5,000 feet a minute
Ok, I have an admission to make. I did something stupidly out of character yesterday, and Mum I apologise rather belatedly.
I wanted to do something completely reckless and unlike me in my 40th year so yesterday I jumped out of an aeroplane from 13,000 feet, 8,000 feet in freefall at 120mph in a tandem skydive. I didn't tell anyone, not even you lot, because I didn't, a) want to make a fuss and b) allow anyone to talk me out of it. I even spoke to my best mate, who rang me to talk about the Charlton game, an hour before I was set to leave home. When he asked me what I was doing the rest of the day, I just said "nothing."
More than 24 hours after, I still can't believe what I did. Friends will tell you that I have trouble jumping out of bed in the morning, let alone a plane. We booked it a month or so ago but put it out of my mind and even after the instructional and the hanging around (almost 3 hours, which they did not prepare us for), I wasn't actually nervous. The worst bit in fact was reading and signing (at every paragraph) the disclaimer of liability! You sensed that every time there had been an accident, their legal advisors had simply added another paragraph tightening the legal jargon.
So what was it like? I'm fortunate in that I quite like heights, and this was in my thinking when I had this preposterous notion to do something extreme for my 40th. Therefore sitting on the floor in hot, noisy and very cramped conditions (no pretzels on this baby) held no fear for me. I was told my 'tandem master' and I would be last out of the plane, when it reached it's desired altitude. I'd rather have been first but again I put that to the back of my mind and the experts and your very own photographer had some well rehearsed lines of banter to try to relax you.
Then suddenly up front people were disappearing out of the hole and my tandem master, Eric and I crawled on our knees to the hatch and after 3, he just shoved me out.
We were told that a human body drops 1,000 feet every 5 seconds and although you try to remember everything you are told in the instructional, check your altimeter, practice pulling the cord, smile at the camera, the only thing that you really need to concentrate on is arching your body backwards and around your new found very best friend in the world. Supposedly once upon a time someone found out that a human body when freefalling through the sky at 120mph is at their most aerodynamic when they are shaped like a banana.
So while fighting for gulps of air, which can only being described as walking directly into the freezing cold Chicago wind hurtling down a tall-building-lined street x a million, trying to look at the horizon, and smiling for the bloody camera, Eric kindly pulled the ripcord at 5,000 feet and the overwhelming sense of relief as you ping back into the air being held by a parachute is hard to describe.
The next bit, floating and maneuvering peacefully downwards for about 6-7 minutes from 5,000 feet is incredibly exhilarating. Just Eric to whisper sweet nothings into my ear, the sense of achievement and the breathtaking view of the land below. Landing was like I jumped of my sofa onto the carpet and my personal video will have plenty of bleeps in it, let me tell you!
I would have done it again straight after, which I think is a natural reaction and the reason they try to sell you the $99 2nd skydive if you re-book instantly but Mum, don't worry I'm far too old and wise to be that stupid again.
Yep, that's me and my new best friend.