<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/never-again/”>Never Again</a>
In response to the Daily Post’s prompt – ‘Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” Tell us about it.
I was 21.
Fit, strong, brave and stupid!
It was in the early 1980’s, an age of excitement and extremes. An age of modernity and change. It was a time (at least in my memory) full of optimism and opportunity.
I had a good job, good income and good mates. We worked for a large Bank in our City’s CDB. To overcome the boredom of Voucher Examining, Proof rooms and Ledger books, we scratched the itch of folly and adventure during our weekends.
Rambo was kicking arse, the A Team had just come out, but as much as we tried; weekend warriors we were not. Sure, there was lots of drinking, sure there was rafting, smashing plates and glasses on our heads, there were a few fights, mountaineering, illegal car racing and the like, but I always felt that I had only just touched my inner dare devil.
That was until my mates Dave Sloan and Tony Novis suggested we go parachuting.
Although I’ve climbed some lovely lofty mountains, I must admit heights have never really been my thing
Mt Rolleston – Arthurs Pass National Park
Once I remember hauling my butt up and over Browning Pass and getting stuck 30 metres from the top. I was cast, couldn’t move up, couldn’t move down, not because I had inadvertently boxed my self in – but because I was petrified of the sheer drop below. It was only when two very attractive female trampers from Switzerland threatened to overtake me that I garnered enough courage to manically scramble hand over foot to the top.
So, when Dave and Tony suggested parachuting, I couldn’t think of a better way to try and overcome my fear of heights. If that sounds crazy logic, then you’re dead right – it was.
The training provided at Jump School was intense and extensive. Three hours on a Friday night and three hours on a Saturday morning. Even now over thirty years later I can still recall and chant the Jump Mantra:
‘One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, look, grip, pull!’
And hopefully that was the end of it. However, should something go wrong there was an additional bit you had to scream out at the top of your lungs.
‘One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, look, grip, pull, look!’
Look, grip, pull, look!’
And then you would float gracefully downward to the earth suspended beneath a billowing canopy of love and cotton wool.
Tandem jumps were not yet in vogue, so for our first jump we were going the old school way; off static line. After our training, after we had donned our jump suits, we were led to a plane way smaller than I imagined it would have been, and way smaller than it should have been. There was only enough room for the pilot, three jumpers and a jump instructor.
I had drawn the short straw to jump first. So I was sitting in the frame of the open door. As the engine started, I instinctively looked for the seat belt and door handle – no such luxuries. As we took off the racing bracing air hit my face, I was pleased. I was hopeful that my companions would mistake the grimace on my face as an involuntarily reaction to the rushing wind.
My fingers hurt, my nails trying to scratch and dig deep into the metal fuselage of the plane. We slowly made our way up to 3,500 feet – climbing in slow concentric rings, the airfield below becoming smaller and smaller. After about 10 minutes the pilot broke the silence, ominously shouting, ‘jump run.’
The jump instructor crawled over to me and attached me to the static line. He got me to check it. ‘Yep’ I stated very affirmatively in the deepest voice I could muster. To be honest I had no idea whether I was connected or not – but I winked at my companions, my calm demeanor hiding the terror beneath.
‘Ready,’ the jump instructor said, motioning me to shuffle my butt toward the middle of the open door way. I obliged. ‘Look at me,’ he asked.
I heard him, but didn’t look at him as I was too busy looking at ground, thinking that within a matter of seconds I might be bouncing off it, then after a few more days be planted 6 foot deep beneath it.
‘Look at me,’ he demanded.
I slowly and reluctantly looked up and over my shoulder at the Instructor. Our eyes met briefly, I knew he could see, as well as sense my terror now. He smiled, trying to placate me. Then with one big shove the bastard pushed me out of the plane.
I don’t blame him, he had been around long enough to know I could never have jumped out my self, and if I didn’t jump no one else could have, I was blocking the way. The plane would have had to return to the airfield full. Full of unhappy jumpers, instructor, pilot and me.
‘One thousand, two thousand,’ my feckin arse!
Counting instantly being substituted by screaming. The Frog prone position instilled in me at training replaced by uncontrolled tumbling.
You have to be kidding, I had my eyes closed.
Once I felt the canopy open, I breathed, I opened my eyes, I looked.
Jesus Christ – I had a malfunction – true story!
My tumbling meant that when the chute opened lines crossed over and one of the lines sat on top of the chute.
My brain screamed MALFUNCTION, cut away, cut away – my mouth screamed ‘aaagh!’
Through sheer panic my right hand grabbed the offending line and shook it vigorously. Whatever I was trying to do worked and quickly afterward the line and canopy separated themselves. I floated down toward the earth my heart beating a thousand beats a minute and being extremely pleased I was wearing a brown jumpsuit.
At the post jump debrief the Instructor congratulated me on fixing the cross over line, but adding he felt I was not really suited to parachuting, telling me that I was the only jumper he had ever instructed, ever seen, ever heard of in fact, that had tried to climb back up the static line and back into the plane.
I agreed – never again!
This post is dedicated to the memory of a great mate, Dave Sloan, taken by depression way too young – remembered always.
Kia Ora Roly