Part 1 of 3 from Chapter 1 of my next book “WELCOME TO THE ONE BROKEN LEG CLUB”
“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE”
I am sure there are other versions of this story.
This is mine because I was the guy on the back of the flatbed truck …
Martin, colleague, friend and parachuting aficionado, and I had a few beers on Friday night 30 September 1983 in my favourite pub around the corner from my apartment. Note that I can pinpoint not only the date but also the day of the week.
I: “So what are you guys doing this weekend?”
So I let it slip for a beer and a few songs.
I: “Silly to throw yourself out of a fully functional aircraft with just a handkerchief above your head, isn’t it!”
Not silly, just stupid. And on second thoughts, it’s not a sport. Running is a sport. What’s so fancy with sitting in an airplane and then just jump out? No sweating. No muscles required. Just jump.
As the pub band was finishing their night’s entertainment with “Sweet Dreams” from the Eurythmics Martin took a R10 note out of his change on the table, tore the note in two and placed one half in front of me.
Martin: “Come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow – if you dare. Or better still, we can pick you up at 6.30 a.m. That way you don’t have to drive there and back. You are not chicken are you, hmm?”
I stubbed out my cigarette, looked at the half-torn note like it was diseased, then looked up at Martin to see if this was a joke. There were more than twinkles in his slowly narrowing eyes. I was painted into a corner. This was my regular pub nearest to home. The band had stop playing. Other patrons overheard the challenge.
My fear of ridicule was greater than my fear of fear. And the slowly spreading sly smile told me that Martin enjoyed the stab at my fear – and pride.
Acceptance was the better part of valor. I reminded myself to review our friendship and drinking habits, especially on Friday evenings. Now to get this story past my Mom who was living with me due to a family circumstance.
It took three cigarettes (me), two cups of coffee (Mom) and all the skills of a defense lawyer trying to break up a hung jury to get Mom to see it my way. Or rather Martin’s way. I prayed for severe storms all night. Daybreak left me less of a believer. And the Ten Commandments didn’t help either.
Can I call in sick?
Not many hours later there was a cheerful knock on the door. You know the sort of “tap tarra rap tap – tap tap I got your number” type.
Martin: “Good morning Ma’am. Is Kris ready? Don’t worry we will look after him and bring him home, no problem” (well for Martin that is, I thought, but silence was the better part of a rather stretched friendship at this point).
I felt like Atlas as we shuffled off to the elevator.
The 160+ km ride was – well – less than cheerful, from my side that is. The other guys were in much brighter spirits, looking forward to another adrenaline kick. My thought were more of the pillow-and-mattress type kick. And my hang-over talked back in capital letters.
The camaraderie was tangible as we arrived. The talk infectious. Friends from a few places were arriving one after the other and were greeted with a cup of coffee, talks of the weekend’s impending jumps and stories of past jumps.
I was pulled aside into the shed to fill out the obligatory paperwork and answer a few questions on any reasons that would stop me from jumping – which we sailed through without a hiccup.
And missed my chance of being disqualified and declared incapacitated.
On to a look at the training gear. A dummy parachute much like a backpack (hmm I hope I get a real one to jump with) and I started to feel the slow creep of excitement.
The agenda was to include some theory, then two practical sessions in which to climb onto a tower (about 3 meters high) and jump from there with the objective to learn how to land, to collapse the legs and to fall towards a preferred side.
Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast. So I practiced a few times before lunchtime. There was another practice session scheduled for after lunch. Right?
“Ok guys, what’s for lunch?”
Things were shared and then someone handed the weather report to the co-ordinator.
Co-ordinator: “Guys, the forecast says we will have rain late this afternoon, so the options are, we get ready and do our jumps now, or we delay till tomorrow morning”.
I saw a heaven-sent opportunity. My challenge was to “come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow”, which was – well- today. So if there was no jump, then I will just walk onto the drop zone and claim the other half of the note.
Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast.
Quick vote. Tonight we’ll have a BBQ, so let’s do it now.
My toast just got burnt!
Co-ordinator: “OK tog up, we will jump soon”.
(Part 2 of 3 will be blogged in two days from now)