By Sophie Becker
Marc’s survey asks us to describe the most challenging thing we’ve ever done in our life so far. Whilst this made me realise that I am lucky to have not yet faced extreme adversity, one amusing story did pop into my head. I started to write the story into the form and it became so long that it felt more appropriate for a SCAB.
So, I’m going to tell you about ‘The Leap’. Not metaphorical, no – this was a literal leap from a high platform onto an air mattress at the Ford stand at Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I worked last summer. Ford were our one and only client – so I was supposedly on my most professional behaviour. With hordes of the general public and Ford-employees watching, I attempted this jump on the first day of the festival. As a control freak with a moderate-to-severe fear of heights I suffered from an extreme mental block and stood there paralysed – unable to launch myself off the platform.
Second day, I tried again. Lots of shouting from a crowd of children and their drunk parents who had gathered sadistically to watch my ordeal. Same thing. Complete mental block. Nothing I tried would work. Sitting down. Eyes closed. Run up. All useless.
Third day – tried again. This time, same story but with a lot of tears. Embarrassing? Yes, but in my defence we’d averaged 3 hours sleep each night and the situation was already beyond composure. What were a few tears in this sea of humiliation?
I’d definitely ascribed way too much emotional significance to what was in all honesty a very mediocre attraction at a festival existing solely to appease the mid-life crises of middle aged men across Britain. The Ford employees and even some of my own colleagues had started wagers on whether I’d manage to do ‘The Leap’. Stakes were high.
By the very end of the fourth and final day I’d convinced myself that if I didn’t manage to launch myself off the platform onto this air mattress my life would never amount to anything and it’d be better to chuck myself off a cliff. By this point I’d told my life story to the father and three sons who ran ‘The Leap’ and they too had become emotionally invested. One had even bought me a jaeger-bomb the night before at the bar in Butlin’s on the condition that I get over myself and jump off the damn thing. How could I let them down after that?
My colleague had also threatened to tell my boss, meaning that I would never live this humiliation down in the office – a truly terrifying prospect. As those of you who witnessed my selection day will know, I already had enough to live down. This wasn’t something I could walk away from lightly.
Unsurprisingly the pressure didn’t help me that fourth time. I got up there only for the same thing to happen but worse. Tears from me. Heckling from the audience. Tuts from the festival staff who wanted to pack up the stand and go home.
Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Thankfully no vomit on my sweater or mum’s spaghetti. And on the surface I most definitely was neither calm nor ready.
I’d been on the platform for a traumatic half hour by this point – bending my knees every now and again in vain. All Ford-stand workers had grown tired of watching me (fair) and were gathered round for one final debrief of the day. Suddenly, a voice came over the walkie talkie to say that the ride had to close and they were deflating the air mattress. The boy who’d bought me the jaeger-bomb looked at me solemnly – tears in his eyes (I like to think) – and said “It’s over.”
Then, it happened. To this day I’m still unsure how. I’m pretty sure I just closed my eyes and let my intense dehydration and sleep deprivation take its course. All of a sudden I found myself hurtling through the air and plopped onto the air mattress below. The crowd went wild. Jaeger-bomb boy and his dad raced down to hug me as if I’d scored the winning goal in the world cup. It was dramatic. I just sat there uselessly and cried (classic). This time with happiness.
But, I bloody did it. And yes, all you have probably learnt from this SCAB is that I’m ridiculously embarrassing but that’s all you need to know about me, so an all-round successful mission.