I Flew at iFLY
Once again, my wife and I saw no good reason to act our age.
In celebration of Bonnie’s last birthday of her 60s, she requested an iFLY experience at an indoor skydiving facility outside Baltimore.
I knew I’d be on the no-fly list since I’d sworn off jumping out of—or from—anything ever again, following my harrowing zipline adventure.
But as terrible luck would have it, the iFLY Adventure launches patrons from the bottom up, with 100 mile per hour wind power lifting fliers up, up, and away. Gone was my spectator-only excuse.
First we shed jewelry, eyeglasses, and inhibitions to suit up in bulky full-body superhero outfits, helmets, goggles, and earplugs. Then we went to “flight school,” with our instructor John, also dressed like Captain Marvel. He coached us to respond to hand signals to straighten our legs, make an X with our body or, heaven help us, relax.
The chin-up signal was deemed crucial. I’ve been told “chin-up” before, but if I didn’t obey, the worst that could happen would be a photo of me with a double chin in CAMPshots. In this case if I didn’t respond to the chin up command, I could crash to the net floor where the wind would give me a complementary colonoscopy.
Class dismissed, we waddled over to the three-story flying tube.
I watched Bonnie grip the doorway to the wind chamber and get sucked in, positioned face-down, held up at first by Spiderman, then flying free. I lip-read her “Holy crap!” as she twirled and floated up and down, based on whether her legs were out straight or slightly bent.
I smiled, enjoying her five minutes of abject glee, forgetting for a nanosecond I was next.
As she grabbed the doorway, ejecting herself from the tube, she said “That was so cool!”
“Your turn!” yelled Captain America.
Bonnie and I exchanged glances, translated either “In case I die, I love you,” or “If I die, I’m blaming you.” I moved to grab the doorway.
Good luck to this skinny dude tasked with holding all of me up until I could catch the wind beneath my wings.
Whooosh! I was swept up, belly down, arms flailing, legs akimbo, in a complete spread-eagle. Unfortunately, my mouth, as usual, was open, sending rivulets of spittle out and G-forced up into my helmet. And just like that, Batman let go and I was flying in a Category 5 tornado, heading for Oz, a flying monkey, chin up, legs extended, shoulders back, arms in front of me like Superman, Wonder Woman, one of the Incredibles.
Only I wasn’t thinking those things, I was thinking omigod-my heart-is-gonna-stop, whose-idea-was-this-get-me-down-I’m-too-old-for-this.
For what seemed like an eternity, the sustained winds suspended me like a Boeing air bus, chin up, shoulders forward, eyes-watering, spit flying, and for one brief shining moment I think I actually liked it.
When time was up, I catapulted out the door and staggered to a seat. You could see the tracks of my tears. Tufts of my hair stuck up through the small holes in my helmet like a Venus Flytrap.
Full disclosure, Bonnie gleefully took flight twice more, once for her included second flight and then another round for my included second flight. Why push my luck or rotator cuffs?
Cheers to instructor John for keeping us afloat, safe, and feeling proud of ourselves. We asked if we were the oldest flyers he’d tutored and he said, “Hell, no. We’ve had 88-year-olds.” Glad we didn’t wait that long.
Quite pleased with ourselves, we drove back to the beach, laughing, high-fiving, and repeating our mantra: You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing. Superwomen, indeed.
The next morning I could hardly get out of bed. My hips ached. I couldn’t turn my neck to the right. And I had trouble lifting my coffee to my mouth. It was an Advil kind of day.
I fly, but not like I used to. ▼
Fay Jacobs is an author of five published memoirs. Her newest is Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked. As a humorist, she’s touring with her show Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay. More Fay Jacobs.