I’m either crazy or brave, people say. I skate in New York City traffic. Street skating here’s an adrenaline rush requiring split-second timing, razor-sharp reflexes, and mind-reading skills. Obstacles abound: cars, pedestrians, sewer grates, cyclists, Pedi-cabs, oil slicks, traffic lights, rough surfaces, and on and on. You’ve gotta be aware at every moment–or else.
In a city packed with people, skating gives me a sense of autonomy. You can get to your destination, save money, and do your part for the environment. Not to mention it’s great for your butt. ; )
But here’s the thing about street skating: Something always happens! Like that standoff I had with a city bus. (He won.) Or the guy that was honking at me cuz I had on my short shorts that day. This is serious business, people! I can’t be waving and smiling at ya, I gotta keep focused!
Which reminds me. The things people yell at me, sometimes they crack me up. But the best thing anyone ever said to me, I was bombing down Central Park South, weaving a bit because there wasn’t much action behind me, when a man shook his head and said, “Don’t die too young!” Put a big smile on my face.
And I gotta say, the hotter or colder it gets, the better. I love to skate in next to nothing, sweat pouring down my face when I stop. I love the sting of bitter cold air in my nostrils, the slight ache of it in my lungs. I love it when coworkers ask, incredulously: “You’re not skating in this heat (cold) are you?!” “Umm, yeah…” (I call it rekindling my warrior spirit. But I don’t tell them that. I don’t want them to feel bad about their pedestrian lives.)
What else? Well, there’s skitching. I’m not gonna lie. Grabbing a free ride on a truck handle is almost irresistible at times. Except that once they sped up so much I had to let go, and found myself zipping along in lanes of fast-moving traffic on 8th Avenue! And one time I grabbed hold of an idling taxi’s wheel well and it took off fast, its rough metal ripping skin along the inside knuckles of four fingers. Ewwww…
And then there’s road rash. Oh, the ignominy of falling in the street! Oh, the kindness of strangers! Oh, the weeks that bleed into months of bandages and Neosporin and itchiness! But a little road rash now and then is the price you pay for the thrill. Just hope the payment ends there, cuz some serious shit can happen. Like dooring. Once I came up alongside a cop car that was, I learned later, responding to an emergency. The officer didn’t look before opening his door really really fast and BAM! that door whacked me on the thigh so hard–I got “the bruise that ate New York” as the ER doc put it. And it was summer! I remember going to the pool in the park and getting stares, I mean–it looked like someone had whaled on me with a baseball bat!
And, of course, you can break bones. But I had to do a road race in rural Georgia for that! Some lady late for church ran into my speedskating ass and I popped up into the air like a cartoon character! Landed in a grassy ditch with a fractured tibia and fibula at the ankle bone. Learning anatomy the hard way. I don’t recommend it.
But back to New York. Please. Now we have a super-terrific bike path that goes for miles and miles. OK, I admit, I’ve been enjoying the relative safety of the path, bopping along to some tunes, checking out the river and laughing at the bumper-to-bumper action on the West Side Highway. The adrenaline junkie of my youth wonders if I’m going soft. Yeah, maybe a little. But at least I’ll live to tell the tale.