This one goes out to Lynn, whom I promised almost two weeks ago that I would do a blog about one of my, shall we say, less than graceful moments. The idea was triggered thanks to her "Ouch" blog. So Lynn, this one's for you.
When I was in elementary school, I was a big time fan of roller skating. Every weekend, I'd hit the local roller rink with my brothers and some friends. We never could get enough of flying around the rink as fast as we could, and of course had to participate in all the games: speed skating, "jam" skating (to MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, of course, only the top music of the day), backwards skating, and all the other goofy stuff they thought up.
We always just rented the traditional yet snazzy quad skates, but the up and coming skates of the day were Rollerblades. I remember when they came out, I was fascinated with them, and I wanted more than anything to have my own pair. To a third grader, that's a pretty powerful sense of longing.
Ever the ones for reason and practicality, my parents never allowed me to get them. It was their understanding, which is actually quite correct, that rollerblades did not offer enough ankle support. This meant that if you were still growing, the rollerblades were bad for ankles and could cause damage.
Though disappointed that I could not buy them, I waited patiently until I would be old enough to do so. After much discussion with my parents, they decided that I might be able to handle them by the time I turned 14. That was six years! And to an 8-year-old, that was far too long to wait.
But wait I did, and for quite some time, I never lost sight of that age mark, the point at which I could finally get my rollerblades.
That time came and went, however, and I did not have my skates. A few years on down the road, when I was well into high school, I wound up getting a pair of quads. They served me well, and continue to do so to this very day, but I still found myself longing for blades. I wanted to be able to use them to get around, and quads were much to hard for long distances. Blades, on the other hand, were not.
Still, I continued to wait, until finally, last year, I broke down and bought myself a pair. After waiting 13 years to buy them, I knew my time had come. I was ready.
I had saved up for quite some time (not an easy task in college), and was ready to take on the investment. I bought a nice new pair of blades, and was ready to try my hand at them. I grew up skating, and was confident that I would be just fine on them, never mind the fact that most of my experience lay within the confines of the rink (both ice and roller).
I drove out to a bike path I knew would be a safe and forgiving place to begin my first adventures at rollerblading. The path ran along a street, but was separated from the main road, and it is pretty flat.
I strapped on my new skates and was off, reveling in the newfound freedom of my blades. They were so smooth, and I moved forward with so little effort! I started out slow, and the first day was pretty reserved, as I never could stay on my feet long enough to actually get places.
Very soon, however, I was becoming more confident, and dared to add speed to my skating. I traveled along at a good clip, amazed at how quickly the skates allowed me to go. Though I was worried about bumps (I've skateboarded before and one time hit a miniscule pebble while on a long board, which sent the thing flying out from under my feet and resulted in my face-planting on the concrete), I persevered. Stopping, I knew, would also be an issue, but on my ride out, it was no problem whatsoever.
I marveled at how easy this was, and was encouraged by my success. This was too good to be true! And unfortunately, it really was too good to be true. As it turns out, the path had a very subtle incline, which had worked in favor for the use of stopping on my way out.
When I turned around to head back, however, I was in for a surprise. Blades happen to be equipped with excellent bearings, which enables them to have great spin, and so as I took off back to the car, the hill naturally allowed me to pick up even more speed. I took off, gathering speed as I went, loving the feel of wind rushing past my face.
As I approached an intersection, I wanted to slow down, for safety sake. Granted, the light was green, but there's curbs to consider, as well as traffic that may not see me. I casually eased up and tried to use the brake, only to discover that rubber brakes in direct contact with asphalt are useless.
And so I was left with two options: wreck into the Chamisa plants, or keep on going. I opted for the latter, and continued at a great clip through the intersection. Fortunately, I passed unharmed, and continued along down the path, picking up speed and getting continually nervous by the second. I was losing control.
Somehow, I beat my nerves and kept going, passing through the next two intersections unharmed. These were the last two intersections before I reached the parking lot, and I was very much relieved to still be alive at that point. I continued on, doing my best to slow down, regain a bit of control, and slow the beating of my now-pounding heart.
I approached the exit to the parking lot. I had eased up enough, I thought, to judge the distance well and to safely return victorious. Once again, it proved too good to be true, and I began moving faster. I stared down at my feet, silently telling the skates to stop rolling. It didn't work.
They continued to pick up speed, and I stared to my left as my exit came into view and then quickly disappeared. I looked ahead and realized that I was running out of road. The light ahead was turning red, and I was still not stopping.
I hit the brakes again. Nothing. Dread welled up within me. At the very last second, I saw the traffic light pole, and knew that I could skate close enough to grab it, and it would stop me.
I failed to take into account one tiny detail, though, and that is that the traffic light pole was cylindrical. This fact was brought to my attention the second I latched onto the thing, and I kept right on going. Reflexes kicked in, and my other hand shot out and grabbed the pole from the other side.
My feet kept moving, until there was nowhere left to go, and suddenly they flew up into the air. I spiraled around the traffic light pole, feet above my head the entire time. Next thing I knew, I had landed right in the middle of a large Chamisa plant. I came to my senses, thrilled that I had finally managed to stop.
I climbed slowly to my feet, gained my bearings, and looked around. Cars were still stopped, and I'm certain that there were people all around the intersection, eyes upon me, brimming with tears of laughter.
I looked around, too shocked to wave or smile at my audience, and then turned and headed back to the parking lot.