Rico Suave of the Roller Rink


I spent a couple of hours at a roller skating rink with one of my son’s today. It’s interesting to me how the rest of the world changes and evolves but every roller skating rink seems to be stuck in time.

The cinder block construction, the low hung ceiling with a disco ball, the worn-out carpet, the tired-looking snack bar and even the rental skates have been the same since I first set foot in a roller skating rink over 30 years ago.

But probably the thing that fascinates me the most is the fact that in every roller skating rink in America there are always at least one or two adult males who appear to have arrived solo and really take the rink by storm. Roller skating isn’t something they do once a year when they accompany a kid party, for them, roller skating is a lifestyle.

They skate rhythmically to the song, swizzling their skates in criss-cross patterns in a seemingly effortless manner to the amazement of a crowd of pre-pubescent boys and girls. They take to the middle of the rink on occasion to do some moonwalking and fancier spins and then race out to the perimeter to do some backwards skating – carving in and out of the crowds of the less proficient. They rarely take breaks, they never seem to sweat, they rarely speak to anyone and you never see them smile. Their business is skating and business is good.

I was contemplating what life must be like for these über-proficient adult skaters beyond the rink as I sat there today but couldn’t really come up with a profile for outside life. My own personal bias would lean towards a guess that many of these men work in corporate IT departments but I have no solid basis for making that connection. I can tell you one thing though, I’ve never made small talk about hobbies in a professional environment where anyone has said to me, “Yeah, work is good and everything but my true passion is roller skating. Fast and fancy.”

I noticed that they don’t ever seem to change the direction of skating. Other than a small break to do the Hokey-Pokey (where they turned themselves around), the skate pattern was counter-clockwise around the rink. The whole time. This led me to believe that these men might have one leg noticeably more muscular than the other – a physical trait that might give them away on the street? Nope. Both of today’s professional amateur skaters had matching legs.

I didn’t get any real answers to the questions I had about the adult roller skating lifestyle today but I’m ok with that. Sometimes I think I just need to let it be and just know they’re out there stoically enjoying the heck out of themselves at the rink, giving the kids something to aspire to and grooving to Rick James songs on 8 wheels 7 days a week.

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