February 23, 2000

Not ready for Roller Derby

___On this the year of her 40th birthday, my wife, Carol, announced she wanted "in-line skates" for Christmas--obviously part of a mid-life crisis. We are all proud of her for not going gently into her fifth decade, but it might have been easier if she had bought a sports car. When she decided that our sons, Graham and Caleb, also wanted the same kind of skates, it was a surprise to all of us. Then she amazingly, stunningly, incomprehensibly decided that I wanted them too.
___In-line skates were invented by a cruel person troubled by the way roller skates allow people to navigate more than 10 feet without stopping to apply bandages. The thought is that if two rows of two wheels allow you to stay upright, then four wheels in a line will remove any sense of balance the victim might have.
___ Because I am a loving, obedient, clueless husband, on the afternoon of Christmas Day, we went to the park to play on our new in-line skates. We strapped on our 58-pound California Advanced Sports ST-3000s with polyurethane wheels, cam-lever buckles and form-fit liners. Graham and Caleb have kneepads, elbow pads, helmets and gloves that make them look like Robocop or James Caan in "Rollerball." This is not a gentle sport. The safety tips include: "In-line skates go faster than traditional skates, so skating on inclines of more than two degrees usually leads to death" and "Heavy traffic is dangerous."
___ My first lap took awhile. Forward motion isn't straightforward. Your legs need to move at precisely a 10-degree angle while your arms flail--as though falling down stairs and grabbing for the railing. Stopping is not simple either. According to the instructions, you use your heel brake by bending your left knee and rocking back on the right skate. In other words, it can't be done. The only way to stop is to fall or run into something.
___ After five minutes, my hips began to concretize. (This whole experience was made no easier by Carol skating like Peggy Fleming.) By the end of the first lap, I felt good enough to run into and then fall onto a park bench.
___ While sitting there coagulating, I noticed the interesting crowd at the park on Christmas. Two preschoolers had a new motorized toy motorcycle. Their parents spent big bucks so they could have big fun. The big fun lasted 30 seconds. Evel Knievel, the older one, threw his brother to the ground and sped off standing on the handlebars. The younger one started bawling. The mother was torn as to whether to comfort or chase.
___ A father had given his 10-year-old daughter a golf club for Christmas. He hoped it would become a lifelong bond. She didn't last as long as the smaller motorcyclist. She played on the swings while her crestfallen father practiced his putting.
___ There was a jogger who had given up on Christmas and gone back to what looked like a twice-a-day routine. She was tall and weighed less than 80 pounds. I refrained from shouting, "Drink a milk shake!"
___ On the second lap, my ankles began to break, so I went faster. I was feeling the wind in my face, beginning to enjoy rolling around in circles, when I hit an invisible, imaginary crack that sent my face hurtling ahead of the rest of me. I landed in the grass and decided not to get up.
___ Lying on the ground, watching the birds fly overhead, I reflected on what I had learned. If God wanted me to have wheels on my feet, I would be a shopping cart. I am glad life is a journey that is not traveled on a single row of wheels.
___ When I turn 40, I will ask for books.

___ Brett Younger, pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, reportedly preaches better than he skates.

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