“It’s not possible to be unhappy skating,” my friend Kristin said to me on her second outing to the Skating Place in Golden Gate Park.
I understand the sentiment. We’re rollerskating in a beautiful park in the city by the bay. There’s disco and funk pumping out of a boombox. People of all ages are zooming around, smiling and laughing. It is heaven on eight tiny wheels.
But I think it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is having a great time. The more time I spend in the Skating Place, the more I get to know some of the characters who frequent the space. And some folks are struggling.
There’s the old white lady who mutters racial epithets under her breath when you roll by. The drunk dude who wanders into the circle and does a wobbly dance too close to the kids. The young woman who wears her headphones the whole time and scowls as she carves slow arcs around the circle.
Yesterday was just a gorgeous sunny day in the park. And yet some people were determined to have a bad time.
One dude stopped my friend and I and complained to us for 10 minutes about all these new skaters, and how all they care about is learning all the flashy tricks. But none of them want to “put in the work” to really understand how to control their edges and use their weight effectively. “No one is teaching advanced technique in the city,” he complained. “Everyone is just learning … choreography.”
As I was getting ready to leave the park, I sat at the end of a bench near my bike to take off my skates. There was a backpack and a water bottle about half a foot away from me.
Some dude rolled up and yelled at me for “sitting on his stuff.” I told him I was just getting ready to go and I didn’t touch any of his gear. He kept going off about how I was “leaning all over his bag.” He ranted about how people are just throw all their stuff on top of his and he’s sick of it.
I told him that I was sorry if it looked that way, and I understand if he was concerned about his stuff being taken. He kept looking away angrily.
The reality is that we’re all going through some stuff that we carry with us into the skating rink, particularly now in the middle of a global pandemic. You don’t really know what inner struggles some one is bringing with them.
The best you can do is offer your own light and friendship and see if they respond. Often they do, in my experience. And if they don’t, wish them well and hope they find the healing we all need.