I may have told you about the ice skating facility attached to our building. Two practice rinks for the Washington Capitals, and during lunchtime, one of the rinks is open to public skating ($7, plus $3 for skate rental).
I went over yesterday, and paid my $10, got a pair of 11 Wide skates, and laced ’em up. Thinking of how it had been probably 20 years and 50 pounds since I last ice skated, I figured it had to be like riding a bike, right?
Walking to the ice was pretty easy. A bit wobbly, but that could have been my nerves manifesting their anger by knocking my knees around.
I got to the entrance to the ice PAD, and waited for a safe moment to debutante. There were lots of kids (smarmly little asses( skating around like they’re all cool and whatever. I saw my opening, and gingerly placed one timid foot on the ice.
The moment of truth was now. I lifted my other foot off the relative safety of the mat and placed it, too, upon the ice.
I shuffled a bit as I moved along down the ice rink, holding onto the wall as I went. Like riding a bike? Hah! Not hardly! I felt like a Republican at a Pfish concert – frightened, unsure and conspicuously out of place. But like all good Republicans, I was determined to make this work. So, ever forward.
As I shuffled along the ice, propelling myself more with my hands along the wall than with my skates, I noticed my feet starting to hurt. Horrible, shooting pain along the soles of both feet. The obvious cause of this is my near-orbit-inducing weight load centered ultimately on two 1/4″ wide pieces of steel. But like all real fat men, I dind’t want to concede this. I went full blown into denial and thought there must be something wrong with the skates.
I continued on. By the time I got halfway around the rink, my feet were in such pain that I had to sit and rest. In my mind, I heard a referee’s whistle and then his shout: “200 pizzas, 11 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 9 gallons of ice cream in the past twenty years – you are banished to three minutes in the penalty box!”
So into the penalty box I went, where I sat and rested my aching, breaking feet. After a sufficiently humbling while, I stood back up and shuffled my way around the rest of the rink. And out the gate to sit again.
But dammit, I wasn’t going to give up after just one pathetic, mousy shuffle around the rink!
So I got back up, and this 2nd time, I made it all the way around the rink. Victory was mine!! I held on to the wall most of the time, but this was progress, right?
I rested for a bit, and then back to the ice for trip number three. Oops! I shouldn’t have said trip. This time, I started to get my bearings, and although my feet were crying out in pain, I managed to skate several feet at a time without holding on to the security of the wall. Until three quarters of a lap around. Yeah, I got cocky, and yeah, I fell. Wiped out. Splatted upon the ice. A fat man in business clothes sprawled face down, ass up on the ice at the Washington Capitals practice hockey rink.
Before I knew what had happened, an ice guard zoomed over to make sure I was alright. I told him I was. I lied. My left knee screamed. My right elbow howled. My legs and arms must have been numb, because they didn’t hurt yesterday, but they’re yelping today.
I stood up and gamely completed the lap. I even kept skating, one more lap. I wasn’t going to end this thing on a fall. I was NOT going to let Gravity win this classic conflict of man vs. ice.
Fourth lap around, and I only grabbed the wall a couple of times. At one point, I was away from the wall when I started to lose control. Yet lo and behold, even with my poor, pathetic excuse for a life flashing rapidly before my eyes, I managed to forestall the fall and maintain my balance. Of course I was fully humbled, and I scooted my way back to the wall, near which I skated for the rest of the 4th lap.
And that was it. My feet hurt horribly. As did sundry joints, muscles and emotional dignities from the fall. I left the ice and sat down. It may have been my imagination, but I truly thought I heard two loud swooshes of gaseous air as I peeled my feet out of the skates, followed by the diminutive cheers (and taunts) of the millions of nerve endings down there.
I’m going back on Thursday. My friend Matt, who is athletically inclined, does think the skates may have been ill-fitting. My brother Tom agrees. So Thursday, it’s size 12 wide, with thicker socks, a few new bruises and a sense of pride that was only temporarily dented, I hope.
If you don’t hear a status report on Thursday’s ice-capade, my last will and testament is in the top right-hand drawer of my office. On a 3X5 index card. Together with a list of groceries for this weekend. I’ve become a minimalist, not by choice, but by family court decree.
Wish me luck!
P.S.: The above was written during my lunch hour. It is entirely true. Except the part about the will. I don’t have enough stuff to even put on a partially used 3X5 index card. Sigh!
In my first essay about my ice skating adventures, I referenced a planned future trip to the ice rink. The essay jokingly referenced my last will and testament, which was to be retrieved in the event my failure to update you resulted from my early but expected demise on the ice rink.
I didn’t demise. But curiously, someone helped themselves to my last will and testament anyway. Well, that will take all of 2 minutes to re-create. But I digress…
I set out for another battle royale’ at the ice rink. This went much better. For the most part.
I ordered a pair of size 12 skates. They were a much, much better fit. I began to think my friend Matt and my brother Tom, who are more often wrong than right (or at least more often left than right), might have been right this time!
