Roller Derby Queen


I remember as a young girl being terrified by the film “Rollerball” with James Caan. It was a future dystopian universe with an ultra-violent version of the sport. I was equally as terrified when I found myself on Friday night in the middle of a roller skating rink in Greenport unable to move.

When my friend asked me to join her on this adventure I thought, hey, I used to roller skate back in the day at what is now Bay Street Theater. I do yoga. I have balance. I remember the lyrics to “Shake Your Groove Thing.” I do not need the “walker” to support me. I’ve got this. But as soon as I put on the skates and kind of hobbled to the rink and stepped into oncoming traffic, I froze. I could not figure out how to propel myself forward. It is no wonder that the keynote speaker for the Roller Skating Association of America’s subject was, “Get Momentum: How to start when you are stuck.” Well, apparently you need a shove. My friend who had quickly remembered her youthful roller-skating prowess had to come over and both figuratively and literally push me forward.

I tried to find some courage by channeling my roller derby heroines: Annie Mergency, Low Maim, Killen Mia Softly, Tyrana Soreass, and my personal favorite, Basquiat Case.

With a bit of instruction from my friend, I started to gain momentum and actually picked up the pace. The next time she sashayed by, she asked me if I knew how to stop. I tried to find the stopper on my toe but almost fell over so, no. My only option was to hurtle towards the railing hoping not to take out the four-year-old and hit it where I had some natural padding. I noticed the sneer from the passing woman who looked like she was a former member of the East German speed skating team.

Luckily there is Bill. He is the fixer, the clean up on aisle nine guy, the one who comes to the aid of fallen skaters flailing like turtles caught on their backs who can’t flip over. And when he is not Florence Nightingale on wheels, he will entertain the public by doing a head stand in the middle of the ring.

After a good 20 minutes I thought, I am getting the hang of it, and swung my arms to “Disco Inferno,” feeling pretty cool. Then, a whistle blew. Everyone stopped and switched direction. Due to my inability to stop, I found myself swimming upstream uttering expletives. My friend came to my rescue to take my hand and kind of swing me around in the other direction. A teenager in mean girl perfection cut me off but I thought à la Kathy Bates in the famous parking lot scene from “Fried Green Tomatoes”: “You may be younger and faster, but I’m older and have better insurance.”

Luckily, along with the kids, there were some pretty handsome men who I assumed must be hockey players with their skating acumen. I tried to clutch onto the rail to observe, smiling as they passed, until I gave a sexy hip jut and tumbled to the ground.

So, what are the takeaways of this “How to start when you are stuck” experience? In order to grow, you have to challenge yourself and try something new. It helps to have someone you trust to give you a push. It is good for your health to be a friend of Bill. And also know your limits. My girl friend called over her shoulder as she passed me, “Whatever you do, don’t try to use the ladies room in your skates.”

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