Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rolling and sometimes rocking

Last Sunday afternoon my girlfriend and I ventured out in the midday sun (like mad dogs and Englishmen) of Northridge (where the temperature hit 110 degrees). Why would we head to the Valley? Her nephew's 9th birthday celebration was being held at a roller skating rink in that town (and you better believe it was air conditioned).

Although most of the people skating were significantly younger, and despite all better judgment (considering that I hadn't been on skates in longer than I could remember—15 years? 20?), we intrepidly donned the rental wheeled footwear and headed out with the children and teens who clearly frequented the place.

Really, roller skating is not that difficult. Beyond avoiding the other skaters either zipping around or falling, the key is simply keeping one's weight (and center of gravity) slightly forward. That's it. However, that proved more difficult to keep in mind than would seem reasonable.

I will answer the obvious question up front: I fell down twice. All things considered, not bad. And those two instances happened because I got a bit cocky. After getting my bearings and achieving a state where I could not only keep my balance but get up some speed in the straight-aways, I started shifting my weight on the beat of the pop music the teenage disc jockey played, and trying to be rhythmic in my movements. And that's when I got too complacent and failed to obey rule #1 (keep weight forward) and succumbed to gravity's rule #1 (balance too far back sends one's weight backward). And of course, when on skates, falling backward sends one's arms flailing at one's sides, but they are useless at offering any absorption of the impact; that falls solely (and literally) on one's glutimus maximus.

On Monday I had a significant patch of purple on my derrière from my lapses in concentration. That's all we'll say about that.

Any athletic event you can walk away from (even if you can't sit down later) is a good one.

"Skate! Skate! Skate at the devil!"


The rink was "patrolled" by two teenagers (probably 18) dressed like football referees, in black and white vertically striped shirts. Their job appeared to be skating around and making sure those who fell down and stayed down were not seriously injured, and standing next to the fallen to act as a block for those still skating around in the mandated counterclockwise direction Although they were clearly more than proficient on skates, generally they didn't do anything too fancy; presumably they had to pay attention to a degree that didn't allow showing off.

However, shortly before an organized game was to begin, an older man (whom I presume was the manager—he looked older than me) appeared on the rink, and although he looked like a thinner Jason Alexander (and hence stood out from everyone else on that alone), he zoomed around the floor, cutting across the middle, crossing his feet, and acting like he was in a Diet Coke commercial. Which wouldn't bother me were it not for the fact that he cut me off twice—not so much that it made me fall or even stagger briefly, but such that it seemed (from my perspective) that he could have just as easily watched where he was going better, as it wasn't like anyone was actually impressed with his moves.

The other noteworthy aspect of the day, as far as I'm going to continue, came near the beginning of our time there (which started around 12:30, when it was just starting to pick up in the amount of people on the rink). The DJ played an obligatory safety message, where it noted the inherent risks of roller skating and mentioned the rules (no speed skating, no rough play, etc.). However, what caught my attention during the pre-recorded announcement was the reference to how the risk of injury was "all part of the sport of roller skating" (emphasis mine).


Wouldn't there need to be some sort of competition* to constitute a sport? I don't mean to get overly concerned with semantics, but I could barely pay attention to the rest of the message after that word choice drew me in to pondering the nature of the activity. (Notice I can't bring myself to go along with that designation.) I would have been less distracted had they called it the "art" of roller skating.

That, I presume, is what the manager fellow was attempting when he was out there.

* I'm sure those along the sides of the rink (too scared to get out there) were judging our performance (so to speak), but it's not like any scores were assigned (to my knowledge), and if so, they certainly weren't announced.

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