Reg Henry: Not to put a damper on ice buckets, but ...

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If you are on Face­book — and if you are not, let me just ob­serve how well that speaks of you — a strange phe­nom­e­non has un­doubt­edly come to your at­ten­tion. Many of your friends and re­la­tions are pour­ing cold wa­ter over their heads.

This is good in many ways. Who hasn’t wanted to pour cold wa­ter on their friends and re­la­tions on oc­ca­sion? Now they are do­ing it them­selves to save you the trou­ble. But, as al­ways, the temp­ta­tion to pour more cold wa­ter on a good prac­tice seems ir­re­sist­ible to those of us in the cur­mud­geon com­mu­nity.

What is go­ing on be­fore our so­cial me­dia eyes is the so-called Ice Bucket Chal­lenge on be­half of the ALS As­so­ci­a­tion, which has raised buck­ets of money thereby. As of Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease, this method has raised $22.9 mil­lion for the as­so­ci­a­tion, which trans­lates to 453,210 new do­nors.

A num­ber of ex­pla­na­tions for the chal­lenge have been of­fered. It seems to have evolved from peo­ple flood­ing them­selves for fun to goof­ing off for a char­i­ta­ble pur­pose. Pete Frates, a for­mer Boston Col­lege base­ball cap­tain who is an ALS pa­tient, is prom­i­nently cred­ited for pro­mot­ing the chal­lenge as a way to raise do­na­tions to help oth­ers with the dis­ease.

The point is that some pro­fes­sional mar­ket­ing ge­nius in a fancy suit did not think up the idea; it ap­pears to have just sort of hap­pened spon­ta­ne­ously. The ALS As­so­ci­a­tion was as sur­prised as any­one to dis­cover that it was sud­denly Christ­mas in July (and Au­gust).

As well as the great flow of cold cash, the other wind­fall is rec­og­ni­tion for ALS, a cru­elly pro­gres­sive neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease for which no cure ex­ists.

Mer­ritt Hol­land Spier, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Western Penn­syl­va­nia chap­ter of the as­so­ci­a­tion, reck­ons that un­til the buck­ets came out, half the na­tion didn’t know what the dis­ease was. She mar­vels at the fact this trans­for­ma­tive mo­ment in pub­lic aware­ness is hap­pen­ing 75 years af­ter Lou Ge­h­rig, the Yan­kees great, was di­ag­nosed with ALS and made it known to the world.

It would take a very dis­agree­able sort of per­son to raise ob­jec­tions to any of this — and I know just the man for the job. Me. I am a dry sort of char­ac­ter and, when it comes to the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge, I fully in­tend to re­main dry.

As men­tioned above, I think the ALS As­so­ci­a­tion is the cham­pion of a great cause and its good for­tune is not to be be­grudged. I get it: Just as it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some­body some good, it is a chill wa­ter that doesn’t do some cause some good. And if peo­ple want to pour ice wa­ter on them­selves, fine — just don’t in­volve me in their damp am­bi­tions.

When it comes to pub­lic en­thu­si­asms, I am the sort of per­son who re­fuses to do “the wave” at the ball­park. It seems to me that it is an in­sult to the game to be so bored by the ac­tion that you have to throw your arms in the air in rhythm with thou­sands of oth­ers sim­i­larly in need of dis­trac­tion. Be­sides, what does the smell of 30,000 ex­posed arm­pits do to the con­cen­tra­tion of the pitcher and bat­ter? It is not help­ful. Lou Ge­h­rig would have agreed with me on this.

True, with the na­tion steam­ing with var­i­ous prob­lems and frus­tra­tions this sum­mer, an ex­cuse for peo­ple to pour ice wa­ter on their heads is ob­vi­ously tempt­ing — and maybe help­ful to pub­lic mo­rale.

But to dis­agree­able me it is the “sel­fie” cul­ture gone awry. It pro­vides the chance for peo­ple to make a lit­tle speech be­fore they douse them­selves and show how brave they are. But, hey, it’s only cold wa­ter. It’s not go­ing to kill any­one and we know what’s go­ing to hap­pen: The chal­lenge-tak­ers are go­ing to get wet. Big deal! I have a shower ev­ery morn­ing and I spare ev­ery­body the sight.

Not­with­stand­ing the large do­na­tions, I sus­pect some peo­ple are all bucket and no check­book.

Ac­cord­ing to one ver­sion of the chal­lenge, you pay only $10 if you get wet and $100 if you are chal­lenged and refuse. Some peo­ple surely pay the big­ger amount no mat­ter what. But hu­man na­ture be­ing what it is, some peo­ple can be de­pended upon to show off for noth­ing.

If any­one is go­ing to do it, do not use a kid­die-sized bucket, as I saw one of my sis­ters-in-law do.

And don’t bother chal­leng­ing me, Janie, just be­cause I called you out. I am stay­ing dry.


Reg Henry: rhenry@post-ga­zette.com or 412-263-1668.

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