At the home office of my company near Dallas, Texas, there are 6 of us in a group that work on a product together: Me, Kawiana, Marci, Marie, Linda and Tim. Marie was an instant "absolutely not", Tim, Linda and Marci were all on the fence but Marci seemed more likely to respond to a little arm twisting. Kawiana was the only one that was all in from the start. She was also the one that ultimately got Marci on board after she went by the place and took a video.
I called Skyline Trapeze quite a while back to get some information on how they do things. He assured me that first-timers are safety harnessed at all times, even when climbing the ladder. He also mentioned that roughly half of the people that come think they aren't scared of heights only to find out that they are when they reach the top of the platform.
Here is the best picture of the "rig" I could take in the fading light. The platform we will leap from is on the far left in the picture and there is someone standing on it. It is a little hard to see the net in this shot but it is below that tree line.
At some point it becomes pretty clear that it will be just me, Kawiana and Marci so Kawiana (the only one of the 3 of us that works at the home office) asks if she can extend the invitation around. I have something of a reputation of being a "fun sucker" at the office (once in a group I said I knew they thought this and a girl replied, "only one person calls you that out loud"). I am trying really hard to resolve that and to generally take myself less seriously so I tell Kawiana yes. The more people there to witness what could be a very embarrassing moment for me, the better.
L-R: Kawiana, Marci, Katie (who I know), Kelli (who I don't), me.
This picture is out of order, it was taken after we were done. But it is important for you to see this now before I go too much further. Marci doesn't look it in this photo but she is the same height as me (5'10") or maybe slightly taller. But she easily weighs 50 lbs less than me. The other girls are all quite a bit short and much lighter.
As are the employees. The girl who is going to be responsible for keeping me from falling off the platform while reaching for the bar probably weighs about half as much as I do and is maybe 5' 5". And I am not exaggerating. I am sure they all took one look at me and wondered why no one told them it was Amazon night. There are 3 employees: one for the platform, and two on the ground. One of these will manage your safety lines. After seeing how the safety lines work, I am vaguely concerned that the person holding that line when I let go will be yanked off of the ground to the top of the pulley system before they know what happened.
The girl that will do most of the safety line management greets us and starts to give instructions. We are so distracted by the "regulars" who have joined our class due to rain earlier in the week that she has to turn us around with our backs to the rig to get us to pay attention. This is of course AFTER we have signed a waiver holding them harmless in the event of an injury or death. At least that's what I assume it said because I just initialed it and signed. I didn't want to freak myself out.
We are put into our safety belts and shown how things will be done once we get to the platform. But I can't think of anything else but:
Does this safety belt make me look fat?
That belt is on so tight I am pretty sure I will have bruises on my ribs the next day. Every ounce of fat in my midsection is being unmercifully squeezed up or down or anywhere it can find a place to be. The belt has D-rings on it that will be attached to the ladder and to the harness system once we are on the platform. The safety girl shows us that we will hold on to a rope with our left hand and lean out to grab the bar with our right. While you are leaning out (over the net far below), the girl on the platform has hold of you via your belt from behind. But she is simply holding you by putting her hand through the belt and leaning back against your weight. Again, in my case, probably double her own personal weight. So you reach out with your right hand and grab the bar (which is wrapped in tape). When she tells you to and not before (so she is ready to hold your weight because you are still leaning out) you reach with your left and get the bar. She will say "ready" (bend your knees) and then "hup" or "hut" or something like that (jump off the platform). They don't use "go" because it sounds too much like "no".
I had agreed before that I would go first since I was the one who suggested this whole outing. You climb up a ladder that you are sure is either going to collapse or fall back to get to the platform. The ladder is a basic Home Depot construction ladder and there is a line going up next to it that you are attached to. Marci is not fond of the ladder and points out that the line you are attached to isn't going to do anything if you fall. She's right, it wouldn't stop you from falling but I think it is meant to stop you from falling back. If you fall it would probably keep you upright so you have a chance to grab back on to the ladder or to the line or to break out all of your teeth as you hit every rung on the way down.
Here I go:
It is weird to watch this now. I do not remember that guy (a regular named Andrew) even standing on the platform with me. I am trying to not freak out and to listen to what the girl behind me is saying. The guy on the ground who is giving me instructions wants me to lift my legs up and put them over the bar so I can hang upside down with no hands. I could barely hear him and he kept talking to me on the forward swing (it seemed at the time) making it even harder.
