Back in January, I outlined (okay, whined about) the fact that coaching skating is “one of the coldest jobs in the universe.” Well, I’m happy to report that now it’s time to gloat.
For example, during a recent heat wave here in New York City, I found myself dialing up my non-skating friends to brag.
“Guess where I’m headed,” I said in the snotty tone of an eight year old who just got a new bike. I could envision my friend on the other end, slow-roasting in her apartment.
“Where?” she asked without interest, too hot and lethargic to actually play my little guessing game.
“Oh, just the ice rink. Yep,” I continued, “just taking my scarf and mittens over to that freezing workplace of mine.”
“Lucky,” she acknowledged, again without much enthusiasm and too overheated (or polite) to point out that I’d called to whimper about this same destination only six short months ago. After an awkward silence, she slowly said, “Look, I gotta go, I think my elbow just burst into flames.”
After we hung up, I dialed another friend to boast some more. I had a lot of time to fill since I was heading into work about four hours early.
Despite a well-meaning yet ineffectual air conditioner balanced precariously in my window, my apartment had become as hot as a sauna. As the temperature increased outside and the hot air easily climbed the five flights of stairs to my apartment, it started to seem more like an oven. When the sun rose, my “cozy” little nook started to resemble a broiler. The disturbing sizzling sound turned out to be emanating from my very own flesh.
Everything around me had looked as if it was starting to melt, kind of like the clock in that Salvador Dali painting. I was clearly becoming delirious. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move. The fact that I didn’t even want to eat was probably the most alarming aspect of my condition. I’d basically lost the will to do anything other than stare at my ceiling.
Suddenly, I remembered that it was Monday and this meant it was time to go back to work! Though the rink is 30 miles away from where I live, I could see it with complete clarity right before my eyes, glowing like a frosty, blue oasis with angels singing in the rafters. Nirvana. I imagined staggering into the arena, aiming directly toward the ice surface then lying face-down, gradually returning to my former self.
I know that the sport of skating has been good for me in many ways but never before has it so obviously ensured my survival. Likewise, I enjoy my job, but I’d never headed toward it with quite this much enthusiasm. Granted, getting ready was no easy feat, since my fingers had swollen to the size of sausages and I had trouble fitting my hands through my shirtsleeves. Speaking of feet, I knew there was no chance mine were going to squeeze into my skates. No matter, I had every intention of going out onto the ice barefoot, anyway.
Once in the car, with the vents blowing AC on my face, I started to revive a bit. This is when I launched into that series of braggy phone calls. Afterwards, I felt somewhat guilty about flaunting my enviable work situation and I wondered, momentarily, if I really deserved such luxury. Of course I deserve this, I quickly decided. This is exactly what I earned when I contracted frostbite, hypothermia and shattered teeth (from chattering) during those long winter months.
Still, it didn’t really seem fair that I got to seek sanctuary while others suffered. On the street, people wiped their brows in misery. Other rink-less souls tried to take cover from the sun under awnings while their dogs panted and tried to fan themselves with their own ears.
What if? I thought. What if I rounded everyone up and took them to the rink? Sure, I’d like to buy the world a Coke, but I’d prefer to take them ice skating. By the busload. “Hop in!” I’d beckon from the driver’s seat. “Real refreshment awaits!” Then I’d deliver them to the hot-day version of heaven on earth. And for them, if only for a few hours, everything would be okay. Well, better than okay: Cool.
All right, I don’t own a bus and I don’t have a license to operate large vehicles. And I can’t fit more than 3.5 people in my car. Though I do have a brain, albeit modestly-sized, and I really attempted to use it the next 30 or so minutes.
What if? I continued my earlier theme. What if everyone in the universe turned off their lights and air conditioners for one day then strutted on over to their local ice rinks to beat the heat? How much energy could be conserved in this manner? It would be kind of like the cold version of carpooling. We could call it “coldpooling.” I’m surprised Al Gore failed to mention this concept in his otherwise brilliant documentary about the sorry state of our planet called, “An Inconvenient Truth.” I’ll have to discuss this with him next time I see him.
I’d like to point out that the general public is wrong to only associate skating with winter. In fact, it should be the exact opposite. People should be waiting in lines at ice rinks instead of smoldering away on the hot tar of amusement parks. And swimming pools? Last I checked outdoor pools adapt to the air around them rather than the reverse. Don’t even get me started on how beaches are hotplates and how lounging on them is basically grilling yourself like a piece of meat. Sunscreen works to a degree, but mix it with ocean water and what you have a salty marinade. All you can do is be sure to cook both sides evenly – I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
I don’t want to sound like some kind of Summer Scrooge. I just want to be part of the solution. And I know first hand how uncomfortable it is to sweat: it’s an embarrassing and rather annoying part of being human and it tends to make people irritable. Why do you think crime rates soar in the summer? As temperatures rise, tempers flare, but can’t we all just get along? Can’t we all just lace up, lock hands, and skate a few laps together?
What could diffuse gang tension better than a skating party? Or: Mad at your neighbor? Miffed at your best friend for dating your ex? Upset that your partner embezzled those funds? Instead of saying, “I’ll see you in court,” why don’t you all just come on down to the rink? Let’s just cool down, literally and figuratively.
I really like that character on the TV show, Entourage, named Ari Gold. He is an angry entertainment agent who often loses his temper. After he unleashes his vitriol, he will often embrace his victim, saying, “Let’s hug it out.” You know what I say instead? “Let’s skate it out.”
As I drove toward work, I started to fantasize about becoming some kind of grand-scale mediator, or a skating missionary, determined to bring our nation and the people of all nations together through the Gospel of Rinks. It became gradually clear to me that many of the world’s most bitter conflicts are currently taking place in hot climates. What if, I thought, What if?
Michelle Kwan, our Ambassador, tell them, tell them all that the blade is mightier than the sword! Okay, scratch that. The blade is kind of like a sword and could be used in a similar fashion so…maybe skates themselves should be taken out of this particular mission. Maybe all these sweaty, warring factions should just come to the rink and slide around in their shoes. Perhaps we could organize a big, civilized game of…curling?
I pulled into my parking space at the rink quite pleased with all the excellent brainstorming I’d accomplished in the name of World Peace. I was really proud of how I’d turned all that gloating into something beautiful, something larger than me, something to be shared. I vowed to hammer out the specifics of my master plan, and pass it on to others…perhaps through the written word… perhaps delivered on the wings of a flourishing little bird they call the internet.
Fortunately, in my walk across the steamy parking lot, I temporarily came to my senses. When I opened the front door to the rink, I did not fall to my knees and cry out, “Hallelujah!” at the top of my lungs. I didn’t even lie down on the ice as I had planned or skate barefoot. I simply bundled up and taught my lessons.
Toward the end of the day, I was shivering and my toes were numb with cold. Pulling my scarf a little tighter, I gazed longingly at the sun streaming through the building’s front doors. I couldn’t wait to get back outside.