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Clearly there are as many ways to die as there are people to kick the bucket. It’s a ride we all have a pre-paid ticket for, like it or not. I mean, hell, almost everybody—and by everybody I mean the vast majority of everyone that has ever lived—is already dead. And depending on how you think about it, you’ll actually spend more of your time dead than alive. A fuckload more, really. Like the rest of forever, which by my clock is a long fucking time. The question of how you’ll spend forever is one that you’ll only answer once your name is on the big list, but how you’ll get there, on the other hand …
This conversation seems to come up a lot when you’re a skydiver. I’m sure every jumper out there has discussed the “odds” of dying on a skydive. If you’re anything like me you spout something about all the traffic accidents and shit, and you may even quote the long-standing one-in-a-hundred-thousand statistic about skydiving, but the truth is, you’re probably not going to die on a jump. Probably.
The most common way, by far, to end up dead? Heart disease (1 in 5). No contest, really. While you relax on the couch eating that nasty ass Big Mac, sipping on a beer and contemplating the pleasure of that cigarette you’ll fire up once the last swallow of almost-meat slides down your throat, you’ve pretty much answered the question for yourself. Cancer (1 in 7) and stroke (1 in 23) come in second and third as the most likely ways you’ll eat shit, but it doesn’t start getting even remotely interesting ‘til fifth place.
Fifth is reserved for accidental injury (1 in 36), which is still going to claim a fuckload of skydivers over the years—but not on a jump, although quite possibly on a drop zone. This is the shit that’s most likely gonna happen during a weather hold, at the bonfire or stumbling around in the toilet after way too much chemical entertainment, riding the airport beacon while naked and shitty drunk, etc.
One of the biggies is the good ol’ fashioned car wreck (1 in 100) coming in at number 6, suicide (1 in 121) comes in at number 7, with falling down (1 in 246), firearms (1 in 325) and fire or smoke (1 in 1,116) taking their places at 8, 9 and 10. And so far we aren’t even close to our odds as jumpers …
Natural forces (1 in 3,357), bicycle accidents (1 in 4,717), accidental electrocution (1 in 5,000), drowning (1 in 8,942) are still so far below one in a hundred grand that to even get close you have to jump up to legal execution (1 in 58,618) before you hit the halfway mark to odds as good as ours. Believe it or not, and still falling well under our odds, is the likelihood that you’ll die of a lightning strike (1 in 83,930). I mean for fuck’s sake, Ask Selwyn Facey about the time he lapped the Cross Keys landing area in a HUGE lightning storm dressed from head to toe only in tin foil and carrying an aluminum ladder …
You actually don’t break even with our stats until you get to venomous bite or sting (1 in 100,000)! As skydivers, we actually come in front of a few interesting ones though. Earthquake (1 in 131,890), asteroid impact (1 in 500,000), or fireworks discharge (1 in 615,488). And those are all of the so-called “normal” ways to bite it!
A man once died while having an extra marital threesome with a girl and another guy, a teen fell into and was then quickly eaten in piranha-infested waters, a Swedish man was apparently run over by his own riding lawnmower, an Englishman was beaten to death by his own wooden leg, a French undertaker died when a pile of coffins in his workshop fell on him, COUNTLESS people died of auto-erotic asphyxiation (David Carradine, Michael Hutchence) and my personal favorite, a man accidentally flew his own radio controlled airplane into his head at about 40 miles per hour.
So let’s face it, skydiving is certainly a dangerous activity, and yes, your odds do improve a bit in a negative way if you’re a super active jumper, but you’re still a hell of a lot safer once you get out of the plane than in almost every other aspect of your day.
Is there a point to all of this? Only that no matter how safe you are at everything you do, eventually it all leads toward punching that ticket. One of my favorite writers once said, “On a long enough timeline everyone’s chances of survival drops to zero.” So knowing that, have as much fun as you can, be as safe as possible about it, and enjoy the hell out of this fucking ride! Who knows how many turns you’re gonna get!
Oh, and try not to die sitting on the toilet (1 in 10,000).
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