Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Roller Queen, That's Me!

I grew up in a small town (at least by Southern California standards).  When I was growing up, there wasn't a whole lot to do.  We had two movie theaters - a "walk-in" with two screens and a "drive-in" with one screen.  Back then they didn't have indoor play structures, or warehouses full of bouncehouses ... we just made do with good old-fashioned imagination.  We had a single bowling alley that was always occupied with league play.  The nearest mall was 30 minutes away "over the hill" or "in the valley."  We did, however, have a skating rink.  From about seventh through tenth grade - until friends started driving and dating - we young teenagers spent just about every Friday night and Saturday night at the "roller rink."  Either my mom or the mom of a friend would drop us off at the rink, we'd pay our couple of dollars to get in, and a parent would return for us in a couple of hours.

Talking about a roller rink elicits certain memories for me.  Why was the carpet always so ugly?  And really, how many rows of lockers do you need for a couple of hours of skating.  All the cool kids had their own skates, and the not-cool kids had to rent those babypoop brown skates.  I remember BEGGING for my own skates and finally getting some beautiful pristine white "girls" skates for Christmas one year.  (And then, of course, I had to beg for the accessories - the colored laces, the pom poms, the neon wheels, etc.)  The snack bar had delicious junk food - or so I heard - but I never had any money to buy any.  If you ever spent any time in a skating rink as a kid, you'll remember this: standing along the barrier wall, near the entrance to the rink, waiting and wishing and hoping that cool cute guy would ask you to skate during the "couples" skate.  It seemed like every roller rink, no matter where it was, had the same "theme" skates - all boys fast skate, all girls fast skate, hokey pokey, couples, reverse direction, etc.  They all had disco balls in the center, and a DJ who shouted into the microphone so loud and fast that you couldn't even understand him.  I was a decent roller skater, though certainly not one of the cool kids.  I could skate backwards, though I never really mastered it.  I could do spins and a few ice-skating-type tricks.  And I could skate FAST.  It was so much fun.

When I was in college and after, the rollerblade craze started.  I jumped on that band wagon, hung up my roller skates, and bought a sleek pair of inline skates.  I bought wrist guards and knee pads, but I would not be caught DEAD with a helmet on.  And, looking back, I wonder why no one ever espoused about the benefits of padded pants, maybe like the ones bikers wear.  At any rate, my enamor with rollerblades was over really quickly.  It was really hard.  And I kept falling.  Hard.  I put them away for a couple of years, and then tried them again when I was 30.  While blading with a friend (who was much better than me), I fell so hard that I thought for sure I broke my coccyx.  That was the end of all form of skating for me.
So guess what I did a couple of days ago?  I went roller skating!!  And let me tell you, not much has changed.  The carpet is still ugly.  The wall still has rows and rows of lockers.  The snack bar sold junk.  The kid behind the rental counter was on skates, moving around smoothly and confidently, and doubled as the DJ.  They did an all boys fast skate, an all girls fast skate, and the hokey pokey.  We couldn't understand a word the kid said over the intercom.  There was a disco ball above the floor (or a disco-ball effect somewhere else in the rink).  "Old school" was in the house:  the kid with the rubber legs, gliding quietly across the floor, passing everyone; the boys who raced each other - even though racing is not allowed - weaving in and out of the slower, less skilled skaters; the girls who don't know how to skate, holding on to each other as they scoot in the inner circle of the floor, practically falling and laughing hysterically; the 14-year-olds holding hands as they skate around and around; the boy skating backwards with his hands on the hips of his girlfriend.  I was flooded with deja vu!

There was one significant difference.  Roller derby girls.  There were several of them.  You can't miss them, what with the 70s style shorts over leggings, all of the padding, the specific-purpose skates.  One had what I suspect is her derby name written across her backside.  Another was teaching her young daughter a fast start.  These women seemed fairly unskilled compared to the derby girls I've seen during derby exhibitions ... until it was time for the fast skate.  Those women got out there and hauled A--.  And I think one woman was a derby ref (or is it an ump?) because she was skating faster backwards than everyone else was skating forward.  And then it dawned on me that those markings on the floor were probably roller derby markings.  It turns out, my area has at least three roller derby teams.  That's something I must explore (and blog about later).
I had some revelations:  Skating is good exercise!  My legs were tired, I know I worked my back muscles and I was sweating.  It turns out I'm still a pretty good skater ... for a middle-aged overweight woman who hasn't been on skates in 30 years.  I only fell once - and I was SPINNING when I did it.  So there.

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