I exuded false confidence as I walked to the ice pad. I surveyed my surroundings. Recalling my first ice trip (pun intended), I now wondered if this would be the time and place where I would finally meet my maker. And if so, would HE be on ice skates? Would HIS feet hurt horribly? Would HE fall on the ice, grim-reaper-face-down, grim-reaper-ass-up?
I stepped onto the ice. Two things occurred to me in the first ten seconds:
1) The better-fitting skates made it much easier and much less painful to skate.
2) Even though I’d only skated four laps last time, I now had the ability to skate without gripping the wall in a blind panic.
I was beginning to think this might work. As I slowly skated around my first lap, I saw a little four year old girl taking lessons (proving that sometimes, the 4-year-olds are smarter than we adults, because it never dawned on me to take lessons!). The smarmy little four year old was skating with the aid of a “bucket,” which is like a walker, adjustable for height, and which helps a novice skater get his or her ice legs, I guess. I smirked. I never needed no stinkin’ “bucket,” and
Off I was! Skating like I knew what I was doing. A couple of times I thought I might lose my balance, but I kept it together and remained upright. I skated a few laps without falling and without stopping. On my 4th lap, I realized that I had just lapped the four-year-old skating with the bucket! This was truly the greatest moment in my brief career as an ice skater! I FREAKIN’ LAPPED SOMEONE! I took a deep breath, smiled, and tried not to look like a smarmy little 46 year old ass.
I skated a couple more laps and started to feel some pain in my feet, so I figured I deserved a break. I exited the ice pad and sat for a bit.
As I sat, I thought I saw a co-worker coming down to watch. This co-worker also watches NASCAR for the crashes and tosses pennies out of her 8th floor office window onto unsuspecting pedestrians below. In short, she has a blood thirst for other peoples’ pain, and I just knew why she was there. I was gonna show her! I started back onto the ice, picked up my speed and – yep – splat! Although this time, it wasn’t a face-down jarring splat, but more of a graceful “slide-into-second-base” drop to the ice. Embarrassing, yes, but pain free. And somewhat liberating. Without realizing it, I’d taught myself how to fall! I got back up and continued to skate. My co-worker, her blood-lust apparently satisfied, left the rink.
I skated several more times around the rink and nearly killed the entire lunch hour. Without any ugliness. Until.
It was the last lap. I thought that since the experience had gone so well, and since the falling issue was no longer a worry, I would try to pick up speed on the last lap and see what my motor could do. Off I was. Into the first turn and the 2nd turn, at a respectable pace slightly faster than most of the other skaters.
I guess I forgot about the tooth-ed front edge of the skate blades. Or I got lazy and wasn’t picking my feet up high enough off the ice. One of the skates caught the ice. Can’t remember whether it was the right or the left. Much of what happened next was lost to momentary amnesia (thank God). Here’s what I do remember:
I was skating fairly fast. The “stopping” mechanism of the skate caught the ice. (Lesson learned: A slow skater stops slowly. A fast skater stops FAST!) A law of physics tried to stop me – not sure which law that was. But then, a whole host of other laws of physics arrived on scene, fighting for domination. Things like immovable objects and irresistible forces; an object in motion remaining in motion unless an equal and opposite force acts upon it; gravity sucks and the like.
I went airborne. Literally. Both skates off the ice, arms flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to fly into a slow, easy landing. An expression of sheer horror on my embarrassed, reddened face. It seemed to last forever. I felt like Wiley E. Coyote having run off the edge of the cliff, suspended in mid-air only because he doesn’t know he’s out of ground. I hung there. And then…
SPLAT. I landed on my stomach and released a very loud, very painful sounding WHOOOOOFFF. The air escaped my lungs, which in retrospect was a good thing, otherwise I would have screamed like a baby for the shooting pains that began at my left knee and right wrist and ended 30 feet above my head up in the rafters.
Then things started to go gray. I didn’t know up from down, left from right. I figured I would drool a bit so I could determine which way was up, but my wits returned quickly enough. With the help of my lord and savior the wall, I managed to get back on my feet and catch my breath. I SLOWLY skated out the lap. A woman skated past and said, “That’s the only rough part about this hobby.” To which I said, “Yes, I’m glad the pain doesn’t last. And the air comes back into your lungs eventually. And the pride comes back eventually, too, but often slower.”
I left the ice pad, changed into my street shoes, and checked my knee and wrist for the “before” status that I would remember when the bruises appeared the next day.
My wrist and knee felt better quickly enough, but for a few days, my stomach muscles hurt horribly. It was hard to breathe and even harder to get into and out of my little car.
But overall, it was a good experience. I learned how to fall, and then I learned how not to fall. I lapped a four year old. I was a smarmy adult for a while, then in the end, properly humbled. And I’ll skate again. Why? Because it’s there, silly! (But couldn’t they have built their stupid ice rink in Waldorf, Maryland?)