The Parachute

January 1, 2010

After my stunt with the tricycle when I was two, you’d think I’d learn my lesson and retire as a test pilot. In the years that would ensue, that simply would not happen. Case in point – when I was in the 4th grade, which would make me around 10 yrs old, I had a friend in school whose name was Jordan.

Now Jordan was an interesting kid – to me he was like the professor. He was always drawing up plans to build spaceships in his backyard, which I thought was pretty cool. Star Wars – the original 1977 version, people – was out now for almost two years and he seemed to be able to draw the Falcon and Battle cruisers with such detail that it left you thinking that if you had the right materials it could be done. He also invented all kinds of other things, well, mostly talked about them, anyway. Perhaps he was more like Inspector Gadget! So, with all this babble being said, on a typical sunny day at the playground during recess, Jordan comes up to me and says “Dude, I invented a parachute! You wanna come over after school and test it out?” Parachute?! Test it out?!? Really? Do we really have to ask? So my simple reply was “Uh-huh.”

“So tell me about this parachute,” I asked him as we walked with purpose to his house after the final bell rang for the day. His vague reply should’ve been my first “red flag” to abort! “Dude, it’s a parachute.” Yeah, but my question was more angled on what was this parachute made of – are we talking durable materials here or what? Still, I didn’t question his reply. After all, this is the kid who draws spaceships during class!!  So we get to his house and head straight for the backyard. Once there I ask “Okay, so where is it? What’s your plan for testing it out?” He then tells me to go ahead and climb up onto his roof and wait there; he’ll go get the ‘chute and meet me up top and explain all the details then. Uh, yeah, second “red flag” to no avail!! So there I go, climbing onto the roof of his one-story house without a second thought. Now when you’re 10 yrs old, 14 ft on top of a roof might as well be 40 ft – uh, this is kinda high, I thought. And to top it off, there was no grass, just cold, hard concrete!!

So up comes Jordan with his invention. It was at this point that I looked at him with my combination face of “Are you kidding me?” and “Hmm, could this really work?” and said “Dude, that’s a PLASTIC TRASH BAG!!”  —RED FLAG NO. 3—

Jordan looks at me and calmly says “I know, but I have a feeling that it’s going to work.” Oh yeah, I think to myself, I’ve gotta hear this one. So he goes off into his professor talk and explains to me that he’s split the bag down the middle so as to make it one large square and that if we each grab two corners and then jump off the roof at the same time, “in theory” – because the parachute/trash bag is now larger – it will be able to slow us down and give us a soft landing! “Oh. Okay, that sounds good. Let’s do this!”

Red Flag No. 4

See, it’s at this point that I should’ve thought about my little army man collection back at home. Remember those? Little green figurines that came with string and plastic squares so that you could make little parachutes and then either throw them in the air or drop them off high places and watch them sail safely to the ground …. Yeah, right! Those things never worked!! I’d throw them up as high as possible and they’d come back down just as quick!! Regardless, Jordan and I were to quickly become life-size Little Green Army Men!

So there we were, two kids atop a roof holding two corners each of a large brown plastic trash bag split down the middle and Jordan then says – “On the count of three. One, (pause) Two, (pause) Thrrr…”

A blink of the eye – literally, that’s all it was. The concrete never came so fast!! Gravity had made its point and won. There I was, flat on my back, the wind knocked out of me so quickly it must’ve been to the moon by now. All I could do was roll to my side and groan as I looked at Jordan, he doing the same. My body hurt from head to toe, yet miraculously no bones were broken in either of us! I then glanced over a few more feet at the parachute – yes, the large brown plastic bag – and then back at Jordan and yelled out to him, well, more like at him and said “Dude, it didn’t work!!!”

That afternoon was a long, painful walk home. Still, I couldn’t help but think to myself – “Yep, chalk one more up for the Test Pilot.”

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