One of my best friends in the world recently went skydiving for the second time. And then a third. Now ordinarily that might not be major news. But this is a big deal for Ben, because he’s a double amputee.
It was the summer of 2007, and I had big plans for my bachelor party. For starters, I wanted to go to Las Vegas. I was hoping to do all of the usual things guys do in Vegas, but with one additional adventure: skydiving. (Did I take all of my inspiration from that episode of Full House when Uncle Jesse jumped out of a plane before he and Becky got married?? I’ll never tell.) Ben, as Best Man, asked the rest of our group who woukd be going with me. Of the 16 fellow bachelors in town, there were only 3 who were willing to take the plunge: myself, James, and Ben.
Now it wasn’t a surprise that Ben wanted to jump; he’s always been a thrill seeker. But we all knew the real question was whether he *could* do it.
The skydiving place was a bit off the Strip, and Ben arranged for us to make that trip in style, renting a Bobby Rousch Ford Mustang convertible. We had to get going early after a late night, and we were only operating on a few hours of sleep that morning. Still, the gravity (sorry, bad pun) of the situation quickly became apparent, when the people who worked at the skydiving company said they had serious reservations about letting Ben jump. Not only was he missing a foot and an arm, but he was also overweight. They weren’t mean or nasty about it, they simply didn’t want to authorize something that was unsafe. We were told that the ultimate decision would be made by a senior instructor, who would be coming in later.
So we waited.
It was excruciating.
I vaguely remember a game on their small TV – I think it was basketball, but it was definitely between teams I’d never heard of. (I mean, really, what major sport events happen so damn early?) We all watched it, pretending to care, but we were just doing our best to ignore the elephant in the room.
We all knew that if Ben wasn’t allowed to jump, he would be crushed.
Ben, being Ben, passed the time by schmoozing with everyone in earshot.
Those strangers were quickly won over by his smile and personality, and they were all rooting for him to be allowed to jump. All of us in that small, dingy room were wishing for the best, but of course, none of that mattered.
Finally, the senior instructor walked in, and the situation was explained to him by one of the other employees. He came over to Ben to size him up, and the air went out of the room.
The instructor matter-of-factly asked Ben to stand up. Ben stood up. He asked if Ben could kneel. Ben knelt. The instructor shrugged, and said, “Sure, I’ll take you.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the entire room erupted into cheers.
Skydiving meant a lot to me (POSSIBLY because I’m such a devout follower of Full House), but it was readily apparent that it meant even more to Ben.
Want to see how it went down? (I really need to stop with these puns…)
I think it’s safe to say that skydiving was a “one and done” thing for me, but I’m glad to know that Ben is able to capture that amazing feeling again.