Saturday, September 6, 2014

The choice was mine:  Take the fall now knowing I'll lose a LOT of skin or continue on knowing that if I don't get through I could die.  I'd finally reached a point in life where mortality was a real concept and I chose life.  I laid myself down and took the fall.

And if you are lost about now, flash back to the mid-1990s when I used to take my inline skates EVERYWHERE I traveled.  Yes, I had them illegally on the subways in New York.  Asia?  Sure, why not.  South America?  You bet.

I had been at the forefront of the inline skating craze even before it was a craze.  I got my first pair in 1983, years before most people even knew they existed.  I used to get stopped by motorist wanting to know what they were and where I got them.  I used to get kicked out of roller rinks because they didn't know what they were and feared they would mess up their rink surface.

My transportation around the cities of the world
I'd yanked the brakes off of them by 1984.  That's a sure sign of a skilled skater from that of a beginner or average skater.  By the early 1990s I'd started testing skates for Nike and was then taking them along on by travels.

I skated down Lombard street in San Francisco.  I darted between massive waves of cars in Buenos Aries, Argentina and crossed the widest street in the world on them.  I cruised through Manhattan and along the Monuments in Washington, DC.  I skated the bike path high up in Keystone, Colorado.  I did the boardwalk in Hong Kong.  I skated to the Satay Club in downtown in Singapore.  Around the horse statues in Santiago, Chile.  Though heavy and bulk to travel with, they were a quick easy way to get around.

I even skated down this during my reckless years
So mid-1996 I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil and took advantage of the afternoon before a work trip to explore around via my skates.  This was the beginning of the end.  I'd gradually picked up speed on a downhill descent that was deceiving.  As the road rounded around to the right I was suddenly plummeting down an unknown road of questionable smoothness not knowing just how far it went down and what lay at the bottom.

I was back to my split second decision.  Normally, in years past I'd have not thought twice about my mortality and would have ridden it out.  But that past year put doubt into my previous unwavering confidence.  A series of entanglements with cars left me a bit shaken and scarred.  First was a car that forced me off the side of a road into gravel and causing me to wipe out with some road rash.  The second was a car that turned right into a driveway and blocked a sidewalk I was coming down leaving me into a dead end scenario.  On that incident I chose the football linebacker strategy and pummeled myself right into the side of the car leaving a dent big enough to look like a linebacker had made it.  I was unscathed that time and left the scene cursing.  No, I didn't even stop for identification.

These two incidents ran through my mind in microseconds as I pondered my choice.  I knew a crash further on meant serious injury or death.  I knew I couldn't now slow myself down as the road was too rough.  I knew I was screwed!  I took the fall.  The fall took about a football size patch of skin off my butt and leg.  But I'd lived!

Sao Paulo is full of urban hills, some with roads and some without
I sat in my work meetings the next day oozing.  There was no "second skin" back then.  It was a misery.  I had fortunately been and done much in Brazil so I wasn't missing a lot of travel opportunities this time around.  I stuck with my work agenda and hobbled through it.

Back at home and having taken a few days off of work to recoop, I came back to find a picture of a rhino with a helmet on it and a large bandaid on the hind leg.  It was taped to my office window.  To this day I still have that mocked up picture to remind me of the Brazilian dilemma.  

By the next year, 1997, I was out skating at lunch time and clipped a "For Sale" sign that had fallen across the sidewalk.  It was a silly thing.  My skate just caught the corner of it but it was enough to throw my balance off and send me crashing to the pavement.  Except this time something went seriously wrong.  I couldn't get up.  Turns out I had broken my left arm in five places. 

I had to have somebody in a Jeep give me a ride back to the gym as he found me in the road unable to get up.  My arm was completely loose, flopping around like a fish with no bones to hold it rigid.  One of my bones stuck through my skin.  I had a second elbow essentially.  And a funny thing happened.  Mentally, I just couldn't handle my arm moving around un-naturally like that and so I had to pin it to my chest to keep from losing my mind.

I waited in that state for 45 minutes before the Fire Department saw me.  All they had was a cardboard splint that once they took a look at me realized was useless.  Next came the ambulance.  By almost 2 hours into the accident and halfway through the ambulance ride to the hospital, I had to ask for some kind of pain relief.  I have a high pain threshold, but this was ridiculous!  They finally broke out the morphine.

I ended up with two plates in my arm that I have to this day.  Hand scanners at airports will set these off and forever remind me of my nearly 15 year stint inline skating.


  1. Reforminggeek - Yes, luckily skin heals. I don't even have a scar...