Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Bungee Jump

Last week I embarked on what was by no small margin the most terrifying experience of my life. We had gone with the advanced class students to a small Chinese amusement park that offered bungee jumping. Most of the day I had no hard feelings about the fact that I was going to skip out on this particular adventure. But as I looked up at that platform in the heavens, I felt the same kind of semi-reluctant feeling we felt that time in Thailand when my friend Euan and I saw a lady pushing a cart full of grasshoppers she was selling to eat. He just looked at me and said, "Looks like we don't have a choice here." It's just the kind of thing that you have to do if it comes along.

I know what you're thinking. Under usual circumstances, I probably would never go bungee jumping in America. And when you take into consideration that everything in this country tends to be thrice as shady as back home, it kind of seals the deal. But I did my homework. I asked around, and it turns out that this place had been around for a few years, and no one has heard of anyone dying. So I figured it was safe enough for me. Besides, it was only US $10, and I'll never have that opportunity again.

So I paid my money, got my blood pressure checked, pretended I could read the Chinese waiver they gave me, and did my best to explain to the lady that we use a different system of measuring our eyeglass prescriptions in America so I can't tell you what number my eyes are rated. (The fact that the US government allows me to drive without glasses wasn't cutting it for her. She needed a number.) Next, I got weighed to make sure my big American ass wouldn't snap the bungee cord. Then it was up into the elevator with the three of us: Jamie, (by far the coolest and craziest girl at the school), myself, and another Chinese guy.

By the time we got to the top, I realized for the first time that this might actually be scary. We were hundreds of feet up, the floor was mesh, and the railing was Chinese-height. I finally understood why this was much more scary than a roller coaster. In a roller coaster, you're strapped in and you don't have to move. A machine moves for you, so when you get to the top of that first hill, you don't have to think about whether you want to go down or not. The decision is made for you - there's no backing out. With bungee jumping, you have to stand there on the edge with nothing to hang onto, and just jump.

Jamie, being absolutely fearless, volunteered. "I'll go first! I'll go first!" "Who was I to argue?" I thought. The workers at the top then gave us a few minutes of instructions while Jamie translated for me. As soon as they finished, they pointed at me, pulled me close to them, and started to attach various hooks and carabiners to me. Jamie yelled good luck to me, and I was escorted to the edge.

And oh, what an edge it was. There it was. The whole world in front of me. I could see for miles. It was at that point that they started blasting "The Final Countdown" on the loudspeakers. I was too frightened to laugh hysterically at how funny this was. As I looked down, I knew that there was absolutely no way to convince my body to jump over the edge. My instincts were too finely trained to know that jumping from hundreds of feet in the air when you can't feel anything protecting you will kill you. My legs were shaking to the point that I was worried I'd lose my balance. At that time, I had already calculated the degree of embarrassment, self-dissatisfaction, and loss of money I would face when I backed out. "Sure, some people will make fun of me, and I'll have wasted $10. But that's not really that bad..." But by then, the worker had already said, "Okay, let's go." At least three times, and was already on number two of his countdown that started at five. Perhaps it was a wild streak in me, or perhaps it was the lifelong conditioning of my brain to know that when a countdown is over something is supposed to happen, but the next thing I knew, I had blinked and jumped simultaneously.

I'll be honest. The first two bounces were too terrifying to enjoy. It took until the third bounce or so to realize how awesome it had been. As enjoyed my remaining bounces and destroyed what was left of my vocal cords, they began to lower the hook. I attached it to my belt and they raised me up. When I got on the solid platform I almost kneeled down and kissed the mesh, but I was able to restrain myself. I watched Jamie jump fearlessly and without a care in the world into the abyss. Even once on sea level, it took me about thirty minutes for my hands to stop shaking.

Props to Eric for the camera work.


Ben said...

Well Done

sarahjane said...

oh my word! did you yell, "bob saget?"