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The Sidelong Glances Of a Septuagenarian Roller Blader

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. As I shot out of Central Park out of control and at breakneck speed, I would either 1) take out a family of four, 2) collide head-on with a carriage horse, or 3)crash through the revolving door entrance to the Park Lane Hotel. And 5) DIE!  How stupid!  How utterly unfair!

       I mean, if Socrates was right and an unexamined life wasn’t worth living, here I was, in late middle age—make that … feckin’…ancient –and a Cancer survivor playing in overtime, rollerblading to meet Jesus and a pile of dirt marked “A Clown  Lies Here!” 

        It all began innocently enough on a freezing late March 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, wearing a racing helmet with a mirror visor and standing at least a foot taller atop the thing.

Pasha Niederman 

      “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 Maneuverability 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 my girlfriend to attempt Rollerblading first to see if I had the balance, stamina, and willpower to master no-hands travel. But I remained focused and impervious to logic. The cost of equipment  was insignificant as I’d no longer have to travel on scary Subways, endure tedious bus rides, or shell out for 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? –Nonsense ! BAH! Humbug!” I heard myself say to a salesman of Far East extraction, who 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, they 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  Studded Gloves and Knee  Pads, and the top-of-the-line In-Line skate made by Roces of Italy.  There are 3 basic models to choose from: 3-wheel for maneuverability, 4 -4-wheel for speed, and 5-wheel for racing. I chose the 3-wheel model because they came with the biggest rubber appendage 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 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 into the hotel’s revolving door and into a foursome of Upper East Side “ladies who lunch” dressed in furs, flammable perfume and hairspray and the hotel lobby disappeared below a mushroom cloud of nuclear proportion. Ok, 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 a 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.    

William Benson Huber

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