I am not an adrenaline junkie. And I didn’t have to be tested by experts to determine this. I did it all on my own. I revisited this resolve this week after I read the story about the two wingsuit base jumpers who were killed in Yosemite National Park.
If you’ve never heard of base jumping, it’s about people who jump off cliffs and pop their parachutes just before crashing. Wingsuiters wear a garment that resembles Batman when they spread their arms and legs. From what I’ve read, this suit doesn’t actually slow the descent but it does help the free-faller to guide himself somewhat. They still need the parachute.
To say there is little room for mistakes in these instances would be an understatement. Most of these jumps are so brief in duration, a backup parachute is a moot point. If the primary parachute doesn’t open, then you become one with the earth as the hippies used to say.
Apparently these two jumpers were trying to fly through a narrow pass and crashed. Now I didn’t write this column to make light of anyone’s tragic demise. I’m writing about adrenaline junkies in general. I’ve heard some of them interviewed, and quite often they say you’re never so alive as when you are “pushing the envelope.” In other words, when you are cheating death. And I would add that you are never so dead as when your bungi chord is six feet too long.
I think we all have adrenaline rushes at times but for most of us, it’s a situation we are forced into maybe to save a life. It’s not something we plan to do on the weekends.
Just recently I watched a documentary on rock climbers. These people scale cliffs that appear to be void of any kind of handholds — cliffs I would be afraid to climb if they had ladders on them. Some of these guys (and gals) climb freestyle. In other words, they don’t have ropes to dangle from should their handhold give away. And yes, some of them fall to their deaths. In fact, the documentary I was watching was in part a tribute to a climber who fell more than 1,000 feet to his death.
Now I think it’s one thing to live near the edge. I think it’s totally bizarre and crazy to do handstands on the edge. I thought I might Google some psychologists’ commentaries on adrenaline junkies but then I thought, what’s the point? It’s just plain, garden variety crazy. Some base jumpers even leap from tall buildings. If they are lucky, their parachutes open, and they don’t drift into a high voltage transmission line. Then they get arrested, they pay a fine, and they are interviewed by news reporters.
I don’t know how many rock climbers get stuck on the side of mountains and have to be rescued by teams who must put their lives in danger. This data is probably available if I had the time to research it.
Probably the nearest thing I’ve ever done that might resemble an adrenaline trip was hunting and catching live rattlesnakes. After a few trips, I decided it wasn’t fun, and I never did it again. It’s not natural to pick up a live rattlesnake when you have many other options that are much less lethal.
I was very young when I did this. You know what I mean, 10 feet tall and bullet proof. I think if we’re lucky we grow wiser as we grow older. I do believe that is a factor for longevity in most analyses.
I am not impressed with people who do these death-defying acts. I see it as a waste of precious time and space — a time that they might do something that actually has some socially redeeming value, even if it’s very small.
None of this daredevil stuff is on my bucket list.
(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)