Do I Have What it Takes to Be a Member of the Polar Bear Club?

Reprinted with kind permission from my friend Donna Cavanaugh

As I was driving along in southern New Jersey, I saw an advertisement for the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City. I love Sea Isle. This is where my family and I spend our vacation, and this is where one day, I dream of owning my shore home.

Anyway, it wasn’t the destination of the Polar Bear Plunge that grabbed my attention; it was the plunge itself. Yes, I am going to confess something here: I am intrigued by people who leave the warmth of their homes to plunge into the icy waters of the oceans or lakes of North America just for the thrill of it. Well, in fairness, it is not just a thrill. Most Polar Bear Plunges do involve a charitable cause, but I still wonder who came up with the plunge idea instead of holding a bake sale or dinner or a walk-a-thon for that charity. Who was the first genius who thought a dunk in 37-degree water would be the perfect way to raise money? And why, when this genius did suggest the plunge, did someone with more sense, not stand up and say, “Can’t we just write out checks instead?”

Okay, here comes confession number two: I want to try the Polar Bear Plunge. I know most people think it is crazy to risk hypothermia and jump into frigid waters, but I think it would be an experience I would never forget. I mean…I hope I would live to never forget it. My biggest fear is not the cold water (although I have to say, I am more of a hot tub person than a freezing ocean person), but the drowning. I would think that when that cold hits me, there is a good chance that I might find myself belly up like a dead goldfish, hoping the life guards care enough to make their way into the icy water to retrieve me. I wonder if my life would pass before my eyes or would I just hear my mother saying, “What exactly were you thinking? Was this really necessary?

Oh well, at least with the Polar Plunge, I would go out with a story. My family would be able to tell anyone who came to my funeral how colorfully (that would be blue) I went out. I would suspect there would be laughter, gasps of disbelief and a few would mumble, “Well, she deserved it.”

I know it sounds crazy that I want to be a Polar Bear member, but let me explain. I have a list of things that I want to do, but I don’t have the courage to do. I would like to skydive or bungi jump, but if either of these went awry, I would go splat, and I don’t think “splat” would be a good look for me. Besides, I don’t even like roller coasters, so just the thought of me free falling from a plane or a cliff or a bridge, makes me want to vomit, and I don’t want my last act on this Earth — or rather above this Earth — to be throwing up. I know…I have a lot of dying rules.

Anyway, I am going to look into the Polar Bear Plunge that is taking place in Sea Isle, NJ next month. I think this is a good year as the ocean temperature is at a record cold – at least, that is what a Sea Isle resident told me. If I only do this once, and that is a good probability, I can at least say I did it in one of the coldest water temperatures in memory. I might even take pictures and post them on Facebook. If I do possess the courage to take that dip, I think I should be rewarded — a week in the Bahamas or Hawaii would be nice. I’m not picky; either is fine. Yes, a vacation in a warm place would definitely be worth a dunk in the frozen water.

I have to be honest and say that I do have concerns that I might not be Polar Bear Plunge material. I wouldn’t want to give these brave people a bad name with my screaming and weeping as I wade into the surf. I wonder if there is a Polar Bear Club Auxiliary I could possibly join instead — a group of helpers who bring blankets, hot cocoa and brandy to the plungers after they emerge from the ice-capped water. I was always good at hospitality. Yes, maybe the auxiliary would be a better fit, or maybe I should just find an organization that likes dry land.

Donna Cavanaugh’s “Erma Bombeck” style of writing can be found on her YahooAC list.Among many of her distinguishments, Donna has published a humor book entitled “Life on the Off Ramp” and a poetry book, “Poems for a Positive Day II” that were named award-winning finalists of the Best Books 2010 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.


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