The Skateboard of Education

Ashley Cooper, for some unknown reason, seems fine.  It’s time to take the other dawg, Cosmo Topper, to the vet for shots, and have his oil checked.  The cat, Penny Lane, is also due.  Even though Ashley seems to need no particular treatment this week, we did offer to take her with us, but she declined.  She said to tell the vet: “hello”, but preferred to stay at home this time.

Topper moaned and groaned all the way.  He cares nothing for riding in a car, and even less about going to see the doctor.  There is no benefit to having a nervous cat running lose in your car.  At best, it is a distraction.  Brenda says we either have to buy a car cat carrier, or dress differently in the future.  Penny Lane has not been declawed.

Upon our arrival, the veterinarian looked so disappointed to not see our other dawg, as I’m sure a payment on his houseboat or something is due.  When I told him Ashley was not limping, and that her rash was healing up nicely, I thought he was going to cry.  I did tell him she sent warm wishes, but I think he prefers cash.

The male dawg, and the female cat checked out fine, so we were able to leave there with enough money left over to make the house payment this month.  It’s nice to have some spare change in your pocket especially if you also have a little extra time so you can use it to get into some mischief.  Sometimes mischief doesn’t have a cover charge going in, but you always have to pay to get out.

Before we had children, a farmer gave Brenda and I a baby pig free of charge.  It was cute, and we certainly had some adventures with it.  But it did not remain free.  Sitting in the waiting room of an animal clinic with with a pig while all the other folks brought kittens and puppies, will be of some expense to your dignity, and to your reputation.  Prior to little Hamlet getting too large for us to keep, thus finding it necessary to take him back to the farm, we spent enough money on his care and feeding to have afforded several other normal pets, and maybe a good used car, to boot.

Nathan celebrated his eleventh birthday last month, but is too young for a car.  Being a boy, he wanted a set of wheels, so we settled on a skateboard.  He was pretty excited about it.  That I feared his enthusiasm might cause him to take impulsive risks that could put him in harm’s way, I thought the proper fatherly thing to do was show him how to ride it, and point out some important safe practices.  This decision was no wild burst of brilliance on my part.

First, all of my sons already know how to ride a skateboard, and I did not.  It does not matter that I thought I did, and that it doesn’t matter is a universal truth about a lot of things we think we know how to do.  Whatever experience I may have had with roller skates is not adequate training for these modern surfboards that glide across pavement at lightning speed.

A second point is that there are no safe practices with such a device.  That is particularly so for people my age.  Young folks are much more limber, and are fairly resilient.  They seem to bounce easier, and have a built-in gyroscope that allows their brain to still function during moments when their center of gravity is a foot or more higher than their head.  Whenever I have to look up to see the seat of my pants, rational and intelligent decisions seem to get misfiled.

A third, and important note here, is that children are already in perfect shape for new games and activities.  You and I are not.  With each new toy, we will have to adopt a brand new exercise regimen for at least a month to get ready.  And whatever we do will not be enough.  You will pull some muscle you didn’t even know you had.  The soreness will keep you from being able to continue doing what you were doing before, and you will end up spending money on the problem trying to make it feel better.

But if you watch boys, you’ll notice that they are always in shape.  They run, jump, and tumble all the time, even if the task at hand is as simple as turning on the light in the hall.  The light stays off until they spring into the air to touch the top of every doorjam within fifty yards of the light switch.  For them to just go outside and bring in the mail and the newspaper, will involve acrobatics.  You can’t pick up a newspaper in the driveway without first swinging on a tree branch and doing a somersault, if you are a boy.  Look it up in the Bible: Adolescence, 11:19.

Skateboarding suggests you are riding on it.  That is not entirely correct: you may be riding in the vicinity of it, but not necessarily “on” it.  First, I explained what I was going to do.  Then I demonstrated, by acting on some unconscious impulse, something else entirely.  The first try got the skateboard airborne, and I laid down to watch.  The next try got me airborne, but the skateboard stopped up against the curb to rest awhile.

The boys were patient, and did not interrupt the lesson.  Though they may have been entertained by the spectacle, I’m sure they were learning very little from my instruction that would be useful, or likely to ever come in handy.  I might as well have taken up tutoring fish on the finer points of swimming.

