The joy of trying something new: Leaping out over the Vegas skyline
The woman pulls the straps on each side of my harness. She tugs until they can’t tighten any farther.
I am in a comical blue and yellow flight suit with a camera positioned on my hand. My harness is red. This whole getup is very unflattering.
“I’ve got two kids,” I say, “Make sure they’re really tight.”
A few days before our Las Vegas trip, my beau challenged me to jump off the Stratosphere. He said, “I buy, you fly.”
I was scared… but I’m not one to back down from a challenge. When we got to the hotel room, I called his bluff and made an appointment to take the leap. Then I called my mother. She was not happy.
According to Wikipedia, SkyJump Las Vegas holds the Guinness World Record for highest commercial decelerator descent with an official height of 829 ft (253 m) and is located at Stratosphere Las Vegas. The SkyJump people say it’s 855 feet. Whatever. It’s freaking high up.
We showed up. I was handed the hideous flight suit. I put it on and signed the waivers. My beau, Mr. Fussypants, bought the deluxe SkyJump package to document all of it. The staff strapped a GoPro to my wrist.
On the elevator to the top of the Stratosphere, other tourists said, “Are you really going to do that jump?”
“Yes,” I respond. “Don’t discourage me. I have my mind made up already.”
So here I stand, strapped into a harness, with a GoPro on my wrist, facing the giant spool of thick wire that will allow me to fall 45 miles per hour and not die. The young woman does last minute checks and I have time to contemplate what I am about to do.
I turn toward the jump and a familiar smell wafts by my nose. I say, “It smells like steak. Does it smell like steak out here to you or is it just me?”
“Yes,” she says. “Turn around and take a picture!” We pose as another staff member snaps a photo.
I turn to face my fate.
I take a deep breath and I look out over the hotels of Las Vegas, a city I have just begun to explore.
The guy in front of me chickened out. I watched from the waiting area as he shakily backed off the platform and stepped into the safety of the Stratosphere’s observation deck.
I would die before I backed down.
I look down at my feet. Dwarfed by the flight suit, my size 10 Nike sneakers look small. I’m close to the edge now.
My feet shift forward. I take one last breath and take in the setting sun ahead of me.
This is it.
“Here she comes… 3–2–1… go!”
I take one step out into nothing, then gravity takes me. I pitch forward.
For one second, there is nothing but overwhelming joy and complete horror. I am breathless, weightless, and somehow more alive than ever.
I am also hurtling toward the ground.
For the next three seconds, I do a lot of yelling.
Then I remember… I have to point the GoPro at myself to document this for my kids. I stretch out my arms.
Not everybody gets to see Vegas this way. I know I have to appreciate this experience, so I turn my head to drink it all in. Even with the smog, the skyline is beautiful.
I let myself fall.
All at once, I look down and see the ground coming up fast below me. There’s a target below me on the ground.
A thought races through my brain: This is what people who jump off buildings see just before they splatter all over the sidewalk.
I panic, scream, and throw my hands and feet around wildly, as if that will help me not die.
The reel slows me down just in time. I’m supposed to bend my knees when I hit the ground. I forget.
My feet hit the ground and I promptly collapse and fall over onto my ass.
Mr. Fussypants — who has a delightful way with words — told me later that I looked like a beached whale flopping around. He snaps photos (thanks, honey) to document my not so graceful landing.
The SkyJump staff member helps me to my feet. He tells me to cross my arms on my chest while he unhooks me from the line.
I am shaking all over. The fear is gone. Only exhilaration remains.
As he unhooks me, the staff member asks, “Esther, how do you feel?”
I realize I am laughing. I can’t seem to stop. What is wrong with me?
Still breathless, I finally answer him, “It was awesome. I want to do it again!”
I call my mother to let her know I am still alive.
Four years later, I still want to do it again.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, MSM-HCA is an independent writer living in Dover, Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/