Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, will let you know exactly how old and out of shape you are faster than a 4-year-old’s birthday party.
I was shown that quite clearly on Saturday.
My granddaughter Karis had turned 4 a couple of days prior — though, if you observe and listen to her long enough, you would swear she was somewhere around 27.
Anyway, the idea was to hold a birthday party at Mr. P’s Skateworld in Lumberton. Thankfully, Karis’ parents had reserved the entire place for a two-hour private party. I say that because … well, it’s one thing to embarrass yourself in front of friends and family, and quite another to do it in front of strangers.
When I first arrived at Mr. P’s, I saw that many of the children were either already skating or were sitting along the sidelines getting their skates put on. After a quick wave to Karis and her sister Kaylee, I made a beeline to the clump of guys over near the air hockey game.
Air hockey is something I can handle fairly easily, but nobody seemed very interested in playing. Instead, the talk focused on television shows like “Survivor” and “American Idol” and “The Walking Dead” — along with movies like “Insidious 2” and “The Son of God.” Pretty wide variety, huh?
Anyway, when I jokingly tossed out the question of whether any of them had considered the possibility of lacing up some skates and getting out on the floor, I was looked at by about five sets of eyes as if I had just gotten the word “STUPID” in big red block letters tattooed across my forehead.
I took that as a no.
“Yeah, me either,” I said.
But once the chatter began to die down in the guy group, a couple of them wandered over to the games and started trying to grasp a stuffed hamburger bun with a steel claw at 50 cents a try. That seemed about as interesting as watching paint dry — and just as silly, financially — so I went to the wall and watched the skating.
The crowd of skaters was growing, and the average age was about 7, though a few of the moms had ventured out in their street shoes to slowly guide a young’un around. Finally, my 19-year-old grandson and his 17-year-old brother slapped on some skates and hit the floor — slowly gaining speed and agility until they were gliding past everyone like Dale Jr. has been doing on the NASCAR tracks this season.
I was inspired.
Hey, I reasoned with myself, I had done quite a bit of skating — both roller and ice — in my day. And sure, it had been a few years … OK, perhaps 25. But how difficult could it be, right? There were four wheels on each foot, so at least I knew I should be able to stand level and roll a bit. Hopefully forward.
I will tell you right now that you are the easiest person in the world for yourself to convince of something. That’s because it’s so easy to embellish past accomplishments and create a false sense of “can do.” It’s a very dangerous thing, your mind talking to itself.
How dangerous? Within 10 minutes, I was asking for a pair of skates.
I should have gotten the hint when one of the laces was in a knot and the other was frayed from being broken along the way. But no. I managed to lace ‘em up and step confidently onto the slick floor.
In just 2.57 seconds, I was on my backside exactly 2 feet from where I started. And getting up was no picnic. In fact, it took me three tries and two more falls before I got to my feet well enough to move forward.
To make a long and painful story of my two loops around the rink shorter, I will tell you that I was able to determine that one of the outer wheels was tipped to the outside, thereby causing me to … well, fall. It’s true, I PROMISE YOU.
So I did what any logical person would do. I took the skates off and told the proprietor they were faulty. She laughed and gave me another set. I gave her the stink eye and walked away, ready for another shot.
This pair had really nice laces and perfect wheels. Once they were on, I spun around the rink just exactly like … well, let’s face it, I was the oldest one out there, by far, and my cruise control was set far below even some of the 5-year-olds. But I never did fall again, and even managed to look halfway cool.
About 45 minutes later, it was time for pizza, which was a good time to turn in the skates for good — and then try to walk on rubbery legs that didn’t seem to know how to navigate normally. But the real trouble came a few hours later, when getting up from the couch became a seriously slow and painful endeavor.
It was then that I realized air hockey OR chasing a stuffed hamburger bun with a steel claw at 50 cents per try may have been the smarter option.
— W. Curt Vincent is the general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.