By Sean Pearson
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure the Big Guy was looking out for me when He blessed me with the coordination and balance of a three-legged hedgehog.
After countless encounters between my passive patella and the unyielding concrete of our driveway, I decided to take up skateboarding instead of roller skating. Perhaps we should back up a little before we even go there.
Roller skates are not roller blades.
The first pair of skates I ever owned were made completely out of metal, and came with a key to adjust them to fit over my shoes. (I would entertain you with an awesomely cool 1972 song by Melanie about those roller skates — and the key — but I really think I’m embarrassing myself quite nicely enough already, don’t you?)
When I first tried wearing those special skates with the built-in boots at the roller rink, I have to admit I was a little freaked. Not only was I trying to stand up in shoes with wheels, these wheels seemed to be spinning a whole lot faster and smoother than the old metal ones.
And while all that stuff was kinda hard to get used to, quite probably my biggest issue was sticking my feet into skates that had already been filled with who knows how many pairs of sweaty feet.
It’s just wrong.
It’s the same kind of idea as re-using those cheesy bowling shoes. Sure, they sprayed a millisecond of deodorizing/anti-fungal/anthrax-blocking junk in each shoe from time to time. But is there really anything strong enough out there to combat the heinous plague of “child socks?”
(Any parent who has had to forge his or her way through one of those tunnel contraptions at McDonald’s Playland to fetch a screaming toddler knows exactly what I’m talking about.)
There’s nothing quite like the pungence of thousands of both old — and fresh — sticky, sweaty. smelly socks. The smell is enough to choke a small horse. (I haven’t had a chance to actually test that theory out yet on a small horse, but I stand by my predictions.)
Needless to say, I switched to skateboards in an effort to keep my socks clean. (There may have been a few other reasons besides just that, but I’d have to call that my main motivation.)
I was a skater when skateboarding wasn’t cool.
And while I’m not quite old enough to remember those days of transitioning the wooden boards and metal skate wheels of a makeshift scooter into a rolling crate of death, I was around when boards were made of hard plastic — and so were the wheels.
I used to tempt fate — and gravity — often in the hills of west Texas. (Yes, there are actually a couple of hill out there.)
These were not the shock-absorbent, urethane, cadillac-style wheels of today. Today’s wheel manufacturers obviously combine some kind of high-tech chemistry and old-world magic to create wheels that can literally roll over a puppy without so much as a bump.
That’s not how it used to be. Back then, all it took was one tiny rock to send you flying face-first into asphalt hell.
While we’re reminiscing here, need I remind you that no one ever even thought about whether safety equipment was necessary? No one wore kneepads, or elbow pads, or even a helmet. For cryin’ out loud, I rode my bike through the snake-infested coolies of Louisiana to the scorpion-crawling deserts of West Texas … and I never wore a helmet.
And as much as I wish I could cop to being something of a rebel who thumbed his nose at society’s attempt to control him by forcing him to wear safety equipment, it really was nothing more than just ignorance back then.
Unfortunately, I now have nothing to blame my brain-damaged ideas and fledgling decision-making skills on anymore. I wear my seatbelt. I drive relatively safely. And I don’t even try to stand up on a skateboard any more.
I’m thinking maybe I should still wear the helmet anyway, though. It’s a good look for me, right?
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