Off the List

Free use photo from

By Mike Johnson

Nothing says quirky like an ice rink in a Florida mall.
I’m always on the hunt for the next odd business idea.
Malls have many offerings in one location, so are target-rich environments.
So I look for them on my travels.

Clearwater’s Countryside Mall was a bit of a drive but I had time.
Plus, I had Skyline Chili on my list and it was nearby.
Learning that the mall had an ice rink, just made it more compelling.

I’d played some hockey as a kid.
Goalie mostly.
This required skating backward.
So I was a decent ice skater.

I was a big roller-skater for a period too.
I loved those smooth cross-over steps on corners that greatly increased speed.
I could skate backward on wheels too.

So there was the rink.
Sitting empty at 1 pm.
Only three other people on the ice.
So I visited with the attendant.

$30 to skate until they closed at 4:30.

“I played hockey as a kid, I just want to see if I still have it. Is there a rate for a shorter time?”

“Nope. One fee, for as long as we’re open.”

So I wandered off, thinking about it.

The remote-controlled car store sucked me in for 30 minutes.
I almost bought the two-foot-long 1957 Bel Air on the spot.
The hell with driving it, I just liked looking at it.
The owner ships anywhere, so I took his card.

And decided to go back to the rink.

The trick to ice skating, I remembered, is lacing those skates as tight as possible.
Wobbly ankles are the enemy.
Lash them tight to tibias and they’re less likely to turn on you.

I didn’t fall.
But it took everything I had to stay upright.
My ankles laughed at the tight laces and cried from the unfamiliar stress.
I persevered.

I did get better.
But never confident.
Perhaps 20% of what I’d been as a teen.

It occurred to me, that at nearly 67, if I fell, something could easily break.
After 15 minutes, I surrendered.

No, I didn’t still have it.

This bothered me for a few minutes.
Nobody enjoys the realization they’ve crested the hump and are losing abilities rather than gaining them.

But there it is.

Luckily, skating is no longer important to me.
I haven’t done it for years.
It won’t be missed.

But exploring for new business ideas?
That’s still important.

The rest of the mall was virgin territory.
That got my full attention.
With both feet firmly on safe land.

Ice skating is off the list.



Skating on Thin Ice


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