And the room went quiet… ssssshhhhh… let’s not talk about God…
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to look for numerical patterns in life. Things are just easier for me that way, so much easier to remember a formula, rather than every single computation from it. Some numbers have added significance, I believe. Like prime numbers, or my personal favorite, the prime prime numbers. Anyhow, this post certainly isn’t about my odd views on Math.. really, it’s just about the number 4. Four, in some circles, is not considered a “Godly” number. In many religions, you’ll often see 1, 3, 5,7 and 11 often represented in their beliefs.. but not 4.
In my first three jumps, I believe my ego had already started to grow. I had learned I could fly, I had learned I could turn and I learned I could move forward past my mistakes and land gracefully on my feet. I might well have thought I was a god of the sky at that point.
However, I can tell you that jump number 4, gave me a nice little attitude check. I was disappointed with my previous experience during jump number three and things at home had been a bit rough that week. I called up Mike at NSC, asking if he would be flying again at Frankenmuth that next week. He wasn’t, but he had found a new home for his plane at Midwest. I’m not a fan of driving through Detriot traffic, but I can certainly admit now, I needed a jump and I probably would’ve driven to the far side of China if that’s where he told me he would be.
I’ve spoken of jump number 4 before, I even wrote about in fairly good detail and was once quoted in Blue Skies Magazine as saying “Two seconds of tumbling through bridle and pilot chute took ten years off my life!”
However, I don’t know if I’ve ever told a soul, how close I came to quitting that day. Sure, after the debrief, when my Instructors (Todd & Cliff) pointed on my errors (with video, of which I would LOVE to see now, if any Midwest people might know where it is..), I smiled and thanked them and hung out for a few more hours. I didn’t want to make a sudden run for doors, though really that’s what I thought I should do. I thought I would go home, maybe tell my wife she was right.. what was I thinking with all this skydive talk anyway?
Did I really believe I could become one of these Gods of the Sky?
Yes, I did. However, after jump number 4, I did not. I stayed around few hours, sharing one last beer with my new friends and I never planned on coming back again. Of course, I did not tell anyone that then. However, by twist of fate, or perhaps his own intention, one skydiver there that day, saved my life. To this very day, I couldn’t tell you any more about him than his first name, Eric, and that he appears on my first jump video; he jumped out, just before my Instructors and I came to the door.
I couldn’t quote his numbers to be sure, but I know I had once asked him how many jumps he had the day of my first and he had told me 80-some. How might a sub-hundred jump wonder get a save? Simple, he said he was planning on upgrading soon and gave me his altimeter. I told him I didn’t have the cash for it on me, but he said he didn’t care. You’ll be back next week, right? You can pay me back then, he said. I am sure I thanked him at the time, probably only tongue-in-cheek at best. Really, I had to figure out how I would get his money or altimeter back to him, since I never planned on jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, again, for the rest of my life.
I remember driving home that night, Kristal had given me directions back to I-94, rather than 696, the way I came. It added half an hour to my trip at least, but gave me the time I needed to think. First I wondered if I could just mail it back to him, but then he (and everyone) would have known I gave up. Then I thought I could just mail a check and maybe they would think I’d started jumping elsewhere. Before I made it home, for some reason, I had felt compelled to put that altimeter on my wrist.
I glanced at it often, just like my mirrors as I drove down the highway. I can’t say for sure, if I made my choice that night or slowly over the next week. However, I did decide that if Eric put that altimeter in my hand, then I owed him the respect to put his cash directly into his. I knew that meant I’d have to jump again, but just once to say I did. Then I would be done. Five skydives is more than enough for any man, right?
Where ever the winds have taken you, Thank You Eric. You gave me my next jump.