The vices of being a poker degenerate creep beyond potential bankrupcy when the game habits start to corrupt real-life decisions. In other skills this is (mostly) harmless – the weirdest thing that has happened to me because of foosball was zoning out during the World Cup wondering why the guys weren’t lined up neatly and doing simultaneous stationary back-flips. However, being a complete calling station is much more exploitable, as P cleverly demonstrated by provoking me into agreeing to skydive with a simple comment to my last post:
P: “…blah blah blah. i say you man the f*** up and jump out of a plane or off a bridge.”
Y: “f*** you!” (translation: “okay.”)
Even though they trapped me, my friends were, as always, considerate and wonderful. Knowing my fear of heights, they warmly prepared me with a week of Youtube videos of skydiving incidents gone horrible wrong and inducing three nights of nightmares involving heights and planes. Then it was Saturday.
The tranquil farm-like facility in Ellington, CT was a green field adorned with only a few small propeller planes (from the Wright Brothers’ era, said S) and an ambulance. A gruff-looking gentleman in his fifties (who turned out to be my tandem instructor, Larry) gave me forms to fill. During the wait, we were throwing rocks baseball-style at a trashcan in the distance, when P almost sharked me out of $200 by pretending to be a really bad shot and then offering 20:1 that he couldn’t hit the can. Bastard. My sexily stoic composure hid my ~ 200 heartrate.
Larry spoke nonchalantly about colleges, missing his medicine that morning, and needing to remember to replace the plane’s engine as we went up in one of the shaky Wright’s. His jokes about the ambulance (now just a white dot) being especially busy the past month were lightened by his slip that he has jumped out that wobbling door about 3000 times between his time as an instructor and his service as an army parachutist. The photographer, clad in a totally sweet purple Spongebob Squarepants suit with a pair of Batman-esque glider wings, also seemed totally oblivious to the fact we were about 15000 feet in the air. I forgot all of those comforting signs when the doors opened.
I imagined hitting terminal velocity through very tangible clouds and cursing Newton even though he never did anything wrong. On the railing outside the door, my deceptive weight brought Larry down to his knees. Oops. This meant that instead of a normal jump, he had to do some backflip spin turn so we wouldn’t hit my head on the plane (very thoughtful).
The air screaming by my ears deafened me to any other sound, making the freefall a messy omelet of awe, ecstasy, and fear, garnished with “why isn’t my heart beating?” As such, I couldn’t hear my own voice. This was irrelevant: talking required thought, but my brain was too busy trying to understand how Spongebatman literally swam through the sky, tumbling into different angles for his camera shots. The whole-body jerk was so sudden that I was sure my limbs would be cut off by the parachute harness… but the parachute was open, and we seemed still, and my heart began beating again, and I finally remembered to close my mouth since yes, that too, required thought.
Remembering the purpose of the trip, I tried to spend the rest of the flight looking straight down, straight at the enemy, eyes unwavering (except when Larry amused himself by doing turns and circles, which he luckily only did a couple of times). I did not know before how fast people fell in a parachute, but now I saw that if we landed straight down I would have crushed my lower body. Instead, we had to lift our legs into a horizontal glide before impact with the sweet, sweet green.
The enemy was defeated and I lived to tell the story, but there were no more Hollywood elements. Did I survive death? No. Am I still afraid of heights? Of course, just less than before.
But it was still f***ing awesome.
P naturally asked the pictures and the video to be shipped to his address, something I may regret later. He sadly concluded later “YZ didn’t look too much like a wuss in that video” so my victory is complete. As for the accompanying music (Spongebatman may moonlight as a quite decent amateur videomaker), I went with J and took Third Eye Blind’s Jumper.
P.S. I live on the 7th floor of an apartment where the apartment door and the main stairwell are connected by a narrow railing overlooking the parking lot. I tend to walk on the side away from the railing. After this experience, I started walking by the railing. It was still a little woozy, but it wasn’t too bad.
P.S.S. Right after, at Foxwoods, I played the most loose aggressive poker of my life, buttressed by an illusion of invincibility (picture Owen Wilson at the end of “Shanghai Noon.”). Luckily, I was still up ~$500. Take that, Poker Gods.