Will and I stared up at the bungee platform sitting 200 feet above a water-filled gorge.
“It doesn’t look so bad,” we agreed, trying hopelessly to convince each other that this wouldn’t be so scary.
Neither of us had ever bungee jumped before.
We filled out a waiver and signed our lives away for being dumb enough to want to jump 20 stories attached to a rubber band.
I stepped on a scale. A young girl working at Great Canadian Bungee wrote “178 J” on the back of my hand.
“What does the ‘J’ stand for?” I asked.
“It means Jump,” she replied.
Will and I walked up a gravel pathway leading to the bungee platform with five other people with Js written on the back of their hands.
The seven of us climbed a staircase up to the main platform which was cantilevered over the edge of the gorge.
I looked down.
“Holy shit. That’s really high,” was all I could manage.
I was nervous. Truth be told, I’m afraid of heights. Always have been. Just thinking about being up high and looking down on something makes my palms sweat. I remember not being able to breathe when I was 11 years old watching Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone.
Bungee jumping was a huge stretch out of my comfort zone.
The seven of us listened to instructions from a long haired dude with a scraggly beard. There wasn’t much to be said. “We tie you up and you jump,” was the extent of it. He helped us put on our harnesses and told us we’d have the option of touching the water or not. He also recommended jumping forward because it was the scariest.
I was up third, just after Will. I watched my friend walk out, get hooked up to the cord, and launch himself off the platform. He did it. Surely I could do it, too, I thought.
This was safe. I was convinced of that. I’d watched other people do it and walk away unscathed. But still, I knew from talking to friends that when you get to the edge and look down, the moment before you jump, your brain doesn’t want to let you do it. It’s just not natural.
At the bottom, the boat came and picked up Will; at the top, the bearded dude was calling me to walk to the end of the platform.
It was my turn.
Three guys hooked me up to a red bungee cord and tightened the straps of my harnesses. It all happened too quickly.
“You want to touch the water?” they asked.
“Sure, why not,” I said. Might as well go all out.
“Just so you know, this isn’t an exact science. You might miss the water or you might get a really good dunk. We never know.”
“Spectacular,” I thought.
“OK, just take a couple steps forward until your toes are hanging over the edge,” they instructed.
I did. And then I looked down.
My knees felt weak and I couldn’t breathe. I squeezed the railing with both hands. “Give me a second,” I pleaded. I closed my eyes, looked up, and took a deep breath. I tried to reason with my brain but it wasn’t listening.
“We’ll give you 5 seconds,” the bungee master replied sarcastically. “Here we go in 5, 4, 3…”
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!
Stop being a wimp, Ibey!
I don’t like using the word “epic.” I find it’s an overused hipster word.
But today, I’m going to say that bungee jumping was epic. It was one of the most incredible rushes I’ve ever felt in my life. Nothing else compares to it. The feeling of gravity pulling you down in free-fall is something that can’t be described. I think the scream of pure happiness on the first bounce explains how I felt about my bungee jumping experience.
The fear of heights is real. Jumping from 200 feet would kill you without an over-sized elastic band tied to your ankles. Your brain knows this and tells your body, “This is a bad idea,” even though you know it’s probably statistically safer than walking across an intersection in Montreal.
Taking that plunge was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a while and it was one of the scariest few seconds of my life. Which of course brings up the next logical question:
Would I do it again?
Without a doubt I would. I just hope next time I won’t (almost) shit my pants again.