I don't know what it is, but I've often found myself in places or situations that are completely WTF. Maybe it's that I like to live my life by the No. 1 rule of improv comedy: Never, ever, ever say no to anything. In improv, it's the audience that's suggesting doing stupid things; in my case, I'm the audience: Go on, Alex, just do it! You probably won't die, but, just in case, you better hide your vibrator so your mom doesn't find it when she's weepily cleaning out your house.
This magnetism for boldness has led to some pretty weird experiences. Most of the time, I know exactly what I'm getting myself into, but sometimes insane happenings just land on my lap. The latter was the case last Saturday.
My boyfriend's band was going to play a show at Skydive San Diego, a skydiving company out by Otay Lake. His friend and band mate, Gaylord, is a hardcore skydiving aficionado. He set up the gig for the company's Summer Boogie, a semi-regular extreme-sports bash that skydiving companies put together.
Upon arriving, I saw flea-sized dots high up in the sky slowly getting bigger and bigger until they became human forms that landed on the ground with a hearty "Fuck yeah!," their hands throwing devil horns in the air.
I've never seriously considered skydiving. I get mildly anxious on airplanes, and I regularly have nightmares that involve falling from great heights and landing with a bloody splat onto concrete. Plus, I tend to be a worst-case-scenario type of person. If I'm ever doing anything that has even the slightest air of danger, I can't get out of my mind the freak accident that will do me in.
Even with my gory imagination running wild, I mentioned to Gaylord that I was considering going for it. He immediately called over the owner, and, in a matter of eight seconds, I was offered a free skydive. When any experience, especially the kind you never thought you'd do, is offered, I say you have to take it.
I put down my plate of roast beef and mac-and-cheese, ran over to the information office to speed through the waiver forms, and 10 minutes later, I was being strapped into a harness.
The adrenaline coursing through my veins kept me from registering exactly what I had agreed to. I'd not come at all prepared for the possibility of skydiving, which was obvious to anyone who saw my skinny jeans, L.A.M.B. flats and thin sweater top. I walked to the small airplane with a big smile on my face, hopped in and took a seat, looking like I was on my way to a job interview with Jesus. Then, in the back of my mind, I started to hear the faint sound of Buddy Holly's voice. Oh God, I've made a huge mistake.
The plane reached 13,000 feet, and that's when shit got real. I was strapped onto my tandem partner, Roberto, who begged me not to barf on him. Earlier that day, someone vomited on a tandem partner, and Roberto, understandably, wasn't interested in wiping roast beef and mac-and-cheese from his face.
We hobbled like Quasimodo to the back of the plane. I peeked out the opening and saw Google Earth IRL (in real life). Panic came over me, and I started half-screaming, half-sobbing a terror-filled "No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" Before I got to my 20th "no," we were out of the plane, plummeting from thousands of feet up.
I covered my face in a petrified sob as we plunged. Roberto yelled out for me to open my arms like a bird and look around. I forced my arms out as the wind whipped my face. My toes curled up in an attempt to keep my shoes, which had been tied to my feet with a rubber band, from flying off.
We dropped for a full minute, and I somehow managed not to poop my pants, though that outcome felt entirely possible. My skydiving companion attempted to make all of my dreams come true by reenacting the classic scene from the seminal motion picture Point Break. He held out his hand, but I was too busy freaking out to grab it—a missed opportunity that I'll always regret. Vaya con Dios, sweet movie moment.
Then Roberto pulled the rip cord and we shot up. My stomach gave a heave, and suddenly we were gliding peacefully through the sky. That's when I could actually look around. It was absolutely beautiful. The sun was setting over the water. I marveled as I looked down at my feet and saw them dangling over teeny houses and giant mountains. All I could bring myself to say was, "Oh fuck. This is insane. Oh my God. Fuck. It's so beautiful. I didn't barf. Fuck."
As our landing approached, my stomach heaved again and went back into "No, no, no, no, no" mode. I hit the ground ass-first and was greeted by loud applause and an ice-cold Coors Light, which I proceeded to chug. It was the most glorious beer to ever hit my lips.
Later, I celebrated my newfound daredevil skills at the Boogie. A wet T-shirt contest was incited, fire dancers twirled flaming torches, people started climbing poles and swinging like drunken monkeys. It was truly a WTF kind of day. It was a skydiver's Burning Man.
That night, my boyfriend and I looked at the photos from my dive. They are horrifyingly, hilariously embarrassing. Being able to see my disgustingly terrified face stretched out like it had undergone the worst plastic surgery ever, with a beautiful sunset backdrop, reminded me why I never say no. Totally worth it.
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