Ice ice baby
Downtown Plaza has opened its outdoor ice rink for another season, so it won’t be long until the skating parties begin. Like many Sacramentans, my friends rejoice at the miracle of a frozen pond in the middle of the city, and several organize annual excursions to celebrate it. For years, they could count on me to show up with a grin and a thick pair of gloves, but not anymore! I’m through pretending.
I hate ice skating. There. I said it.
I can’t stand being cold. Sliding around on a giant ice cube is my personal version of hell. Fearing a two-hour session at frigid temperatures or, worse, that I might fall and become wet, I always end up wearing too many layers and sweating like a Bikram yoga student.
Then there’s the fact that I suck at it. I’m completely at ease on roller skates, but swap four sturdy wheels for a cruel metal blade and cover the floor with unforgiving ice, and I lose all coordination. My ankles twist, my arms wave spastically and my mind conjures visions of horrific falls. As I stumble and skid around the rink, my ego makes excuses for my lack of skill: My rental skates don’t fit correctly, there are little kids in my way, the artificially created ice is melting and it’s been too long since it’s seen a Zamboni.
“It’s not that I’m completely inept,” I reassure myself as I struggle to stay upright. “No one could skate under these conditions.” Right about then, some Michelle Kwan devotee will glide past me and execute an Olympic-quality leap.
Two hours on the ice yields two days of aching leg muscles, and every painful throb reinforces my conviction that I have set blade to ice for the last time. Then fall arrives, the rink opens, and I find myself at yet another skating party, praying I don’t fall and crack my head open while trying to smile so my host thinks I’m having fun.
This year, I decided to stop this painful cycle before it started. I would give ice skating one more try, alone, so I wouldn’t feel pressured to do well. If I couldn’t get the hang of it, I would abandon the pursuit forever.
I arrived on the third day of the rink’s operation hoping for relatively fresh ice. Disco music filled the air and teenage girls lounged rinkside in tank tops, basking in the mild 70-degree weather. A dozen skaters turned jerky circles in the shady half of the rink while an attendant scraped the sunny side with a large squeegee. Waves of melted rink rolled before him as he walked to the beat of the Trammps’ “Disco Inferno.” So much for pristine conditions.
I paid my $8, squeezed into brown leather rental skates and stepped onto the ice as wobbly as a newborn colt. My right ankle folded inward almost immediately, sending a sharp ache up my leg. I clicked haltingly around the perimeter, as an athletic blonde woman gracefully spun and leapt in the center. I tried not to despise her, but it was a challenge.
I picked up speed, hoping to take the weight off my ankles. It didn’t work, but the increased likelihood of falling distracted me from the pain. After just 30 minutes, my shins hurt so badly I had to sit down. I told myself I’d get back on the ice, but as the songs kept playing, I kept sitting.
I spent the next hour alternately nursing my sore ankles and my bruised ego before finally accepting that I was not meant to ice skate. I would never know the joy of skimming across a frozen pond or gliding under the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and I would R.S.V.P. a “no” to all of this season’s skating parties. Defeated, I returned my skates and limped, like Nancy Kerrigan, toward home.