August 30, 2012

My life as a contestant on Fear Factor

Remember the TV show Fear Factor?  The second segment of the show was always the worst and I remember having to watch it through covered eyes.  It was when they would make the insane contestants lie in a glass case and unleash 500 cockroaches. Or make them drink a liter of snake blood. Or some other grotesque challenge that would make my hair stand on end.  Now, I’ve never done anything close to those challenges (see my mouse blog for proof), but I have managed to get myself into some Fear Factor-worthy situations.

For my almost 30th birthday (my 29th to be exact), I went sky-diving for the first time here in Kentucky.  I honestly thought I would be scared out of my mind, but I was surprisingly calm and relaxed as I fell 10,000 feet from the sky.  It was such an amazing rush and I kept saying over and over that I couldn’t wait to do it again.  I should be careful for what I wish for.  Fast forward one year.  I was in Sarasota one afternoon during adult spring break (aka the annual SEC basketball tournament)... I was on a friend’s boat when we saw a sky-diver land on a nearby beach.  Our spontaneity kicked in and we immediately made a bee-line to check things out.  The owner, a very laid back man (almost too laid back), told us to meet him at this same spot on the beach the next day and he’d take us up.  We were too excited to notice any of the warnings... but the first thing that should have tipped us off is when the owner asked my friend, who is a commercial airline pilot, if he wanted to fly us up... ummm... this man was going to trust some “kid,” whom he just met, who “claims” he knows how to fly planes?  Talk about liability issues.

I debated on whether to tell my parents that I was doing this or not.  But I didn’t want them being blind-sided if they got a disturbing call the next day that there had been an accident.  When I told my dad, his response was, “Do I need to come down to Florida and spank you for not using your common sense?”  Once again, I should have started to tune into the clues.  But I didn’t.  The next day, we showed up on the beach more excited than Christmas Eve and the owner drove us to the airport where we met our tandem partners.  This is where the differences between my first and second sky-diving experiences started pouring in:

--Before my first diving experience, I had to watch two videos, sign my life away on at least twenty different pages of legal jargon, and go through extensive mock-training prior to getting inside the plane.  So I was a little nervous when my training session this time consisted of this:
Instructor:  Ok, this is what you need to know.  Have your arms crossed over your chest when we exit the plane.  When I tap you on the shoulder, you can release your arms.
Me:  That’s it?
Instructor:  That’s it.  Do you want to pull the ‘chute?
Me:  I am paying you good money for this near-death experience.  And I would like to keep it “near-death” rather than “death”... so no, I do not want to pull the parachute today.

--For my first dive in Kentucky, they dressed me in typical Top Gun apparel and I felt very official.  For this second dive, I was wearing my bathing suit (albeit covered with a top and shorts)... not so official.

--As the five of us loaded into the plane (my friend and her tandem, me and my tandem, and the pilot), my friend and I quickly noticed the pilot was wearing a parachute.  Why did the pilot need a parachute??  This definitely did not give me any warm-fuzzy feelings inside.  As we looked around the teeny plane, we also discovered the plane was being held together by duct tape.  No, you didn’t read that wrong.  Get.  Me.  Out.  Of.  This.  Plane.  My first experience was total tranquility... this experience was total anxiety.  And we weren’t even off the ground yet.

--When I jumped in Kentucky, I was the first one in the plane (meaning the last one out) and was behind at least 10 solo divers.  So when I finally got to the door, there wasn’t any time for me to get nervous as I stared at the ground because my tandem partner counted to three and off we went.  Hahahaha... not this time.  This time I was the last one in (and you guessed it, meaning the first one out).  When we reached 8,000 feet, my tandem partner opened the door and told me to dangle my legs out of the plane.  I was expecting us to jump at any second.  But nooooooo... I sat like this for eternity as we circled the shark infested waters beneath waiting to get up to 12,000 feet (I made the shark thing up... but that’s what my mind was thinking).  As I sat with my legs dangling out of the plane, I became beyond nervous as my only option was to look at the Gulf fade away as I was getting closer and closer to the Heavens.  At this moment, I officially turned into a train-wreck praying harder than I’ve ever prayed before...

And then we jumped at the altitude of 12,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico.  And it was the most peaceful experience I’ve ever had.  Free-falling for a minute over the ocean and then landing softly on the best beach in America was a million-dollar experience.  And I’d do it all over again... only this time with a Xanax.

