The Dartmouth Bucket List
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 15, 2013
If you saw last week’s issue of The Mirror, you might remember reading that “natural selection has spent hundreds of years getting rid of people like your friend, who think it is a good idea to jump through the ice and into the water of a frozen pond,” or that the Polar Bear Plunge is exclusively for “morons.” Moderately passive aggressive challenge accepted, though I had already planned to do the plunge since I never had before, and my last opportunity as a Dartmouth undergraduate had finally arrived.
When Friday morning finally came around, I lay in bed praying that impending blizzard would roll into town and cancel the event, subsequently depriving freshmen of new profile pictures and saving me from icy agony. But alas, the plunge was set to proceed as planned, and there was no backing out.
I would definitely look like a moron if I wrote a column called The Dartmouth Bucket List and didn’t complete the plunge. I convinced myself that those freezing seconds would be worth it for a column topic and an awesome picture of myself mid-jump into a frozen pond. My excitement was neck-and-neck with my anxiety, and was even managing to pull ahead. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “90 percent of the game is half mental.” If my peers could turn out in droves to hurl themselves into a frigid abyss, so could I.
In a stroke of genius, I wore a fleece onesie — quick to put back on and it covers your entire body in fleece — and drove to Occom Pond. Some might think of it as cheating to run straight into a warm vehicle instead of enjoying a scenic walk home as your hair turns to miniature icicles. I call it proper planning.
The process of preparing to plunge seems specifically designed only to increase the anxiety one feels at the prospect of jumping into a hole in the ice. First, there’s the waiver. A waiver makes any activity seem at least three times more intense. There are the people running the event, wearing flair. At Dartmouth, we are conditioned from the outset to trust people wearing strange outfits with our safety (example: Vox Croo) but elsewhere, wearing flair is known as looking unprofessional. No one who’s going to give you CPR in real life wears a tutu. Then, there’s the wait, which we luckily didn’t have to endure. You don’t want to have to think about doing something like this. I jumped practically as soon as the rope was around my waist.
I would describe the actual swim — calling it a “plunge” is false advertising, since you have to actually swim across the decently sized square hole — but I blacked it out due to trauma. The next thing I remember is climbing as fast as I could up the ladder and my feet freezing on the ice as I hurried to put my onesie back on.
As we hurried back to the car, my friends and I were exhilarated by what we had just done, and very eager to get into hot showers. The Polar Bear Plunge is the epitome of tier two fun, or fun after the fact, like DOC First-Year Trips for people who hate the outdoors or guys’ pledge term.
Then why do so many of us take the plunge? To say we did? Because other people do it? Because we’re insane? For an excuse to run to your room in Hitchcock sans pants during a snowstorm? I would venture to say it’s a combination of all three. It’s weird and exhilarating, like, well, college.