Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Danger: Inner Child

From my personal experience dictionary

In an article geared for middle-aged folks (a euphemism for those who have lost their “youthful vigor,” but not quite achieved wisdom), I came across the term, “getting in touch with your inner child.”


What I gathered, or misinterpreted, from the article is that if the inner child seeks a playful adventure, the old body encasing it should be willing to try. If one ignores reality, this makes a great deal of sense. Bolstered by the inner child concept, I decided to seek a new and exciting life by giving in-line skating a shot. 

Gasps of, “You’ll kill yourself!” erupted from my spouse, but my inner child kept giggling encouragement. Only after an increase in my life insurance policy (with a double indemnity clause for accidental death resulting from not acting my age), was there even a slight hint of enthusiasm from anyone but the inner child. Soon enough I was at the store perusing the aisle labeled “In-line Skates and Other Life-threatening Goods.” It was there that I picked out a gleaming pair of Dr. Kervorkian Brand, “Geriatric Go-getter” in-line skates.


The inner child was ecstatic. 

The skates came with a complete thirty-page instruction booklet, the first twenty-five of which were disclaimers of various sorts. The inner child insisted we skip all the gory descriptions of torn ligaments, mangled appendages, and internal bleeding, and jump right into the five pages of how-to. The instructions were written in three different languages and contained many pictures of happy skaters so it didn’t take long to breeze through the half page of English text.

Geriatric Go-getters, photo by Videojug

During the period of time leading up to the decision to follow my inner child, I had spoken with a couple of visiting in-line skaters from California. They assured me the activity was “just like” ice skating.


“Well, there you go,” the inner child had whispered (although at the time I was under the mistaken impression it was a rational thought of my own), “just a few years ago you could ice skate like the wind.” 

My mind’s eye could see a slim figure speeding across frozen expanses, cutting graceful arcs and shaving mounds of ice in breathtaking stops. In reality, I probably resembled the Michelin Man on a greasy kitchen floor since a mind’s eye is often very myopic.


The instructions changed “just like” ice skating to “very similar to” ice skating. After trying to follow them, “very similar to” ice skating became “not a damn thing like” ice skating. 

In-line and ice skating differ in several aspects. Turning is one of them. It is possible to turn when ice skating.


The instructions indicated that the skater was to bend slightly at the knees and waist, bring the knees together, and lean in the direction of turn. Bending was a good idea, as it lessened the distance between the earth and my body. The leaning part was bad advice. 

Photo by Skatescool.com

Several attempts to turn by crossing over, as is done on ice, resulted in somewhat improved performance. However, the tightest radius I could achieve was still greater than that required by a semi-tractor pulling forty-foot tandems. I finally decided it would be best to just skate in a straight line, stop, turn around in place, and skate back.


Stopping, without the aid of friction between earth and body, was apparently an afterthought during the development of in-line skates. It seems to have been given only half-hearted consideration, as each pair comes with only one skate bearing a brake. On my skates the brake is mounted on an extension off the back of the right skate. The instructions stated that one need only bend the left knee, lean forward, and extend the right heel.


Researchers at the MIT school of physics are studying the result of following those instructions, and refer to it as the “tangential running dog-on-a-chain” effect. The principle behind the phenomenon is best described as what happens when a chained dog runs full tilt, hell-bent for leather, at an oblique angle to the end of its chain.  


After following the instructions, I found it to be much more efficient, and ultimately less damaging, to simply throw myself prostrate. That way, I took the guesswork out of my position at impact. 



I don’t know about the inner child, but the outer old man has found his limits. If that little booger so much as whispers anything other than, “Pass the prune juice,” I’m gonna choke it. On the other hand... doesn’t snowboarding look like a real hoot? 

Shameless plug: Thanks for reading the blog. If you enjoyed this piece, you would undoubtedly enjoy an entire book of similar misadventures. You can check out my books on Amazon by visiting my link right here.

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