Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cousin John

A smaller crowd came out to the ballpark this year for the Polar Plunge --that's a charity jump into an above ground swimming pool that's held to benefit the Special Olympics. We raise money. We get t-shirts and then tell everybody how crazy we are for doing it.

This year, the din of good-natured doo-goodiness was muted. Most of that had to do with the ongoing water concerns here in Charleston. If you can't drink the stuff, why would you want to forcibly wallow in it, especially if you went in after a dozen or so guys marinading in Axe body spray hit the water first?

At least, the weather was warm --up to almost 60 with nothing like a raindrop or a snowflake in the air.

I didn't know a soul there, except the director of the Special Olympics who couldn't pick me out of a police lineup if he had my driver's license in hand.

In line, I listened to the newbies fret and worry, as they always do about the water, and heard the familiar stories of the year the water froze, the year they had fireworks and the year, the water tasted like the ocean. I told a guy dressed as the tooth fairy (a newbie, who seemed impressed when I told him it was my sixth jump) to try and relax when he hit the water.

"You don't want to go in tense," I said. "That'll just hurt."

He smiled and nodded. He was dressed in a tutu and had wings. I don't think he took me seriously.

I jumped alone. There was a family of four in front of me and the group behind wanted to go together. It felt strangely lonesome at the top of the ladder, listening to the announcer banter, trying to get a laugh from the crowd. I just wanted him to count down and let me get the work done.

Finally, he did. I went in then made my way across the pool and exited with as much dignity as a man can. Toward the bathroom, a couple of kids asked me if it was really that cold.

I told them, "yeah. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

They didn't believe me, but they were newbies. Next year, they might think it wasn't so bad.

I dressed in a men's room full of bashful middle-aged men with everyone of them shivering and trying very hard to guard their junk, presumably from the prying eyes of rabid homosexuals who'd use such an event to their advantage.

Also, you know, shrinkage. Judge lest ye be judged, I suppose.  

People act weird when they're naked. I didn't linger.

I skipped the Plunge last year. There were a lot of reasons not to be there.

A couple of years back, I hurt my shoulder jumping into the water. I tore something and it took months for it to get right. I was discouraged, too. At my radio job, I put up a sheet, looking for sponsors. They walked on by and then went back to their regular errand of asking for money to keep things on the air most of them only half believed in.

I didn't need the hassle.

I also considered that I'd done my share: five jumps over five years. Somebody else could and should clock in.

My life had moved on, too. I was in a different place, surrounded by different people and well, come on, wasn't I different, too?

It seemed like I wanted to be.

And it's not fun. It really isn't. Jumping into a cold pool isn't fun.

But when it came around again I wanted to be there. To me, the reasons behind jumping into a vat of icy water in the middle of winter haven't really changed. I still support the Special Olympics and what they do --and while there are probably plenty of ways I could still support them, jumping into the pool seems like the most fitting --a kind of statement that I'm willing to do things other people won't and I do it because I say I will.

My arrogance is intolerable, as is my vanity --but it's still for a good cause.

I'm glad I went. It felt like getting baptized all over again.

1 comment:

BM said...

I love your writing style & I'm glad you're still posting.