The Inner Wayne-Gretsky

Imagine you are one of the first people to take a walk over a frozen lake. You tentatively put one foot forward. You tentatively shift your wait. You tentatively put your other foot forward. You tentatively slip, fall, and break half the bones on your left side. Your first thought, naturally, is "Hmm... I wonder how I could I have made that exponentially more dangerous and painful?" "Oh yes," you realize, "by strapping knives to my feet!"

That was how ice-skating came into being.

I mention this because recently I had the pleasure of rediscovering my talent for the sport. (I use "rediscover" in the same sense that you might use it to describe finding a long lost housepet from several years ago as the principal cause of your backed up plumbing.)

Anyway, after carefully counting all my fingers (an act to be repeated in the case of any wipeouts) I stepped onto the ice.

The great thing about ice skates is that they etch their own guide into the ice as you move. This virtually guarantees that you will not fall over until you gain enough speed to mortally wound yourself, something which usually takes at least three seconds. In the meantime, you can take advantage of your sturdily planted feet to do a lot of wobbling and flailing. In fact, it was my excited discovery to learn that when you take a goofy looking guy in ice skates moving at extreme speed and add 360 degrees of wobbly-flailing, you can generate a nice Moses and the Red Sea effect, only with frightened screaming adolescents instead of salt water.

My Herculean dedication to the cause of Staying-Upright-and-Retaining-Periphereal-Digits was soon thwarted, however, once I undertook to learn how to skate backwards. Skating on one foot was easy (so easy, in fact, that several concerned persons asked if I was alright or if I was doing it on purpose) but skating backwards was quite contrary to my previously developed skating technique, which consisted of perpetually falling forward and trying to catch myself. The problem with doing that in reverse is that it is very difficult psychologically to get your body to fall backward.

The first attempt to do so resulted in a brief altercation between my arm and my arm socket during which precipitated in their separation, followed by a much welcomed but painful reunion.

I never quite mastered the technique, despite the pity of an elderly gentlemen with a few insights into the matter, though I myself would attribute my unsuccess in the end to having too much fatigue in the relevant muscles. I also never became proficient in (intentional) stops. On that note, one of my first suggestions to the others of my coterie upon noticing a group of students from a rival high school was that we should check them, a suggestion which to my dismay no one else was willing to offer their approval for. My suggestion, of course, was not borne of rivalry so much as a very practical recognition that that would have been an altogether more comfortable method of depriving my mass of velocity.

What was most vexing about the whole experience was that the ice rink employed several mutant four-year-olds to do all sorts of spins and ballet moves in order to put things in perspective for the rest of us. Most embarrassing, really.

I take great comfort in the fact that I probably could have at least bested them in a fist fight.