ROLLER BLADING OR DEATH WISHING ???
By William Benson Huber
O’ what a flowery track lies before me henceforth! What dust clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! Toad The Wind In The Willows
‘Twas a nightmare come true. At the out-of-control speed I was traveling as I shot out of Central Park I was either going to take out a family of four, collide head-on with a carriage horse or crash through the revolving door entrance to the Park Lane Hotel. And DIE! How stupid! How utterly unfair!
I mean, if Socrates was right and an unexamined life wasn’t worth living, here was I in late middle age– actuarially speaking a Cancer survivor playing in overtime –rollerblading to meet Jesus with a grave marker in my immediate destiny reading : “A Clown Lies Here!”
It all began innocently enough on a freezing mid- February Tuesday morning at dawn on a tennis court in Central Park when my opponent and archrival who shall remain nameless – “The Mad Russian” aka “The Dentist of Harlem” aka “Pasha Niederman” —rolled into view on an electric unicycle dressed head to toe in black with a racing helmet with mirror visor and standing at least a foot taller atop the thing.
Photo (In Line)
“My Dick’s Personal Pronouns Are Peter The Great & Godzilla,” he crowed. “My Dick Has Its Own Cable Network” was my perfunctory reply. I stood gaping at the machine like an awestruck Special Needs wannabe. This was Grade A One Upmanship to the infinite power as he boasted of A) “Enormous Fun”; B) “Terrific Exercise for Balance” ; C) “More Maneuverable Than Any Bike In Manhattan Traffic” ; D) “A Great Way To Meet Women!!!” (“Note To Mrs. Niederman, Signed A. Friend.” )
Actually, I can’t recall exactly what he said. Either the vodka on his breath was laced with fentanyl or my astrological sign had wandered into the Adobe Del Loco . All I know is the more he blabbed, the more I absolutely knew I had to own one.
The good news is I didn’t immediately spend over $2500 to get one. The bad news is I decided under non-negotiable “advice” from girlfriend to attempt Rollerblading first to see if had the balance , strength and will power to master no-hands travel. But I remained focused in my argument: cost was insignificant as I’d no longer have to travel on scary Subways, endure tedious bus rides, or pay exorbitant Uber bills. It would be like owning a car without parking garage fees. I could weave and float through traffic and show the lowly skateboarders and New Jerseyites stuck in traffic how a man of high station surfed the highways and byways.
“Rent Rollerblades? –BAH! Humbug!” I heard myself say that same Tuesday at noon. I was at an uptown store which sold: mechanized scooters, electric powered bikes and rented rolling equipment of all forms and description to food /weed/crack delivery immigrants.
The salesman of Far East extraction smiled inscrutably and folded his arms across a muscle defined chest. I ignored the body language as I mentally rehearsed all the happy hours I’d spent fifty or so years ago gliding around on skates attached to the bottom of my Keds. Plus, I had once ice skated around Rockefeller Plaza Rink without mishap or embarrassment while seriously intoxicated. I was gifted with an inborn sense of balance. Obviously.
After flashing an Amex card of recent vintage, the salesman became more relaxed, even informative:
Rollerblades are known as In-Line-Skates and are built to work and feel like ski boots. They are not a new fad. In fact, they were invented more than 200 years ago in Holland and have been a staple of European recreation for generations. In the thirty or so years they’ve been available in the U.S. millions of pairs have been sold . But like everything else in our fickle society have enjoyed periods of peak popularity followed by universally taking up space in the back of closets. Then, of course , rediscovered because we never learn—do we? As proof, see how many Like New/ Worn Once pairs are available on E-bay. Plainly, this is an impulse buy.
About $400 of impulse later $386.54 including a pair of electric blue ski pants , a “Kill ‘Em All –Let God Sort ‘Em OUT” Marine Corps Sweatshirt , Day-Glo Orange Helmet , Studded Gloves and Knee Pads and the very top-of-the -line In-Line skate made by Roces of Italy. With 3 basic models to choose from: 3-wheel for maneuverability, 4 -wheel for speed, 5-wheel for racing. I chose the 3-wheel model because they came with the biggest appendage of rubber on the back which served as a brake. The fact it did not work as a brake and came from Italy (where brakes on cars are optional ) was something either the horse, the family of four or the doorman at the Park Lane –which the alert reader might recall — would learn in a fraction of a second.
By shifting my weight to my right I was able to shoot between the horse and family of four and plow a into the hotel’s revolving door and into a foursome of Upper East Side “ladies who lunch” ––i.e. nonbinary individuals dressed in furs and flammable perfume and hairspray KIDDING! What actually happened is I landed full force on my fingers on the curb. Against all laws of nature , a van of NYPD cops witnessed the whole thing and taking pity on my mangled hand drove me directly to New York Hospital under siren.
After checking for concussion, putting my fingers back in their sockets, extracting glass from my pinkie, sewing and bandaging, the 20 something ER doctor delivered his prognosis : “You’re Too F**kin’ Old For This Shit!”
Agreed! I mumbled.