When I was in college, I had some (former) friends talk me into going ice skating. “It’ll be fun,” they said. “It’s even easier than roller skating,” they said. “You won’t embarrass yourself in front of a few hundred complete strangers,” they said. Liars. All of them.
I have a scar on my chin that I earned when I was roller skating as a child (one of my five emergency room visits in the span of 3 years), so since then I’ve had a healthy fear of foot-related modes of transportation. I’m terrified of items such as roller skates, ice skates, skateboards, and those Acme rocket powered skates Wile E. Coyote wore, so I’ve avoided them like a person avoids those people they don’t want to talk to in the grocery store (I often wonder how often people avoid me in the grocery store). However, this one night I gave in to the peer pressure.
I should have known I was in for trouble when I couldn’t find a pair of skates my size. One pair left my toes curled up like overcooked bacon, and another pair was so big I could have stapled Vienna sausages to the ends of my toes and still had room. I decided to go with the size 18’s because I hate when my toes get cramped up. I also hate it when my socks get stuck between my toes, but that’s a story for another time.
I laced them up and tried to walk around a bit. If you’ve never worn ice skates, picture yourself trying to balance your entire body on something the width of a piece of paper. Not the width as you lay the paper flat, but the width if you held it on edge. I’m surprised I didn’t break my ankles as I tried to keep my feet from collapsing inward or outward. Little did I know, this would prove to be the only victory of the evening.
I made it to the ice and began to make my first lap around the rink, clutching the rail along the wall, and inching my way around like a sloth covered in maple syrup (Or honey, if you prefer). I think it took somewhere between 3 and 300 minutes to complete my first lap, but I did it without falling. I felt confident enough to work my way out from the safety of the wall and into the flow of traffic.
Picture someone shuffling their feet down the Autobahn, one inch at a time, while other cars zoom past at 100 mph. Well, that’s about 10 times faster than I was actually moving, but at least I had liberated myself from the hand rail. I was on my own. I was free. I had graduated from sloth speed to “slug speed”, and felt my confidence growing with each passing millimeter. I was getting the hang of it, but it wasn’t long before my feet slipped out from under me and I collapsed onto the ice like a bag of wet cement. I don’t know how or why I fell, but I soon learned something about ice skating. When you fall, you get wet. Ugh.
I managed to hoist myself off the ice with all the grace of a newborn giraffe on ice skates, and began to move forward again. It wasn’t long before I repeated the process. Fall down, get wet, baby giraffe, fall down, get wetter, baby giraffe, etc.
If there’s one thing everybody knows about me (besides my affinities for Spam and “Weird Al” Yankovic) it’s that I’m stubborn. I determined that I was not going to let this stupid activity get the better of me, so even after I fell for the umpteenth time, I never thought about quitting. I never entertained the idea of turning back even though I was only 20 feet or so from where I started. This baby giraffe was going to make it around the rink…not once, but maybe even two or three times!
By this time my bruises had bruises, my pants looked like I had been swimming, and I had embarrassed myself countless times. But I didn’t care. I got back to my feet and started skating again. But something was different this time. I didn’t fall. I didn’t even wobble. I was as steady as the fabled tortoise (What’s with all the animal analogies?) and nearly as fast. Before I knew it, one lap became two. And two laps became three. And three laps…ouch, fell again. Three laps became four, and I began to move quickly enough I could finally feel the wind against my face and wet clothes.
I don’t know how many more laps I did, but eventually they made the announcement that the rink was closing. It was a shame, because I had never felt more alive. I was one with the ice (probably because I had so much of it on me), and I didn’t want the fun to end. I decided to go out with a bang, so I picked up speed and headed around the back stretch of the rink like Eric Heiden (I didn’t have to Google that because I did a book report on him in 4th grade). If you’ve seen the scene in Christmas Vacation in which Clark goes down the hill on his saucer sled, that’s how fast I was now traveling.
Only one problem. Nobody ever told me how to stop. I had spent the entire evening trying to go, so it never dawned on me that I would have to eventually stop. And to make matters worse, everybody was leaving the rink, so as I approached the seating area at warp speed I was heading straight toward a mass of humanity the size of a herd of wildebeest (What’s gnu with you?) (Stop with the animal analogies!). I had but two options…plow into the mass, or steer myself into the wall and crash into it as gracefully as I could. I decided to aim for the wall, but then a third option presented itself: crash into the poor, innocent woman who had unknowingly crossed into my path.
I decided my only hope to avoid obliterating this poor soul was to hit the deck and hope I could create enough friction to stop me. I crashed down on the ice with all the grace of a baby giraffe on ice skates (😡) and dug myself into the ground as hard as I could. I yelled in an effort to warn her, but she didn’t hear me. All the bystanders heard me though, so they turned around in unison just in time to see what transpired next.
I was able to slow myself from warp speed to cheetah speed, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a collision. I slid into the backs of her legs like a bowling ball from the arm of Pete Weber (I Googled “best bowler of all time” because I never did a book report on Pete) and watched as she fell down on me, squishing me between her posterior and the ice, and knocking the wind out of me in the process. I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I’ve never read any books on etiquette, but I’m pretty sure they don’t address this specific situation. I figured the polite thing to do was to wait for her to climb off of me, then stand to my feet, and help her stand to her feet. It was a nice thought, but it was not destined to play out that way.
I managed to get to my feet, apologizing profusely along the way, and asked her if she was ok. Fortunately I provided enough cushion so as to protect her from the unforgiving ice, and she had escaped without injury. I held my hand out as a gesture of good will, and she took it as a gesture of misplaced faith. I pulled as she tried to stand, but as she got nearly vertical, I lost my balance and fell, bringing her down with me. I tried a couple more times, but had similar results each time. Everybody continued to watch as I tried unsuccessfully to help her up. I’m just glad this was before cell phone cameras (and cell phones themselves) were popular or I would have definitely gone viral.
I finally realized we weren’t getting anywhere, so I did the only thing a true gentleman would do in this situation. I took my new friend by the hand, and dragged her across the ice to the seating area so she could crawl over to a bench, and pick herself up with whatever dignity she had left. I don’t remember anybody saying anything to me, but I’m sure I know what they were thinking.
I emerged from this traumatic experience with my body and ego bruised, but I learned something about myself that day. There are times in life when you’re going to fall down, but you have to pick yourself up and keep pressing on until you fall again. And again. And you may as well laugh at yourself, because everybody else is laughing at you.
Do you have any embarrassing experiences you would like to share with the world? Drop me a comment if you’re brave enough. And be sure to subscribe to my blog so you’ll be notified when I post my next embarrassing story.