Sometimes I feel like I’m leading a double life. In one life, I’m a wife to my husband, and a mother to my kids. I make dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, take my kids to school…all those sorts of mundane things that are necessary to run a well-organized and happy home. In my other life, I help the police with hard cases, run my own consulting agency, which, I’m not gonna lie, can be boring or entertaining depending on the day, and I help a big time mob-boss. In my second life, it’s usually the mob-boss part that challenges me the most.
Like today. Uncle Joey wanted me to come into the office by eight o’clock sharp to help him out. He told me to dress casually and bring a sweatshirt. As usual, he didn’t tell me anything else before he hung up, so I wore my jeans and a tee with my running shoes and a sweatshirt. When I got to the office, I was a little surprised to find Uncle Joey, Ramos, Jackie, Ricky and Nick, all dressed in jeans and t-shirts. I’d never seen Uncle Joey in jeans and a t-shirt before, so it kind of rattled me.
“Shelby’s coming?” Nick asked, thinking he was surprised that I would agree to go with them. After hearing that, I started to get a little nervous.
“Of course, she’s coming,” Uncle Joey answered. “She’s like family, so naturally I’d want to include her.” He glanced at me and grinned like he was doing me a big favor.
“She has no clue, does she?” Ramos asked. He was thinking that he felt a little sorry for me, and hoped I wouldn’t chicken out.
“Joe,” Jackie said. “Tell her.”
“It’s my birthday,” Uncle Joey said. “I’m sixty-eight today. So to celebrate, I’ve decided that we’re all going sky-diving.”
“What?” My stomach clenched. “Me too? But I…uh…”
“Don’t worry, Shelby. It will be fun.” Uncle Joey checked his watch. “Let’s get going. Our jump time is in two hours, and we can’t be late.”
I’d never in my life, ever wanted to go sky-diving. Never. Not once. So I just kind of stood there, while everyone filed out of the office toward the elevators. I trailed behind, trying to figure out a way to get out of it. Ramos waited for me. “You’ve never gone before?” I shook my head. “It will be okay. You don’t have to go, but you should at least go out to the airport with us. After all, it is his birthday, and you don’t want to disappoint him too much. Right?”
“Okay,” I agreed. “I can do that.”
We all piled into a black SUV and Uncle Joey told us about the first time he’d ever jumped out of a plane, and how frightening it was, but also how it made him feel more exhilarated than anything he’d ever done in his life. He wanted to share that feeling with all of us on his special day, and was so pleased that we were all there together.
Talk about pressure. Did this mean I really had to jump? Yikes! Why did I ever come? Once we got to the place, our instructor went over everything, telling us we’d be perfectly safe. We’d be doing a tandem jump with a USPA licensed tandem master, wearing top-of-the-line equipment and securely connected. After showing us a video of the jump, my misgivings started to ease. I mean, it could be fun, right? But I still wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I’ve got this thing about heights, and falling. Plus, I have a husband and kids.
I was just about to tell Uncle Joey that I’d stay and cheer him on from the ground, when I picked up that he’d already paid the big bucks for me, and he hoped the reason I wanted to talk to him wasn’t because I’d chickened out. “Yes, Shelby?”
“I’m…I’m…uh…nervous about this.”
“It will be great. You’ll see. You’ll love it.”
I nodded and, with my stomach a bundle of nerves, put on the gear and dragged my feet all the way to the plane. “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” I said to Ramos, who was, once again, waiting for me.
“I know,” he agreed. “I can’t either.”
“Never let anyone tell you that peer pressure doesn’t work,” I answered. “Especially when it’s from a mob-boss.”
Ramos chuckled, thinking I was right about that, but also thinking that this was a perk of the job, and I needed to look at it that way so I could enjoy it. How many people ever did all the exciting things I got to do? Of course, most of them included getting shot at, but this was lots different.
“Yeah, right. I could still die,” I said.
“Shelby, I promise, you’re not going to die.”
“How about throw up? I could do that.”
“You’re not going to throw up either. I think you’ll enjoy it lots more than you think.”
By then we’d reached the plane, and I had no choice but to get on. With my stomach a queasy knot, I watched Nick, Ricky and Jackie all go. Then it was my turn. I thought Uncle Joey would go first, but he was waiting to go after me, just to make sure I went. “We’ll be right behind you,” Ramos said, trying to encourage me. I nodded, and taking a deep breath, put on my goggles. On the count of three, I JUMPED OFF THE PLANE.
I think I screamed a little, but then managed to just grit my teeth extra hard. The first few seconds weren’t so bad, but I thought I might pass out since I held my breath for so long. Forty seconds of free-falling can seem like about ten hours, especially when imagining everything that could go wrong. Finally, my partner pulled the parachute, and I let out a little happy gasp that it opened. After that, I mostly enjoyed the six minute fall to the ground. Still, I’d never been so happy to make it back to the earth in one piece.
Uncle Joey was the last to land, and we all clapped and cheered for him, and even sang him the happy birthday tune. After treating us all to lunch, we headed back to the office, each of us reveling in our experience of jumping off a plane. Before I left for home, Ramos pulled me aside. “So, how was it? Would you do it again?”
I smiled. “Well… it was kind of fun. Although it scared me to death. But…yeah, I think I’d do it again. How crazy is that?”
Back home, I finished the laundry and tried to decide what to make for dinner. It was hard to believe that just that morning, I’d jumped off a plane. Who would have thought? See what I mean about leading a double life?