Monday, January 17, 2011

Not Exactly a Rerun: Roller-Freak! Avert Your Eyes!

This post is not exactly a rerun, as it was never published on this blog. I had posted it to Zug on September 29th, 2010).  (I tend to post longer, more “about my life” pieces on Zug).  |

If you’re not into this kind of stuff, might I recommend the luscious “Breathing, it's Killing You” or the unparalleled “Don't Speak”. )

We will be back to our regularly scheduled programing on January 31st.


A few summers back, in a stunningly ill-conceived attempt to be cool (and avoid the nightmare that passes for public transit in my city), I decided to try roller skating.

This is where I should insert something like the opening theme of "Law and Order" because, sadly, I neglected to consider a key kink in the plan: I am barely coordinated enough to be able to walk down the street without tripping. Daily, lamp posts find the need to assault me. All that... on wheel-free feet.

At the sports shop, I found a nice, gently-used pair of skates and tried them on. I pulled myself into a standing position. And then nearly plummeted to the ground. I tried to walk a few steps and was utterly incompetent. That's when my stupidity reached an all-time high. I thought: "Surely, this will be easier on gravel!"

I purchased the skates and - on a whim - also bought a helmet and some protective gear. When I say whim, I mean just that: I saw the helmet and knee pads and though, "Maybe I should get some of that, it's not too expensive."

Finding a helmet that fit was itself a challenge. Against all my assumptions, I have a small head, and the only one that fit me at this store was designed for children 4-6 years of age. It was purple and had little fish on it. I looked like a very, very "special" person wearing it.

I put all the items in my backpack and raced home, eager to give this a go. In my mind, I was going to be zipping down the street in no time. How cool I would look, skating to work, to the post office, to meet friends. My visions of myself in action consisted of beautiful, graceful images. This was especially delusional since in fast-moving dance classes and most anything requiring coordination I have always looked like an angry baby chimp.

Once home, I put the skates on and was about to leave my apartment when a thought occurred to me, once again, almost in passing: "Perhaps I should learn how to stop on the skates." I looked that up on the internet, and found that a type of V position was recommended to brake. "Got it," I thought, so excited about my new activity. And off I went, out the door of my apartment.

Well, not exactly that fast.

I had to take very, very small steps and so getting down the hall took quite some time, but again, I chalked this up to the carpet. The carpet was truly the problem, far as I could tell.

Opening the extremely heavy metal back door to the alley was as much a physical comedy routine as I ever performed since my feet kept sliding from underneath me as I pulled in the door. This was something akin to trying to pat my belly while chewing gum, but, after many tries, I finally managed to open the door and step outside.

And, BAM, promptly, fell to the ground.

Bad start, but this was going to get better.

Just as soon as I got up.

And up!

Not for long.

OK, another try.

Well, third times a charm.

Breath. Now, one more try.

OK, just one more.


I finally grabbed the fence. And pulled myself up.

Then I let go.

And fell again.

My bum was becoming very sore. And not in that pleasant way.

Grabbing the fence again, I pulled myself up, and then dragged my body along it to get to the back gate.

I finally managed to get out of the confines of my building and my goal was to get across the street to the nice park and play around there. Everything would be better at the park. And it was only 20 feet away.

I fell about six times just trying to get to the end of my street. Once there I hugged a lamppost like it was a long-lost friend. I looked plaintively at the other side of the street, which, on a normal day, seemed so amazingly easy to access...

"I can do this," I thought. Really, it was so close.

I took a step.

And fell.

I held onto the lamppost, this time tighter. "I love you, Lamppost", I seemed to be conveying. "Don't ever leave me again!"

My helmet and I stayed pressed against the lamppost for quite some time.

Occasionally I would look longingly at the park...

I willed myself to make the leap.

But it was no of use. Even though the park was now only ten feet away, even though this was a residential and quiet neighbourhood where perhaps one car came by every four minutes, the thought of trying to make it a few steps and then having a vehicle pull up as I crumbled to the pavement, seem too much humiliation for the week.

I was already working at a law firm, for Christ sake.

I finally resolved to take a tour around the block, since it would involve no street crossing.

Once I made it forward two feet, I saw an old man approach. He looked at me strangely. "First time on the roller skates," I said, smiling, by way of explanation. I tried to be perky, in spite of how completely freakish I felt I appeared.

He didn't return the smile. He walked passed me.

I watched him continue down the street as he walked his sub-turtle pace.

Unfortunately, that was still infinitely faster than me.

I made it forward two more feet and then tried to actually allow myself to roll on the skates. Given the product's name, I though using them in that manner might be sort of cute.

But not for me.

SPLAT! Down again.

I managed to get up, somewhat faster than before (read: only two tries, as opposed to six.)

An attractive guy passed by me. "First time on roller skates," I said in my forced upbeat way.

He looked away.

I tried not to move for fear of further humiliating myself.

Once he was gone, I moved forward a few inches. I finally managed a slight roll, and then a break. There was no elegance to it - basically all I could manage was to make a large figure-8 with my legs as though bow-legged - and then pulling them together again.

I had made it about six feet from the original lamppost - when the elderly 75 year-old man who had passed me about 15 minutes ago, came around the block once again, and passed me for the second time.

After about an hour, I made it back into my apartment where I sat down on the bed and pondered how utterly pathetic I was.

When I recounted the story to my boyfriend that night, he responded, "Yeah, I sort of expected that's what would happen."

I asked him why, when I had first told him about my roller-skating plan, which if you recall, originally involved only the possibility of getting a helmet, he didn't try talk me out of it all. Or even say: "Are you fucking kidding me?! You sure as hell are buying a helmet, 'cause clearly things aren't functioning that well up there as it is! Plus, your coordination already makes you seem like you have extensive brain-damage, and you don't want to risk making that any worse."

And he responded, "I thought, 'You'll figure that out.'"

Yes. Yes, I did.