You know that feeling you get when you lean back on two legs of a chair and you almost fall and then catch yourself at the last second as you come back down on all fours? That miniature heart attack followed by a sigh of sweet relief. The fear of the pain from falling is overshadowed by the embarrassing thought of the actual act of falling. Your arms flailing, legs kicking up, the likely look of “Oh shit!!!!!” in your wide eyes. Then feeling like a complete idiot because you have just nearly successfully accomplished a feat your mother has been warning you about your entire life. You’re okay, you didn’t fall, so you’ll walk away with only a bruised pride and hopefully, if someone was watching, a few laughs.
That is how I feel the entire time I am ice-skating.
Sure, I am already less-than-graceful on land, so putting me on a slender blade to attempt to glide across a slippery surface does not help my meager attempts to stay upright. But just give me a few minutes and I will catch the hang of it. Slowly I will be moving a little faster and with more balance. I won’t be hunched over with my arms out; I will be upright and looking slightly sure of myself. I will be doing an adequately average job of making my rounds of the rink. I am a Minnesotan, I think the ability to ice-skate, snowmobile and eat enormous amounts of tater-tot-hotdish is coded in our DNA. Mine is just down there pretty deep and takes some time to dig up.
Ice-skating is a beautiful, peaceful and fun activity, when done on a quite lake or pond with no, or at the very least, few other people present. But put me on a public rink full of other people and my stress levels skyrocket. All of the anxiety others feel in bumper-to-bumper traffic or at a demanding job I feel in the time I spend on a crowded ice rink. The health benefits from the amount of exercise I get while skating is definitely negated by the amount of stress I put my body through.
My stopping technique includes gliding into a wall or just no longer propelling myself until I slowly come to a halt, both of which I have found to be completely sufficient in non-crowded situations. But at a public rink I just spend the entire time looking out for the people in front of me, trying every so gingerly to avoid running into and over anyone. Especially those adorable, tiny kids. The ones who can barely walk, and yet here they are: ankles caved in, hands holding onto a parent’s, moving painstakingly slowly. I skate up behind them and immediately my brain plays a game called “Let’s Imagine the Worst Case Scenario!” where I not only run into and knock over one of those cuties, but my blade also slices off at least 4 of their fingers. On their dominate hand. That is a guilt I can’t fathom carrying around for the rest of my life.
So I move slowly, and pass cautiously. But there is another anxiety inducer on the rink, one that cannot be avoided. One that gives me the miniature heart attacks: teenage boys. With no regard for rules or others they zip around the rink. Half of the time they are cutting across from the center of the oval to the wall. Causing me to nearly T-bone them, missing them by mere millimeters. Or they sneak up from behind and overtake with a fearlessness only their species posses. They have nothing to lose and you can sense it as they brush past, lifting up one skate to avoid running into yours. And then they are gone, leaving a wake of rattled people. With no acknowledgement; not even an “Excuse me!” thrown back over their shoulder. Their presence not only causes me stress, but a longing to be an age where shaking my fist and mumbling, “Damn teenagers!!!!” is acceptable.