For those of you that are not discouraged, and intend to be mule headed enough to take up the practice anyway, I offer a few things you might want to take under advisement, and for your broader education.  Make sure your insurance premiums are current, and that someone is standing by to call an ambulance.  Make note of the fact that a skateboard is not like other vehicles.  That it has wheels is the only similarity.

There is no handlebar, or steering wheel.  Seeing that is not enough.  Once on board you will find yourself grabbing for them frantically.  There is no saddle, but that doesn’t mean your backside will have no place to go.  You will sit down on all kinds of things that never looked like a chair before, and you will do it quickly.

Getting on is fairly simple.  Place one foot on the board, and prepare to use the other foot to push against the pavement.  Getting off is accomplished the same way, as the mount and dismount occur simultaneously at first.  With practice, you will be able to glide for some distance before getting off, but you will get off.  There is no record of anyone ever asking:  “How do I get off this thing?”

There are several models available, and the price varies.  The wheels of premium brands are equipped with a type of ball bearings designed to eliminate friction altogether.  That means they will reach top speed instantly, and will not stop.  Regardless of price, all skateboards come with wheels attached to their bottoms, but you will find that they will be quickly transferred to yours.  If you don’t find that arrangement comfortable, you might consider taking the hobnail express, instead.  Walking may not be as fast, but at least there is a chance you will get to where you want to go.

The faster ones tend to be more expensive, so I recommend the kinds that can be obtained for a more modest investment.  This is particularly important to the novice, as the swifter versions tend to take you further down the street before throwing you, and that makes the hobble back home both tiresome, and embarrassing.  Remember that some people take longer than others to stop laughing.  This can cause delays in getting you the emergency medical treatment you are sure to need.

Take an inventory of objects that are lined up on either side of the street.  Parked cars and pickup trucks are obstacles, and so are trash cans.  They are stationary, but they will pull right out in front of you if you get near them.  Any stray or unleashed dawg within several blocks of you will think the circus has come to town.  Try not to fall on a dawg, but remember that trying not to will be about the same as total determination to do just that.

If you stay on the sidewalk, be aware that even the slightest crack might as well be the Grand Canyon.  Transitions between driveways, and paved roads are most dangerous.  And any conversion from a sidewalk to any other surface is suicide.  For those so inclined to try to kill themselves in such manner, I think you should know it might be easier, cheaper, and less painful to shoot yourself with a bazooka.

It was time to see if Nathan had learned anything.  I was obviously a good teacher.  Not only did he demonstrate some mastery of flat surfaces, but he could flip the thing into the air with his toes, and remount it while it was not yet quite back on the ground.  In time, he showed me he could jump ramps with it.

Some time later, I had a chance to know that both Nathan and Mason could ride those perambulators on rails and half pipes.  Their older brother, David, is more interested these days in different kinds of wheels.  He is still young enough to want the thrills associated with ramps, fast turns and velocity, so I wonder sometimes if he is making plans to try any of those fancy moves with my Oldsmobile.

By the way, the cat doesn’t care for the skateboard at all.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen on February 18, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Did I ever tell you that you are my favorite author?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Marlene Humberd on February 19, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Would loved to have seen you on the skateboard ! No youtube of that ? ; ) Dan was, and still is, into skating. I think at one point he had at least 4 prs. he had saved up and bought . The last pr. he still uses, and they have enough wheels for a MACK truck and are almost as long . Never was into skateboard that much , but as an adult , he does snowboarding and ice skating . As a mother , I learned a long time ago just to wish him a safe journey and not watch, while he was doing it . Found my hair didn’t turn gray nearly as fast that way ! Thanks …enjoyed the ride .

    Reply

  3. Posted by Wayne Casasanta on February 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Cash preferred seems to be a popular opinion, yet they still require for me to show 3 forms of identification. Next time you want to teach something to your sons, pay cash for a surrogate tudor. It will probably be less expensive than medical treatment, whether you receive care from an M. D. or a Veterinarian or Vegetarian.

    Reply

  4. I love it, Van. I haven’t read any of your posts for awhile, and it was refreshing to just sit and laugh. Sorry it had to be at your expense! 🙂 Especially after the expense at the vet’s. I did the roller skate thing too, but by the time skate boards came on the scene, I was much too old. I’m not fond of risking my neck or any other part of my anatomy. I can do enough damage tripping over my shadow these days.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jane Leonard on February 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Can’t wait for your posts on your Grandchildren! Thanks for your wonderful writing!

    Reply

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