Mark Schaaf: There were two tents for people to change in; one for the girls and one for the guys. I should have known how the day was going to go when I followed my female coworkers into their tent before it was brought to my attention that I was a little out of place.
Gina Duwe: Walking from our car down to the ever-so-inviting beach, the frigid-looking people leaving made all of us think twice about what we were about to do. Our business manager, Ann Walker, had taken the plunge a few years ago, and convinced us to join her. But with the temperature hovering around the freezing point, I feared someone may have to push me in before I would jump.
MS: I thought to myself, “It could be worse. I could get lost on the way back from Appleton and end up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
Then I said to myself, “Wait a second, that was Friday when we were driving back to Eau Claire from a journalism conference in Appleton and missed an exit in Green Bay.” But I digress.
GD: I’ve jumped into Loch Ness in northern Scotland in February, and up until this point, that’s the coldest I’ve ever been. Yet there was no ice on that lake, and it was much warmer. While yesterday’s weather was quite balmy for February, the temperature just doesn’t matter when you’re jumping into an icy lake.
MS: Yes, it doesn’t matter that 32 degrees is considered balmy. Cold is cold.
As part of the fundraiser for the Special Olympics, we were to write down our “last words,” to which we said, “may The Spectator write beautiful obituaries for us.”
Those words were recited over the public address system right before we took the plunge. At that point, I was thinking to myself that perhaps the water wasn’t really cold. Someone is playing a cruel joke on us, and when we jump in, it’s actually going to be a hot tub and we’ll want to stay in there for awhile.
Sure, we have witnessed group after group emerging from the lake with horrifying screams, but they were instructed beforehand to act really cold to scare those waiting to jump. Right?
Wrong. I, like the group of middle schoolers before us, screamed like a schoolgirl who just realized that Dawson’s Creek got preempted for the week.
GD: Unlike Mark, I didn’t even see the group of screaming teenagers. I awaited my polar bear activities from afar, in hopes that 30 more seconds inside a quasi-warm tent would make jumping into 52-degree water more enjoyable.
Yet as I stood with my toes gripped over the edge of the ice, I had to keep thinking, “Hey, out of 30 staff members, we’re the only ones with enough guts (or stupidity) to be here.”
As my submerged head came above the water, I gasped for breath, but the shock left me without much air. I stayed in long enough to grab a rubber ducky and then scrambled to pull my numb body out of the water. Standing directly in front of a heater in a tent, I was finally able to regain my normal breathing.
MS: My second intelligent move, besides walking into the female dressing quarters, was not bringing any dry clothes. I was forced to go home in the same wet sneakers that were in Half Moon Lake. Eventually, I regained feeling in my toes.
GD: I’m still waiting to regain that feeling. I held my foot up to a mother-looking type woman in the warming tent awaiting her jump and asked, “Do you know what frostbite looks like?”
The look on her face said even more than her response, “I don’t know, but why are you asking me this before I jump?”
MS: But it was worth it. The Special Olympics is a great cause, and I’m happy that’s where my money went.
Although next time, maybe I’ll just give them the $15 for the right not to jump into Half Moon Lake in the middle of February.
GD: Ditto on the good cause. Though I doubt I’ll be convincing any new suckers to join me again next year. At least now I can consider myself a “true Wisconsinite.”