For a chap with the proverbial two left feet, I have an unnatural penchant for indulging in physical activities that require the sort of dexterity that I cannot even believably dream about. What is worse is that I simply refuse to learn from experience. No sooner than I twist my ankle trying to run down a flight of stairs than I rush into the skating rink.
The skating rink at
in Rockefeller Center Manhattan had the honor of
having me try my skills at cutting those figures on the ice that you normally
see on TV. I was in Manhattan on a
training program. This Botswana
chap and that West Indies girl (of Indian origin from
eons ago) were off to the rink – the former to learn, the latter to teach - and
I accompanied them, to entertain as it turned out!
My first shock was when I strapped on those skates. I mean I have enough trouble walking without falling over when I have my entire foot on the ground and I was expected to walk to the rink on the thin edges of the blades under my feet. Teetering like the village belle walking for the first time on stiletto heels I just about managed to reach the rink and held on to the edge to avoid toppling over.
Russell – the
chap – and I started of pulling ourselves along the side of the rink getting
accustomed to the feel of the skates on the ice. After a bit of this using the
arms to ‘skate’ on ice Russ decided to give it a go without the hand-holds. He
teetered along for a bit caught his balance by holding the edge of the rink,
then took his hands off to skate on for a few more feet.
Well! He was as much a novice as I was and there he was managing a few feet at a time. Time for me to show my own skills! I took my hands off and my feet shot off from under me and I was skating on my behind for a bit. In a flash one of the kids there – probably there for the purpose of helping bumbling guys like me – came over to check up on me. Once he assured himself that the local bone-doctor was not required immediately, he vanished into the melee of expert skiers.
For the first time I realized that one foot pointing North-east and the other pointing North-west could be an impediment to some sorts of locomotion. I dragged myself along for a few feet with both feet pointed as straight as I could manage it and took my hands off. This time I did a somersault and landed on my back. Back was the helpful youth in a flash checking about which bone was broken. None, as it turned out, as I gingerly tested each limb.
Back to dragging myself along and back to falling. In that hour or so that I spent in the rink I must have rung every change on how a person could fall. The glass windows of the restaurant adjoining the rink was choc-a-bloc with faces eagerly watching to see which way I would fall the next time. I am not too sure but I thought that there was even an enterprising chap going around taking bets on how I would fall the next time. Russ, in the meantime, had graduated to doing the complete circuit of the rink, gingerly all right, but without having to hold on.
One of the most lingering sights that will stay in my mind was that of a bunch of Indians exasperatedly waving at me to get off the rink. I was embarrassing them and letting down the country with my ineptness, apparently. I really love that patriotism but I wish that they showed such embarrassment for more worthy reasons – like, say, in civic sense in
or in quality of service wherever they worked.
I left the rink with sore arms and bruises in all mentionable and unmentionable parts of my body and with a lingering grievance. After all that entertainment I provided, I thought that I should have been paid rather than having to pay for the privilege!