My First Skydiving Injury

I come strolling into the hanger, rig over my shoulder, in the middle of the afternoon. I was planning on getting in a leisurely jump or two on my way back to south Georgia. The drop zone is between here and there so it was the only practical thing to do, really.

As I walk in I see a half dozen or so jumpers milling about in full gear. I've not gotten halfway to the manifest desk when the head packer points at me and says, "He can go on this load."

Then, over the loudspeaker comes the Booming Voice of Manifest [TM], "Thomas, we need you to make the plane go, hurry."

Understand that fuel is the single most costly element in putting jumpers in the air. In order to keep the operation profitable, each flight to altitude must take in enough money to offset the cost of petrol. That's how you get what I walked into yesterday, seven jumpers geared up and shooting shit, waiting for that critical eighth person* to tip the scales towards profitability and put the lot of them in the air.

Now, I know that a preponderance of skydiving injuries occur in precisely this situation. Someone hurries to get to the plane and misses some critical detail that later costs them a trip to the hospital. Thus, I refused to be rushed. I make a detailed gear check, by the numbers, exactly as I always do.

However, donning my jumpsuit can be a bit time consuming so I don't bother. I just throw the rig on over my regular clothes, snap my helmet on and head for the plane.

Herein lie my error.

It took me to six thousand feet to realize that I just got on a jump plane wearing a button-up shirt. I'm sure most people have ridden a bicycle while wearing a collared shirt. That same whip-whip-whip that you get against your jaw in that situation you also get in free-fall, except the wind is going 120 miles per hour.

Oh, it stings.

This morning I have a neat red triangle right up under my jawline. The sensation is something akin to the razor burn from a dirty snow shovel.

Oh, oh, it stings.

This is what Confucius meant when he talked about, "the crimson mark of life's visceral lessons."

* This depends on the type of plane in which you are flying. A Cessna 182 might only need two jumpers to make the ride worthwhile, though it maxes out around eleven thousand feet and the ride up takes half an hour. Where I go, we fly a King Air, a dual turbo-prop that climbs to 14k in under eight minutes and that needs eight brave souls to make it fly.

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You'll Never Work in this Town Again

We'd been dug into a suburban mega-church for the better part of the week. I don't think there was so much as a squeezer left on the G&E trucks. The main company had moved from shooting in the massive space of the sanctuary to the cramped and stuffy confines of the pastor's office.

Passing back through the atrium from base camp I observed Juicers and Hammers lugging out the metric tons of miniutae we'd spend four days hauling in one and two bits at a go. They were making good time considering the single fire door that everything had to pass through.

As I delivered paperwork to the first AD in the sweltering cocoon of the set he said, "Go out in the lobby and see how long they're going to take to finish loading out."

Nodding, I answered, "They're about eighty-five percent done. I'd give them another forty five minutes."

He stared at me as if I had just told him the moon really was made of cheese or that clouds were albatross farts.

"Really, I just came through there." I said, "They're about forty-five minutes away. Maybe an hour."

Dropped the folder to the ground and belted, "Damnit, Thomas!" With this the whole crew halted in place as our AD, normally so reserved and soft spoken, barked at me near the top of his lungs. "How dare you know the answer to a question before I can think to ask it! You're going nowhere in this business! You're fired!"

Meekly, I took of my headset and laid my radio on a lens case and started back down the hallway in search of a time card with head slung low.

I'd made it not twenty paces when the AD called out, "Alright, I need someone to go back to base and run the safety memos." He glanced around the room and found that all the other members of the department were elsewhere on production missions of one kind or another. "Damnit, Thomas! You're re-hired."

And that's kind of how this business goes, sometimes.

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And Some Days...

You find yourself in a familiar place that you don't recognize anymore, the sweetest spring breeze carries nothing but putrescence and only a handful of the people you know seem like good company.

When this happens to most people they call it a rut, take a long weekend and then go back to exactly the place where they began.

I, by contrast, realize that a life epoch is drawing to a close and that I must now begin the long and arduous task of outlining a new chapter. I think I'll make it a travelogue and I hope that I'm up for the trip.

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A Tattoo in Berlin, and a Case of the Craps

Last night the radio played "November Rain," "Eurotrash Girl" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" all in a row.

This can only mean that the DJ had diarrhea and knew that he wouldn't be back in the studio for a while.

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Mom, Don't Read This

First jump test-driving the new rig that I'm thinking of buying. The container fits nicely; the weight is comfortable. It has the little extras that I want like dive rings and a collapsible slider. The AAD still has four years left on its service cycle. The price is really good.

I step out at 14,500 and the container flies great. I can move cleanly on all three axes; I can invert and I can back-fly without any resistance.

It's an unfamiliar canopy so I deploy at twice my usual altitude.

I feel the container pop and I get pulled into a standing position but I do not slow down.

Oh, Shit.

Looking over my shoulder I can clearly see my lines leading up to the deployment bag, in which my canopy is still tightly tucked with only a few feet of material hanging out into the wind that do virtually nothing to slow my decent.

With hand on cutaway handle, my eyes flash back and forth from my altimeter to the mass of lines and bridle trailing behind me. I say to myself, 'This is not my parachute. I can't go back to Falconer and tell him that I cut away his main first time out.' Of course this is with the caveat that I am still speeding towards Mother Earth at over a hundred miles per hour so that thought soon shifts to, 'If I'm not open by 3500, I'll chop it.'

Two heartbeats short of me cutting away, the bag slides down, the canopy opens and I find myself sailing gracefully at three thousand feet with naught but a closed end-cell to show for the near-malfunction.

I stand up directly on target and make three more incident-free jumps on that gear that day.

I love this shit.

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