Just one more step....

I went to a mixer late this afternoon.  Among having lovely Asian fingerfood at a great local restaurant, with various libations, people were encouraged to get to know each other, outside of work.  So there was a bingo game.    Players were to fill in blanks with folks' names if they met that description.  Some of the items were: 'speaks French', 'name begins with A-D', 'has eaten fried grasshoppers', 'has parachuted out of an airplane.'   When the card was filled up and was verified, we had two winners.

I'm not so big on these games so I didn't play.  You find out so much or too much, about someone else.  But it seemed to get the job done.   I'm the one (maybe there was another one, I'm not sure), who fit the idiot description of 'has parachuted out of an airplane.'

Yep, that was me.  I'd been married maybe four years, was teaching flying, had a daughter about one year old, and a husband who was sure "I was not playing with a full deck."  Now I didn't go do this for thrill seeking.  It was part of my work.  I was teaching people how to fly gliders (it was my full time work) with the other 'men' (boy) instructors being 'moms' to my daughter.  Giving an example of how the 'men' (boys) took to the parenting part, they took it upon themselves to teach Sutter some of her first words: "eat my shorts."  That got a big laugh.

A group of us decided to go to Antioch, CA to a jump (parachute) school.  Some of us were flying some high performance gliders and putting on 'chutes, but really didn't know how to get out of the plane, blah, blah, blah.  So we went for a full day, ending with each of us heading up for a jump down.  Except we didn't jump.  The wind started blowing.  Hhmm.  That means we'd have to come back.

A couple of weeks later we got back together.  The people (teachers) looked at us and decided we knew what we were doing, gave us a briefing, and sent us up.  There was no wind.  Ah, good.

It retrospect I think we may have been about 7-8,000 feet when it was time to jump out of the plane.  These were 'old fashioned' military parachutes.  Really.  Not the super-maneuverable rectangular things we see today.  I'm not sure how many were in our plane, but it was single-engine workhorse.  The other plane you held on to the strut outside and let yourself push off from that.  This particular plane had no door.  We left through the hole in the side of the plane, where the door would have been.

It was my turn.  Ut-oh.  This was way different that rehearsing it on the ground.  "Come on up!  When I say go, you go.  Okay?  Go!"  "Now?" "Yeah, GO!"  "NOW? "(please say no).   "NOW!"   

All we had to do was count.  At the end of 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004,  we should find ourselves being yanked with the tether and the canopy opening.   If we got to 1005, there was another procedure about punching the safety chute, and either engaging or disengaging a D ring.  I got to 1005, 1006, oh dear.

With the air cramming up my nose, trying to stay belly down towards the earth, I had to think fast.  Suddenly the tether worked...late, but it worked.  There was a huge jerk, and as I looked up I really wanted to see the canopy full.  Please.  It was.

It was peaceful.  Very peaceful.  I tried to figure out where our landing spot was.  I couldn't find it.  I decided I should pull on the risers and twist around, and enjoy the view.  Very peaceful.  Then finally I saw the big X.   Marks the spot.  Some guys were down there trying to tell me what to do.  I tried to sit in the straps, but what felt right wasn't, and I hit ground, bumping off my butt and back onto my helmeted head (long before bike helmets).

Whoa!  Trying to get hold of the canopy I was dragged along.  All I wanted to do was empty the chute and pick up.  Some guy ran after me, helped me.  It was over.  We all had big laughs about our jumps.

When I got home, Carl didn't even ask me about it.  "Nobody who jumps out of a perfectly good airplane, is dealing with a full deck."  He was adamant.  He was silent.

Maybe it wasn't the time to do it.  Maybe it was reckless.  I don't know.  All I do know is that it was one more thing that would lead me towards flying larger planes, in Alaska, while pregnant with our son.  It was a life that Carl encouraged...and because of him I had amazing adventures....as a wife, a mother, a pilot, and a real estate agent.

This afternoon, I didn't tell people the full story.  They didn't need to hear it.  They related to it only because it took place at an airport not too far away. 

And then I got on my bike and rode home.

Live richly,

marilyn







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