The question comes to mind – when falling to one’s death from a very great height, what should one do? Not to survive, for nothing short of divine providence could do anything about that. But how should one spend that handful of seconds between the realization of one’s lamentable situation and the actual wet, sickening “thud”? There’d be a life-flashing-before-the-eyes moment, I suppose, along with a few brief but extremely heartfelt words of prayer. Some may not rise above dumbfounded horror the entire time.
But what about one’s actual comportment? The situation of free fall is not just untenable but exceedingly awkward. There’s the whole question of landing. Do you go with a belly flop? Feet first? Or do a ten-thousand-foot header? In movies the faller is always looking at earth’s inexorable approach, but I suppose one could always look up, or even do some flips and loops as they await the end.
Spreading one’s self out to generate air resistance seems like a reasonable plan. Slowing your speed could extend your time remaining by ten percent or more.
All of this is of course completely pointless as far as the final outcome and so you’d think why bother. But consider: when one is cast into the unfriendly hands of gravity, would one not cherish the few options left to them, however irrelevant? Perhaps so.
You are probably thinking, “how macabre,” and I should caution that I normally don’t indulge such issues with very much attention. The question arose in my mind as I imagined up a cool idea for a movie scene or episode in a book, where someone is cast out of an airplane, but still has the presence of mind to pull out their cell phone to make a final, desperate call – perhaps to tell the protagonist (since obviously the protagonist isn’t going to be caught in such a situation, it’s more the fate of the unlikable ally, chauvinistic bad boy friend, or forgettable extra) who it was that betrayed them to their deaths. That would be some high drama, the fumbling for the phone, trying to dial, hoping to get a signal and say something in time. Imagine the horror: “Voicemail! Noooooooooooo…”
Maybe it would be better as one of those cell phone commercials – you know, where some people are in a situation where a cell phone would be extremely useful, and even though one of them has one he won’t use it because it’s peak time or he’s out of minutes or whatever:
Diver 1: Did you try the emergency cord?
Diver 2: (holding a cell phone): Yep. Nothing. You too, huh?
Diver 1: Why don’t you say goodbye to your mother, or talk to your kids?
Diver 2: Nope, nope. It’s end of the month.
Diver 1: We could call parachute tech support. Or even order a net or big cushion or something.
Diver 2: Sorry.
(Cut to Catherine Zeta Jones, who hands a new phone to two newly accordion-shaped skydivers, cooing in condescending sympathy.)
Copyright 2005 Garrett Pace. All rights reserved.