Some years ago, back in my single days while reporting for The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, I had a girlfriend who talked me into a “polar bear plunge” in Lake Michigan in Chicago.
“It will be fun,” she said enthusiastically. “And just think of the great ways we can warm up each other afterwards.”
So we took the train up to the Windy City in January, spent the night and then joined several thousand other crazies to jump into the lake as part of the festivities of the Polar Bear Club.
For those who haven’t been in or around the Windy City, it is cold in the wintertime. I’ve flown into that city when the temperature was 26 degrees below zero (actual temperature, not wind chill).
Thankfully, it wasn’t that cold in the January in 1975 when we decided to join the other crazies in the water. The thermometer was still in single digits as my lady friend, decked out in a new bikini and wearing colorful Mardi Gras beads, dove into the water and came up with a screech.
“That’s cold,” she screamed, along with a few chosen cuss words. However, she looked great in that new bikini, what little of it there was.
I dove in after her and added a few choice expletives of my own.
Polar Bear Clubs around the country have these kinds of cold weather events each year, often on New Year’s Day.
After our cold plunges, we caught a cab back to our hotel near Chicago’s Water Tower and spent more pleasant time in the shower, then under the covers. I did not photograph that first Chicago plunge because of ground rules from my date on that first one: “No cameras.”
On the train heading back to Southern Illinois, she asked: “Want to do this again next year?”
“We will see,” I said, knowing that my relationships didn’t normally last that long. The lady I was dating the next year never mentioned plunging into freezing weather as “fun.”
I’ve photographed other Polar Bear events over the years but managed to stay dry and warm while doing so.
Oh, we found better things to do without freezing.