Driving my car into a lake
This has the tendency to be a very long and drawn-out story.  So, I’ll try my best to just keep with the highlights.  It was Friday night, September 22, 2006.  I was half-way through my shift at work when it started raining... and raining... and raining harder... and raining even harder... and this went on for hours.  My mom called me at work to tell me that she lost power and that her sump pump was over-flowing, causing her basement to flood.  Being the good (and amazing) daughter that I am, I made the decision that I would go to her house to help her instead of going home.  As I was leaving work, the water was up to my knees in the parking lot (reason #1 not to leave work).  The rain had slowed enough that I could now see at least ten feet in front of me, so I made the executive decision that it was okay to drive (reason #2 not to leave work).  And due to the power outage (that somehow affected everywhere but my pharmacy), there were no street lights... making it total darkness (reason #3 not to leave work).  

As I started my car and pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that the rain had picked up again, so I started puttering along with my foot off the gas... going no more than 10mph... I couldn’t see more than three feet in front of my car.  My mother lives one mile from my pharmacy, so I told myself that I could manage this for one measly mile.  I was handling this obstacle course like a champ... and then it happened.  In my mom’s subdivision, less than a quarter-mile from my mom’s house, I hit a flooded zone.  And my car stalled (we later discovered there was a huge tree trunk laying in the street that caused my car to get stuck).  Water was quickly entering my car from the floor and rising outside to a level above my car windows.  Thank goodness my electrical system didn’t short out and I was still able to operate my sun roof.  

Picture me now sitting on top of my car in the pouring rain.  (Quit laughing).  My car was stalled right in front of a house where the owners happened to be looking outside.  Clark Kent took off his glasses and put on his cape, and Superman came roaring out of this house to the rescue.  It was raining so hard that we couldn’t hear each other even though we were shouting at the top of our lungs... I felt like I was in a scene from a movie.  All I could understand was him screaming for me not move and to stay on my car roof.  This total stranger then swam out to my car... he kept telling me to hold on to him because he was scared I wasn’t strong enough to fight the current.  He practically swam me back to his front door step where his wife was waiting with dry towels.

It stopped raining less than twenty minutes later, and the lake that formed in the street disappeared in less than five minutes.  My poor car was DOA when the tow truck arrived... resuscitation was not an option... so it was towed to the car morgue.  It was a very frightening day for me... and also sad because I had to say goodbye to the first car that I owned.  

Dude, RUN!
One night over a year ago, I went out with my cousin, sister, and sister’s boyfriend in Indianapolis.  No special occasion, just for fun.  My cousin parked in a pay-lot downtown and it took all four of us (3 lawyers and a pharmacist) to figure out how to pay for our parking spot.  I tell you this because this past May, I went to the Indiana Pacer’s NBA playoff game versus the Miami Heat.  

After the game as we were headed to a bar, we passed this same lot with the jacked-up parking meter.  It somehow amused us enough that we stopped at this parking lot and relived our stupidity.  As we were standing there reminiscing, we saw a man jog past us in this parking lot.  Then we saw a police officer running at an Olympic pace trying to catch him.  My cousin starts saying to the jogger, “Dude, run... you’ve gotta run faster than that... he’s gonna catch you!”  And then out of nowhere, a police car entered this parking lot and accelerated full speed to purposely hit the jogger, causing the suspect to fly ten feet in the air.  

This scene now had our full and undivided attention.  This suspect was the bionic man because after he was thrown in the air, he then rolled a few times on the ground, and then he was up jogging again.  Then I heard it.  Pow pow pow.  My sister took off running towards the scene (why towards, and not away??) saying, “This man’s gonna need a lawyer!”  I tried to pull my cell phone out to call 911 to let them know someone just got shot (then I realized the police were 911).  As I chased my sister through this parking lot, my cousin realized the police had used a taser and not a gun.  Yep, it was a taser.  Because just feet away, this crazy guy pulled the tasers off his body and once again kept running... now even slower than before.

It didn’t take long for the police to tackle the guy, but it took four officers to hold him down as he remained extremely combative.  The two police officers that chased him were bent over at the waist gasping for air.  My sister and I walked up to the scene like we were private detectives on the case and just stood there less than 10 feet away watching the rest of the events unfold (my sister refused to leave this man just in case he needed a lawyer).  Meanwhile, two young guys who had joined us for this random Thursday night parking lot entertainment told us that they were outside a bar when the man was tasered the first time.  The man had ripped his jacket off, throwing it and the tasers on the ground.  Because he was already tasered, that is why the man was running at jogger’s pace when we first saw him.  This man was truly the Energizer bunny on crack... he just kept going and going and going.  

**After these experiences, I can now say bring on Fear Factor.  Joe Rogan... you can’t scare me (just don’t use a mouse, please!).

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