Truthfully, I didn't believe there was any way I was going to be able to pull my legs up. Back on the ground, Andrew says that if I will listen to them and do it exactly when they say, I will be "weightless" at that time. Somehow this seems unlikely. I have a size 12 foot. I am pretty sure my feet weigh more than some of these people and I definitely didn't ever feel weightless. The next time I go up the girl is working the safety harness and she says to pull my legs up and my brain just flat out says NO. I can't even begin to do it. So for my third time she wants me to try something else, a backflip on the dismount. Let me just say that letting go is one of the hardest parts. Of course that is after being cinched down like a sausage in the belt, climbing the ladder of death and jumping off of a platform. When they say "hup" to dismount, every part of my brain is saying DO NOT LET GO!
So on my third time I don't make the backflip and I am pretty sure my fourth time will be the last chance. Before we get to that, let's see what it is supposed to look like because there was one person in the group who managed to do both the knee hang and the backflip on the same turn.
Kawiana...the Rock Star.
Kelli also managed to do the knee hang on her last try and Katie tried a couple of times which is more than I can say. I did try the backflip again and this moment will forevermore be known as my Flip Failure. Thank goodness no one was filming.
In Kawiana's video the instructor is telling her to "kick forward, kick backward, kick forward" and then you "hup"...let go. The momentum of that last kick forward should take you into the back flip if you simply tuck and let it. So, I kick as instructed and when I let go, I am very aware that I am not flipping at all but going head down toward the net in some sort of horrible swan dive, if swans were as graceful as grizzly bears. I land on the net ON MY NECK. At that point I finish the flip and end up on my stomach. I am glad at this point that I played a lot of sports when I was younger so I know how to block out the crowd noise because I am sure that everyone is dying of laughter at this point. Later, Marci said, "I wasn't laughing. I was thinking, Flip Noelle FLIP!" I told her I understood because I WAS THINKING THE SAME THING.
Everyone asks if I am okay but it didn't hurt my neck at all. It twinged my back a little but mainly I am just embarrassed. And tired. The tape on the bar is very hard on your hands. At the restaurant after I put my hand around my tea glass and it was so wonderful I had to put both hands on and tell Marci of my discovery which she promptly copied. After my sad flip attempt I knew I wouldn't go back up and they were trying to wind us down so the regulars could do a couple of rounds of catches. I asked to have my safety belt removed and it felt so good that the only thing I ever remember feeling as good was having my water break while in labor.
Here is a note about the "regulars". There are 4 of them, 3 girls and Andrew. Some of them have progressed to the point where they are not required to wear a harness going up the ladder or while working on the trapeze. Some of them are doing flips or straddle swings or splits while swinging and they swing high. One two-hour session is $50 and Andrew tells us he has been coming twice a week for 3 months (and he still must wear the harness). He said, "Its an expensive hobby". Um, yeah.
I am glad I did this but I probably won't feel compelled to do it again. I can't tell you if I was sore or not because the day before this, Kawiana invited me to her gym to a tabata class and I was already sore in every part of my body from that. Marci did text me today and say she is sore though so it could be a little of both for me. In fact, by Friday when I flew home I was concerned about getting up from my seat after sitting on the plane without moving for 2 hours. I was walking up the jet bridge thinking - ouch, ouch, ouch.
I took away two lessons from this experience. One is that you shouldn't do tabata unless you are used to it the day before you decide to go swing from a trapeze for the first time. The second is that I can do anything if I can only convince my mind it is possible. I am sure I could have pulled my legs up had I only tried. I might not have been able to hook them but now I will never know. Now, if you will excuse me I have to go to WalMart to buy all of the Aspercreme they have in stock and then look up the information for the indoor skydiving facility near our office for my January trip.
Update: The owner of Skyline Trapeze came across this post and emailed me some questions about what I wrote here. I will respond to him right after this but there is something I should have said in the beginning: I personally never felt unsafe at any time. Yes, the ladder was a little scary but after the first time and seeing how it was attached, I was fine. And the staff conducted themselves professionally at all times and never made me feel like they had an issue with my size, those issues are all mine. When I was up on the platform with the tiny girl, she conducted herself with total confidence so that is what I had - confidence. None of them were rude or catty or did anything to make me feel self-conscience about my size. At one point one of the "regulars" rolled her eyes at one of the people in my party (who didn't know and I won't be telling her) but that isn't the staffs fault and shame on her. She is comparing herself to what was a first time for all of us. Maybe she has forgotten her first time. Or maybe she's just an asshole.