The fact that there wasn't 14 inches of ice on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River Saturday may have led some people to believe the annual Polar Plunge might be a bit less intense than previous event.
Those people were wrong. Folks, let me tell you, that water was cold.
For a brief moment Saturday, Minnie Riperton had nothing on me.
Riperton was the 1970s-era soul singer
with an astonishing five-and-a-half octave vocal range. For a few seconds in the river, I exceeded that by at least half an octave - on the high end. When I hit the water, my body turned into a human train whistle.
Fortunately, ice water can be calming and therapeutic in that, after initially feeling like you are being burned alive, you go numb and eventually pass out.
I won't even go into the physiological changes that occur in the male body when submerged in ice water. You can learn everything you need to know about that by reading the posts my Facebook friends have left on my page over the last couple days.
For the record, most of the posts are pretty accurate.
I participated in last year's plunge and promised, in this newspaper, to do it again this year. Clearly I wasn't thinking when I made that promise. I was tired and looking for a way to end my story so I could go home. I had a whole year to make up an excuse for not jumping.
No excuse was forthcoming, however, and there I was, heading for the dock along the river with Keith "Weaser" Miller and his extended family.
Weaser and his kin were selected by organizers to be the first "plungers" to enter the water this year based on being the first to register for the event. They also were anointed by organizers as the most rowdy plungers, and that's the group to which of course I'm just naturally attracted. I've known Weaser for several years. He's a heckuva guy so I asked if I could join him and his family in leading off the plunge.
He said he'd be honored, so off we went down the paved ramp to the dock, as spectators looked on and the other plungers awaited their turn. After arriving at a wide, wooden staircase installed on the dock just for the occasions by Rich Johnson of Haywood's, the group stepped down into the water without hesitation. The yelps and squeals came instantly and I was yelping and squealing right along with them.
Garrett Socling, a referee for the Susquehanna Valley Derby Vixens, a local women's roller derby team, accurately described the sensation.
"My brain shut down. I don't really know what happened," Socling said. "I don't know how I found my way out of the water."
My memories of what happened are a bit hazy, too, but this is what I do remember:
I went into the water up to the brim of my hat, but did not "make the hat float" as I initially proposed. I took several gratuitous doggie paddle strokes - the only kind of swimming I know how to do - and headed slowly back to the wooden steps.
The wind, which was blowing hard and steady all morning, had a bite to it, but numbness, coupled with adrenaline, took some of the edge off of it as I made my way back up the ramp.
By the time I returned to my car to change clothes, I was having a hard time grasping the laces of my shoes.
I giggled and kept repeating something to the effect of how much fun I was having.
I may have been slightly delirious, but it really was fun. There was a festive atmosphere, a sense that what the group was doing was slightly on the wild side, and the knowledge we were helping a great cause. I may even have made a few new friends.
Right now, I feel rubbery and exhausted, but next year, I plan to be there with Weaser and his family, doing it all over again.
But I have just one question: Can I go home now?