• Bodie English

How Can I Fix Up My Rollerblades? Part 2 Of The Covid-19 Inquiries

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

With an abundance of free time and people finally reaching the back of their refrigerators during social isolation, personal health has resurfaced from the bottom of the cookie jar and reminded people of their New Year’s goals that most assuredly included something in the way of physical fitness.

In part 2 of my Covid-19 special investigation series, I was flooded with all sorts of questions like, “why does my butt hurt?” or “How much Nyquil is too much Nyquil?” I was neither compelled nor qualified to answer these types of questions, and so instead, I collected a series of inquiries related to physical fitness; for which, there were many.

My first question came by happenstance. After I had left young Andrew’s question about, “How many attics are there anyways?” I found Robert sitting in the grass looking dazed as he winced at a large strawberry rash reddening on his knee and thigh. Robert looked pained, and from about 6 feet away I asked if I could help. He said, “ are you a doctor?” I said, "no, a journalist." I thought he’d be pleased, but he just scoffed and said, somewhat tempestuously, “Why don’t you investigate why my rollerblades suck!” I responded that they were always known to “suck” but I asked if there was some unusual amount of suckiness that perhaps made what he’d done even more of a bad idea. As I glanced over his white tank top sporting an early nineties Bud Light series logo, short shorts that likely once graced the red clay softball fields of a mid-level management playoff game when smoking was legal, and a pair of rollerblades so old that the plastic’s new exposure to UV light gave off a scent of BPA, I had a tinge of empathy for this once Tom Selleck of a male down on his luck when all he wanted was to put on his short shorts and bang out some bun tightening laps around the hood.

I watched him attempt to get up about 5 times before I found a tree branch in a trash pile longer than 6 feet to hold out for him. He then realized that one boot had wheels mostly spinning but the others were seized up. I only intended to get him up on his wheels, but his pain was glaringly apparent, so I begrudgingly walked him home on my oaken leash. Even though Robert was home, I thought it necessary to help him push past his initial failure and get him rolling again.

I did some digging and found that his rollerblades were not safe for food service especially after being microwaved and that he had done some good by keeping those bad boys boxed up in the attic all these years as there have been a number of seals found struggling to underwater rollerblade off the coast as far away as South Africa. In fact, Robert’s rollerblades stood a good chance at having a second life. Recent anecdotal evidence (a number of Facebook and Instagram posts) yielded an alarming amount of people resuming this aged wheel-booted affair. Some were even spotted en masse taking the whole lane.

While some were able to successfully reacquaint themselves with this mid-nineties plan B for having failed to learn how to skateboard, Robert, and likely many others, were flailing. The rollerblade is not a complicated product, it’s usually comprised of urethane plastics that are injected molded to look like a transformer’s robot foot with a foamed plastic liner on the insides. Straps and buckles, made of varying densities of plastics, are added to keep the “athlete” with unbroken ankles, if not engagements. The wheels are a polyurethane blend for variable softness to allow the “athlete” to reach speeds of up to BADASS miles per hour on the MUP (multi use path) trails, or turn on a dime in a street hockey maneuver that allows one’s mullet to distract the opponent. Inside the wheel are steel ball bearing cartridges shamefully produced by skateboard bearing manufacturers hedging their bets on how long skateboarders could maintain buying power when they were old enough to drink.

It turns out that these plastics, when stored inside and out of UV light can last much longer than if they are dumped into the ocean to join a patch the size of Texas (which incidentally has a whale governor named Perry and he’s also shot a coyote) One thing that does not age well are the ball bearings. Being of the cheap steel one would assume would be used in rollerblades, oxidation is an ever present threat to sweet gliding action. Some people will attempt to use WD-40, which while working at first in getting rid of the rust, it can actually attract water later and is itself not a lubricant. A good remedy is to soak the bearings in gasoline, dry, and relube with pretty much any oil and maybe even coconut scented Coppertone suntan lotion (I know Robert was wearing it).

I got back in touch with Robert to help him relive his glory days and achieve peak fitness with some suggestions on refurbishing his rollerblades and stretching his hamstrings etc. He was amped. He also let me know that Walgreens is still selling cigarettes and honored his Winston brand loyalty points he’d saved up and also found in the attic. He lit one up and laid down a thick bead of Coppertone on his wheel axles, crossed his legs and said….”Maybe tomorrow.”

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