Three days after stepping off the plane in Paris, I jumped out of one in rural Normandy. Normal, quoi.
My uncle (of sorts), who had furnished me a place to stay in Paris my first night vite fait, and with whom I was staying a week before heading south to where I’d be living for the year, e-mailed me a few days before my departure, asking me a no-frills question: My son and I are going to do our first skydive on Sunday, would you care to join us? And me, well, I said yes.
So we drove out to the aérodrome in Saint-André-de-l’Eure for a “baptême de l’air” (France is a Catholic country, remember) and found a large group of people waiting equally for their chance to attain salvation. We joined the line and my nervousness grew for the next three hours (worried to panicked and all the stages of denial in-between).
Once our names were called, there was a quick five-minute briefing about how to get in the airplane, how to jump, how to take over and release the emergency parachute in case your instructor became unconscious. Or dead. C’est du gâteau, hein? Fastoche.
Visibly trembling, I suited up (snazzy), met my instructor (chatty – a shame since I had lost the ability to speak French about an hour before we left my uncle’s house) and was escorted out to the tarmac, waddling clumsily along in my straps. Good thing this was all captured on video!
The pilot (a Belgian who flies like a madman, so said my instructor) hardly took a moment to stop before taking off again. I was sat on the lap of my instructor, on the immediate right of the pilot, facing into the cabin. Then up, up, to where the fields below were just blocks of color, and further still to where all traces of land were hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. I can describe the ascent in quite a nice and flowery way now, though at the time, not much more than a string of profanities (both English and French) was going through my head. Why, why, why.
Ah, the half-hearted grin of a girl convinced of her imminent death, interrupted by my instructor, who strapped us so closely together that it hurt, an annoying pain that I appreciated, as I was sure it would be the physical sensation I would experience before an eternity of lifelessness. Spoiler alert: I live.
When the door slid open, we scooted to the edge and my legs hung out, clicking against the underside of the plane. Contrary to what every fiber of my being was telling me to do, my instructor made me lay my head back on his shoulder, rocked a couple of times, and we tumbled forward.
In case it needs repeating or you stepped away for a moment, I jumped out of an airplane. An airplane. Eurgh, it’s scarier to think about even now. Why did I do that?!
The free-fall was for a distance of about 3000 meters, and lasted around a minute. Once the parachute was released – the best thing to ever happen in my life – we floated the remaining 1000 meters for six or seven minutes. The scenery was as plain as it had been pre-jump, but it felt wonderful to slowly spiral down over it, knowing that I’d be living and breathing on it again soon.
Phew! Glad I’ve done it, but I’m glad it’s all over, too! Jamais plus…At least I have the pictures to prove it! Mes grands remerciements à l’équipe de FlyTandem for their in-flight photography and expertise as I flung myself out of a plane 4000 meters in the air. I wouldn’t trust just anyone to catch me!
Warning: Excessive nostril.