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I listened (eavesdropped?) a lot, but I didn't have any way to know how useful the information I was absorbing was.

I'm not sure how it worked at other drop zones, but the manner in which students were assigned jumpmasters (who became informal "instructors," the only kind we had after that first one-day class) seemed to be random. I think some of those guys (and they were ALL guys) just agreed to be a jumpmaster because it meant either a free or reduced jump for them.

I remember my first freefall jump (besides the ones immediately following static-line jumps, where you pulled the ripcord immediately). It was supposed to be a 5-second delay, and I understood how to count one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand. But I didn't know WHEN I was supposed to do that. Our jump sequence was Arch, Look (at the ripcord), Reach, Pull. Now it seems intuitive to realize the 5-second delay would take place in the Arch step, where you arched your back to achieve stability in freefall, but I wasn't very intuitive. And skydiving wasn't an intuitive activity. No one ever told me when the 5-second delay was supposed take place, and there we were in the shed, waiting to load the plane. I finally took the reins and asked a guy who was along on the load with us, but he was NOT the one who was my jumpmaster. Was I wrong to ask the wrong person? Probably. But the guy who WAS my jumpmaster was a little scary to me, and I found the other guy more approachable. Maybe it shouldn't matter who answered the question. I got my answer, I completed the jump (successfully, I assume), and I went on to jump many more times. The imparting and receiving of knowledge and instruction, however, was haphazard at best.

I never felt part of the group at that drop zone, and part of that may be my fault too. I felt like a rookie ALWAYS, and I think I had a little bit of the "impostor syndrome." I was afraid if I spoke up or asked questions, I would reveal myself for a fraud who didn't belong there. So I sat quietly apart, but in retrospect that may have looked like arrogance at worst, aloofness at best.

I did learn the most useful piece of information related to skydiving during this period. We were sitting around eating and drinking (no alcohol allowed until every last plane was tied down, and they were NOT joking about that), and a student asked one of the experienced guys, "How long before I stop being scared?" My ears perked up because I had wondered that too. Every single time they opened the door of that airplane, my heart hammered and my mouth went dry.

The guy answered, "The day you can jump out of a perfectly good airplane and not be scared, you need to hang up your rig and do something else."

That made me feel so much better.

To be continued.

1 comment:

DJan said...

Did you ever get your own equipment? I ordered mine and it came when I made my 35th skydive. I had no idea how to assemble it, either. I think I was fortunate to be more outgoing, but I was 48 years old and everyone there was young enough to be my kid. I was so hooked none of that mattered, though. More, please. I love your stories! :-)