I’ve been taking the weekends off from job hunting and using that time to do some fun things and spend some quality time with Eric. Since businesses aren’t open, it gives me a reason to take a break from the stress and enjoy myself. This weekend we hit the Half Price Book Store Clearance sale, did a 12 mile bike ride to Torchy’s for breakfast tacos, and went to Austin MiniMaker Fair. Oh, yeah, and then on Sunday we went hang gliding.
The hang gliding was a bit of a compromise since Eric really wants to go skydiving and I’m not so sure I could force myself to leave a moving plane. I have been known to drive 14 hours to avoid having to fly for 3 because I hate flying. Add in the jumping and the waiting for the chute to open, and I have a lot of reservations. But an intro to hang gliding seemed fun. The key for me was “intro.” This means the aerial equivalent of a “bunny slope.” Frankly, the hill I run and bike up outside my apartment complex is steeper than what we were gliding down, and that’s exactly how I hoped it would be. Plus, the part of flying I hate isn’t being up high watching the world sail by down below. It’s the plane and the fact that there are a lot of pieces involved in building a plane, and if something goes wrong with any one of them, it could be a disaster.. A glider is little more than a kite, so it just seems like other than turning inside out like an umbrella in a strong wind, I felt like there were fewer possibilities for things to go wrong.
We drove out to Luling, about an hour outside of Austin, and met up with our instructors and the 7 other people who–like us–bought a Living Social deal for the class. We got all of our sexy gear: helmets worn by countless strangers and harnesses that, like most harnesses, looks weird unless you are actually dangling from equipment. Eric’s also seemed just a tad too short for him or maybe his shorts were just a little too baggy because there was a conspicuous bulge at his crotch that I kept glancing at before looking made me uncomfortable and I had to avert my eyes. I almost took a picture to show you, but I decided not to call any more attention to it in a crowd situation. I kind of like classes where you meet and interact with strangers, forming these totally pleasant but temporary connections, but it also sometimes forces me to confront the number of things I think are funny, that might just make me look like a pervy weirdo.
Then, we were off to take our class, and the number of things you have to know before you are allowed to strap yourself into a pair of giant wings and take flight is surprisingly small. There are basically 3 principles to know. I kind of thought there should be more, but later, I realized that it didn’t matter because once I was floating a few inches above the ground, I couldn’t even really remember those three things. Because all I could think is “Wooooo!”
Two of the instructors were hang gliding pilots who were volunteering to get some teaching experience. One of the weird side effects of being a former teacher and having sat through tons of professional development about how to teach means that any time I’m a student, I tend to think about HOW I am being taught to do something. I also realize that of all the types of things I can learn, learning how to do physical things is probably the most difficult for me. You can tell me to do something simple, but because I am a clumsy person who avoided sports and physical activity growing up, I am awkward and have a hard time processing the instructions and then communicating that information to my limbs. It will take a long time, and since my average flight time was less that 5 seconds, I just can’t remember and then do the things you tell me to do before the whole thing is over. And half the time when he was talking to me, I was just thinking about how the grass we ran through was really stab-y, which is distracting. So, when the instructor debriefed how to improve, I picked burrs and sharp pieces of grass out of my sneakers and nodded my head knowing full well that I would never remember any of that. Plus, I’m flying! Which is way too exciting a sensation for me to think about which way my hands should go.
In fact, during one of my better flights, I removed my hands all together. Fortunately, I did this when I was flying with the owner, Jeff, who has seen it all and remained calm during my freak outs, even laughing that he had never seen anyone take their hands off before. Because he had done this so often, he knew how to put me at ease, and when I didn’t exactly follow instructions and felt like I’d messed up, he just shrugged it off saying, “Don’t worry about it. When we’re talking to you, it’s because things are happening.”
Things like: flying. I can’t say this enough. It is a rad sensation. It doesn’t look like much from a distance; best case scenario you dangle gracefully from the glider (the only person to really pull this off happened to also be the shortest person in the group). Because you run down the hill to gather speed, most of us kept running during the few seconds of air time, making us look like a cartoon animal running off the edge of a cliff. But you are kind of gently lifted off the ground, and you feel light and totally suspended in the air. It is very, very cool.
It was so cool in fact, that Eric kept volunteering to go next until he had to be cut off. Jeff announced to the class that Eric was “done for the day, so he’s going to remove his harness.” Later, we laughed about the teacher’s subtle and polite way of saying “let the other kids have a turn,” but I could certainly see why you would want to go just one more time.