Our viewpoint | A cold event can be the warmest place to be

A camera slung over one shoulder and my trusty old camouflage waders over the other, I took a deep breath and began trudging my way down Double Bluff Road.

Despite arriving 30 minutes early for the annual Polar Bear Plunge, cars were parked on both sides of the street and I had a bit of a walk ahead of me. As I was feeling a little under the weather, I was beginning to regret having so quickly volunteered to cover the New Year’s Day event.

The walk went by fast, however, and I arrived at the beach in short order. There, I was quickly greeted by a man — he was the first of many — who eyed my waders accusingly and with a good-natured grin said, “You know that’s cheating, don’t you?”

Admittedly, my first thought was something like, “Why am I the one working on a holiday? Isn’t this for the new reporters? So much for being in charge.”

But the man’s smile was infectious and with the ’80s music blasting from the loudspeakers, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

I had taken just a few steps away from my greeter when I ran into a buddy in law enforcement. We chatted about the rash of burglaries and our mutual concerns about the shotgun wielding masked men, or man, terrorizing the South End. It was nice catching up, and a reaffirmation of the quality police officers who are genuinely concerned about South Whidbey’s well-being.

Breaking away to snap some photos, I then bumped into Carolyn Tamler and her husband. Her cheery personality was a gift and she graciously agreed to guard my notepad and shoes as I headed out into the water in my waders, apparel she had never seen before and called “hilarious.”

Surviving the charge of nearly 200 people, I was soon back on shore and met the Weigels, a nice family of four from Bellevue who have a home on Central Whidbey. They attend the event every year and, dripping with freezing water and wearing the brightest of smiles, they were a pleasure to meet.

From there I bumped into Dustin Amundson, a North Whidbey firefighter. We shared a laugh or two and talked about past fires we’d covered. Two steps from him was my 12-year-old’s science teacher, Terry Welch, and we had a great chat about Kyle and his progress at school.

From there the list goes on and on. Everywhere I turned I saw people I’ve come to know over the years from every corner of the island. We smiled in recognition, shook hands and enjoyed one another’s company.

So there it is. Like so many other holidays I spent “working,” I found myself later marveling at the unexpected benefits of my job and the joys of community.


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