It really is a small world. It seems to get even smaller as I get older.
I was waiting for my plane in Orlando earlier today. As I was checking out hot chicks, this old fat guy (yeah, I am old and fat, do you have something to say?) walked up to me and asked if I remembered him. Of course I didn’t, I don’t remember old fat guys. So he reminded me that he was the pilot of the jump plane we all used for skydiving. We talked about sky diving and the fun we used to have when we were young and not so fat and not so wise.
I remember when my Dad used to say things about my risky hobby. He used to say things like, "Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane." Of course, I knew better, it was a really crappy plane. I still remember that piece of crap Cessna 182. Looking back, I must have been really stupid to climb into that thing 4-5 times each Saturday (we never jumped on Sunday as it was the deep south) just to jump out of it, land, fold my parachute as fast as I could and climb into the plane again. If you were fast, you could have your parachute packed fast enough so you only missed one ride.
As we talked, I was reminded about one of those times when it was good that I was wearing a parachute. There were four jumpers squeezed into the plane along with the pilot (yeah, it costs too much if the pilot jumps so he has to stay in the plane). On this particular day, we had just climbed to about 3,000′ above ground level and were supposed to climb to 7,500′ but the plane decided to start acting up. I remember hearing the engine suddenly cut down to a little above idle and looked up to see that we were starting to lose altitude. I quickly tapped everyone on the head and pointed to the door. I opened the door, and we all bailed out quickly. Just as I was pulling myself to the door, I remember the pilot (he was really concentrating hard on trying to figure out what was wrong with the plane) yelling out real loud that we might want to get ready to jump so he could turn around and land. He remembered turning around to make sure we were getting ready just to see me yelling to him, "Too late, we already made that decision" and watched me going out the door.
Of course, we all paid for that rash decision as we landed. Because nobody bothered to check where we were before we started bailing out, we were way too far from the landing zone to come close to making it there. I still remember coming down hard in the McDonald’s parking lot trying to avoid the power lines and all the cars in the drive through. Two others landed at Wal-Mart, and one landed in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
Damn, I really was stupid back then. I just opened my log book (yep, I still have my jump log) and see a couple of tree landings (that is where the jumper either lands in the tree or crashes into it like I always did), one time I crashed into the truck that used to pick us up from the drop zone, and once when I was fined by the FAA for jumping through a cloud (a very bad thing as you never know what is in the cloud and never know what is below the cloud). Looking back, I probably should have written those up to hide my stupidity.
The scariest thing I do nowadays is drink soda while driving my car. OK, I lied, I still do lots of stupid things, but they are not as obviously stupid as past events.