Most normal people only ice skate around the holidays. Because it's winter and ice skating is a rote, traditionsl thing to do. Edward Tew of The Telegraph posted this hilarious article about public skating during the holidays, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11279701/Ice-skating-is-not-just-for-Christmas-its-for-never.html. Go read it. It's pretty spot on, as I remember skating on holiday sessions before I "skated."
Here in the US, Ice rinks appear around town, too. And the general public shows up in droves, to lace up questionable rental skates and slide around for an hour or so. And yes, us Crazy People go, too. But it's a bit different for us.
The moment you come in with your own skates, you're setting yourself apart. You came to get in a little extra ice time, maybe work on some simple things, or just to get some exercise in. You plop down your skate bag and people are glancing in your direction. Pull out your heavy freestyles with the fancy logo on the heel, put on the plastic guards, and the glances become stares. People are staring. A little girl points and whispers to her mom.
Trying to ignore it, you proceed with your ritual. Ankle pads, trouser socks, right skate first, lacing up tightly and slowly. Then left skate. The whole thing can take five minutes, but they are still staring.
Moving on, you rent a locker. I don't know why women insist on dragging their purses on the ice with them. It's a hazard, and you can't skate with a massive Louis Vitton hobo on your shoulder.
Step out to the ice, gingerly remove a guard, set one foot down on the questionable ice surface. Remove the other guard and you're on this ice.
Okay, skaters skate on indoor ice year round, but there are differences in indoor ice, too. I know exactly what to expect from the ice at Home Rink. There are rinks I don't like to skate at because their ice feels weird. But this ice. This ice is hard and snowy and sliced up like a bad holiday turkey. You try and push off and your teeth rattle.
And they are still staring. The expectation has been set. They expect you to DO SOMETHING.
You shove off into the rotating mob, trying to get a little speed and get the feel of this, the surface of Mars ice. From your left a dude in hockey skates and an iPod darts by at 90mph, suddenly pulling a C Cut stop in front of a wobbly mom and her kid, upending everyone in a fifteen foot radius. It's a crop circle of people.
You maneuver around the disaster zone and start to get the hang of it. Dodge, stop, slow down, dodge again... this is tiring. You press on, and you notice dads pointing to you and saying, "Look how that lady does it! It's easy! You can skate!" If only they knew how many hours of practice make this look so easy.
You look to the middle where typically you can move better. There's a dad and a tot, and five girls doing selfies. Okay, this is doable. You push over the ruts and snow, praying your edges withstand this butchered turkey ice, and make it to the center.
Ah, yes. Space. You flip some lazy waltz 3's, and start to think this isn't so bad. Skating is a territorial sport. Skaters will vie for space all the time on the ice, it's a matter of personal will as to who will give way. But Normal People tend to back down if there's a "Skater" on the ice. So people are backing off and giving you space. You feel great. When suddenly out of the corner of your eye you spot that little girl in the cute red holiday coat, tottering into your path and you halt abruptly. But you still startle her so she falls, looking up at you with Bambi eyes as if to say, "How could you?" You feel awful and help her up, while her parents look on warily as though you're a potential child abductor.
Meanwhile the Selfie Girls are still around. "Can you do that jump where you spin around in the air?" They approach you with funny grins and you're not sure if they're serious.
Even if you could do "that jump," you wouldn't do it here, so you try to appease them with a waltz jump. You try to get some speed with back crossovers, lean into that back edge to get ready to jump, and suddenly you hit a deep hockey rut and lose balance, so your jump is more an effort to stay upright. Selfie girls shrug, not amused. But Cute Little Girl is watching, so you do a small one for her.
But it's crowded. And rough. And the people who thought you were going to give them a free Ice Capades are disappointed when you just give up and start doing laps. You think, "Maybe it will be better after they resurface." So you carry on and wait for the Zamboni. But when it comes out, it just scrapes up the snow, doesn't lay down any water, and then people are herded back onto the worse "dry cut" ice.
You pack up and sigh. You bcome painfully aware that nothing would make all these nonskaters happier than seeing you bite it fully out here on this horrible ice. And that's just a matter of time. Maybe those early morning practice sessions are the best ice after all.