I learned to roller skate on my sidewalk with my BFF Mary when I was five. My first pair of skates were metal, fit over my shoes and were ugly, but could be adjusted for various shoe sizes so they grew as I did. As I grew older, I skated to the park and spent hours skating on the tennis courts, which, unlike the sidewalks, were smooth as silk without any cracks.
I don’t remember the first time I skated at Orbit. Maybe it was with my Brownie Troop or with Indian Princesses or at a birthday party or possibly my family just went over for some wholesome fun. What I remember is that skating at Orbit was a regular part of my life and, once I was old enough, was a place my parents let me go with my friends and without their supervision.
In junior high, my school held an annual skating party at Orbit. Attending the party was instrumental in learning how to navigate boy-girl relationships. Did I have to wait for a boy to ask me to skate during the Couple Skate or could I ask him? In 1983, this was a pressing question. In 2018, this question still occassionaly trips me up.
I’ll never forget the boy I skated with most often. He was Greek with blond hair and one of my closest friends. We grew apart in high school, but I’ll always remember how nervous we both were as we held hands during the Couple Skate.
No roller skating party was complete without the Hokey Pokey, which, to this day, I’m pretty certain is not what life is all about, although I might be wrong. I could do all the moves. In fact, I was a pretty good skater.
Ah, the memories.
When I arrived at 6:15 last night, people were already lined up out the door waiting for the rink to open at 7:00 and one last Friday night Cosmic Skate.
The rink looked exactly the way I remembered it with the snack shop at the north end of the rink, skate rental counter on the south end, and benches and lockers on the west side. The only thing missing was the organ, which I later learned was moved from the south end of the rink to the north end by the snack shop.
I laced up my skates, locked up my purse, and headed for the rental counter to exchange my skates for a smaller size. I was feeling fairly steady in my skates and was looking forward to getting onto the rink.
And then I lost my balance. My skates flew out in front of me while my head hit the ground behind me and my glasses flew off. The good news is that my glasses didn’t break, but I immediately had a bump on my head that went from goose egg to grapefruit in 0.3 seconds. I tried to sit up, but the world spun.
Orbit employees immediately surrounded me and other skaters offered help. After a few minutes I was able to sit up and was helped to the bench a couple feet away while the manager called 911 and another employee fetched ice. A lovely woman removed my skates and returned them. I remember asking someone to retrieve my purse and shoes from the locker, although I don’t recall who.
I cried. Not out of pain, although the pain was indescribable and intense. I cried out of humiliation and my own foolishness thinking that at 46, I could still skate like I did at 16.
A full busload of hot EMTs arrived (I’m fairly certain every EMT in the Northwest Suburbs was there) and wheeled me out on a stretcher. Once in the ambulance, my vitals were fine, but CT and Chis, two of the hot EMTs, highly recommended a trip to the ER just to be safe. My grapefruit-sized goose egg wasn’t getting smaller. Then they put me in a neck brace. The humiliation continued.
At the Northwest Community Hospital ER, my nurses Lisa and Andrew, gave me a little grief about roller skating as they hooked me up to a few machines that would monitor my pulse, blood pressure, respirations, and oxygen levels. I pushed back by pointing out that the handle on the overhead light looked remarkably similar to a certain adult toy.
A few hours later the CAT scan showed my neck and spine were fine and the only damage to my head was a bruise the size of Texas. Oddly, the CAT scan was not able to determine how many cats I own (answer: two). The kind doctor said I could drive home and handed me my discharge papers.
I took a cab back to Orbit and went in to thank the manager for taking such good care of me in my time of need. I was happy to see the packed rink. I may not have been able to enjoy one last skate, but I’m glad hundreds of other skaters of all ages did.
Today I’m feeling grateful for my health insurance. Grateful I didn’t break anything. Grateful I didn’t fracture my skull or have bleeding in my brain. Grateful for the kindness of strangers. Grateful for wonderful medical professionals. Most of all, I’m grateful for the many years of great skating memories I have at Orbit Skate Center.
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