Roller Man

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By Sean Dietrich

Once the holidays are over a lot of people curl up on their sofas and sink into clinical depression. And I am not kidding.

I base this statement on an article sent to me by Glenn, a family therapist who notices a spike in depressed patients after the holidays. He gives examples of why this occurs:
1. Less sunshine.
2. No fun stuff to do.
3. Nobody parties in January.
4. Or travels.
5. Going back to work sucks.
6. And you’re fat.

I called a family therapist to get a few comments on the issue. But I got his secretary who said that he would charge $800 per hour for a phone consultation, so I decided to:
Go roller skating.

Again, I am serious. This seemed like a good idea because evidence shows that skating might help with post-holiday blues. Also, my cousin’s children were attending a birthday party at a roller rink.

So the next thing I knew, we were in a rundown skating rink with cars arriving in the parking lot by the dozen.

Carl, the man who runs the rink said, “Rinks like ours ain’t gettin’ much business no more.” Carl spit into a Mountain Dew bottle. “But today we got a big party, so hey, that’ll pay the light bill.”

The first order of business at any rink is to exchange your perfectly good shoes at the counter for some truly disgusting ones. Behind the counter, I met a woman who also appeared to be suffering from Seasonal Depression. I have met junkyard Rottweilers with warmer personalities.

“What size?” she said.

“Thirteen.”

“Thirteen? You joking?”

“No.”

“We don’t have thirteens.”

“How about a twelve and a half?”

She looked on a rack. “Biggest I got is an eleven.”

“That’s not gonna work.”

“Take it up with the complaint department.”

The woman slammed down a pair of skates that smelled like they hadn’t been fumigated since the beginning of the Cold War.

When we laced up, my feet were squishing in the soles from an unidentifiable sticky substance that felt like a overly ripe banana stuck in my shoe. And away we went.
This place was a throwback to childhood. A disco ball, a snack booth, the sound system was thumping. Soon, the rink filled with kids in birthday attire who were all high-level skating experts.

I was lost in a sea of tiny people who all had the ability to skate forward, backward, sideways, upside-down, and even one-legged. Meanwhile, I was holding onto my cousin Erin (10 years old) for dear life.

Eventually, the music changed from pulsating thunderstorms to a soft chorus. The Bee Gees were singing, “How Deep is Your Love.”

Erin told me, “This is when everyone couple-skates.”

“I know that.”

“You do? But you’re old.”

I informed Erin that this was not my first rodeo. I was not born during the Punic Wars. I know what couple-skating is, and I have even done it before. This impressed her.

Then she pointed out a boy from her school named Jay. She admitted that she wanted him to ask her to couple-skate, but Jay is not a fast mover. He is like most men and prefers to play it slow. In fact, in romantic terms, Jay moves about as fast as a geological period.
“He doesn’t even know I’m alive,” she said.

So I explained that this is actually a good sign when it comes to boys. A boy is a very subtle creature. If he likes you, he will indicate this by not making eye contact. If he REALLY likes you, he won’t talk to you and might even leave the country under a false name.

“Boys are weird,” said Erin.

“Yes they are.”

I went on to tell Erin that there is only one way to prompt a guy into action. It is a technique that has been working successfully since the beginning of time. I am of course talking about jealousy.

“How do I make him jealous?” Erin asked.

“By skating with the tallest, coolest guy in the whole skating rink who just crammed his fat feet into size-eleven Barbie-doll skates and also happens to be deadly handsome.”

“But there’s nobody here like that.”

So Erin settled for skating with me instead.

In fact, a lot of adults were skating with the littler kids. This is because if it were left up to these preteens to actually ask each other to couple-skate they would simply whip out their phones and start sending text messages to God knows who. Sometimes I worry about today’s youth.

I skated passed one middle-aged man holding hands with his daughter. He looked at me and said, “I had hernia surgery last week, if I go down, call nine-one-one.”

I am sad to say that our jealous-making ploy didn’t work. Because on our second lap, I saw Jay disappear into the arcade with his friends. And I felt like a heel.

When the song ended, peppy kid-music fired up again and it sounded like a nuclear war. The skaters loved it.

I sat on the sidelines with the adults and ate Skating Rink Food. The nacho cheese had the vague consistency of two-day-old phlegm. And that’s when we saw it.

Little Erin was holding hands with a young man who was red in the face, and didn’t dare look us in the eyes when they skated by.

“Look,” said my cousin. “He finally asked her.”

Erin gave me a thumbs up.

And if that doesn’t cure your post-holiday blues, nothing will.