It’s funny how certain things catch on, isn’t it? Like the pet rock, mood rings, deep fried mini donuts and the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.
Every generation has had them, these phenomenon that seem to flare up like a, well, like a flare for no apparent reason and then sputter and die away as quickly and mysteriously as they originally fired up. Except for the PC Party, which has been flaring away for decades but now seems to be intent on burning itself out. And mini donuts. Those things are going to be flaring forever (please!).
OK, so I’m not so good at point-making, but I think you get my drift.
The point is, the ice bucket challenge is one of these said phenomenon. For those of you who live in a cave or, even more unlikely, don’t have Internet, the ice bucket challenge involves getting a bucket of ice cold water (complete with ice) poured over your head. (This is the ice bucket part of the challenge).
Once you recover from a hypothermic heart attack, or even before you are ice-bucketed, you name one to three people who you double-dog-dare to have a bucket of ice water poured over their heads too. (This is the challenge part of the ice bucket challenge). And when they accept the challenge and get doused, they name others, etc. And so it goes.
This freezing act of public drenching has snowballed into one of those aforementioned phenomenon that we now call “going viral,” although in my day “viral” had a much different meaning — mostly medical and mostly bad.
So these days you can hardly turn on any social media (even if you don’t have any) without seeing or hearing about someone you know or famous people you wish you did know or famous people you really wish you didn’t know taking the ice bucket challenge.
It was front page news when Kim Kardashian — who has no discernible talent or achievement other than walking around with a backside the size of that of a Budweiser Clydesdale and is only rich and famous for being rich and famous — took the challenge on the TV show Ellen — and of course took a selfie while getting doused. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and countless other celebrities in the “who cares” category have been filmed drenching themselves, screaming and playing for the camera, of course.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Martha Stewart and even 86-year-old Ethel Kennedy (who was nominated by President Barack Obama) have summarily ice-bucketed themselves. NHL star Sydney Crosby got doused. And even head Canuck honcho Stephen Harper (who, like Obama, declined to get wet) was nominated by none other than beleaguered Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who has been sodden himself (he has also been soaked in the ice bucket challenge).
In fact, I’ll bet someone you know personally has taken the challenge and, in fact, perhaps you yourself have been personally challenged to do the ice bucket dump. I know I have.
But here’s the thing: pouring ice on your head, unlike most viral silliness, is for a good cause. Every time someone succumbs to the arctic shower, they also donate to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society. ALS is a despicable disease made unfortunately infamous by baseball great Lou Gehrig and modern genius physicist Stephen Hawking.
At last count, ALS has received nearly 90 million ice bucket challenge dollars and that’s a heck of a lot more than a drop in the ice bucket for a society that didn’t spend a penny on fundraising, and in fact didn’t even start the campaign and probably have never dumped an ice bucket on anyone.
Turns out this whole viral phenomenon was started just a few months ago by one Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball captain who is living with a motor neurone disease. I wonder if he, in his wildest dreams, could ever imagined the traction a little online video and a bucket of ice water would have?
So when my wild and crazy nephew Tyler had his rotten kids dump a bucket of ice water on him on Facebook and named me as his challenge, I immediately texted him that he was out of his mind. No, actually I said “I’m in!” but it was in a weak moment.
Then, almost immediately my elder sibling (sister Heather) calls and says that she and my bro-in-law would graciously and generously undertake to dump said ice bucket on my personal head. Gee, thanks.
So, here goes. I’ve decided to do the ice bucket challenge right here, right now. In my column — an honest to goodness ‘virtual’ viral soaking, as it were.
There they are, Hedy and Norm, up on the small balcony deck at our house. I’m underneath. Hesitant. Tense. Anticipatorially chilly. They have a huge plastic bucket full of water supplemented with two full bags of ice from the gas station.
“OK,” I say, pretending I’m brave. “Let’s DO THIS!”
And three … two … one … they chuckle with glee, tip the five-gallon pail, and WHOOSH! A waterfall ice cube avalanche hits like a freezing sledgehammer, soaking me. A drowned rat enveloped in a hypothermic tsunami.
I yell and sputter and stand there frozen (literally) in the spot, hoping against hope that my brain, heart and lungs will soon resume semi-normal function.
But I’ve survived, through sheer strength of will and latent stupidity. I’m not going to challenge anyone just yet, because I need all the friends I can get.
And by the way, I forgot to mention: when I was ice-bucketed just now? I was wearing a yellow industrial raincoat and a bicycle helmet. After all, a viral phenomenon doesn’t really have any rules, right?
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.