Saturday, January 3, 2009

Retirement (unedited)

I have a feeling I'll be making a few retirement announcements in the coming year. Not all of them will be the subject of a blog post, and not all of them will be that impressive, but in the year of my death, it seems only appropriate to retire from a few things rather than let them die on the vine.

One of the less impressive retirements I'm planning: jumping in the lake. Each year on New Year's Day there's an organized jump into a hole in the ice of a local lake. This "dive" into a large rectangle cut into the ice started with just eight people jumping into the lake in 1991, as a way to sustain a New Year's Day tradition for a transplant from somewhere in California.

It became a public event that has grown annually. Some years it grows just a little. In 2009 the dive broke its 2008 record by more than 200 participants. More than 900 people jumped into four feet of open water, waded or swam 20 feet to the ladder on the other side of the squared circle and climbed a ladder out of the water.

I've participated in this event five times during the past 10 years, including Thursday morning's rendition. The problem with the event is that the venue at which the event takes place is too small to accommodate the mass of people that show up to participate.

With more than 900 participating, it's a nice problem to have. There's a participation fee for the event which offsets costs associated with it, but also raises money for charitable purposes. It went from being a running club activity to being a fundraising public spectacle.

But it's too big. With everyone descending upon the event for a 9:30 a.m. kickoff, it's a bit of a fiasco. The event center that hosts the event is too small to accommodate 900 divers. The makeshift warming house in its warmer level is overwhelmed with participants readying to line up at the hole.

I have enjoyed participating in the event, but being crammed into a building like a sardine for more than an hour, waiting for the privilege of jumping in a frozen lake for 15 seconds, just ain't worth it any more.

There's a certain pride in telling people I did it, again. And lord knows there's little to be proud of in my life, so I take anything I can get. But I need to find a greater source of pride in 2009. Not necessarily at the expense of my New Year's Day pride, but without changes in the event, I'm not going back. And even with changes in the event, changes in my life may prevent me from going back in 2010. I'm banking on it.

Whatever be the reason, I have retired from the New Year's Day dive.

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