Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speed skating

On Sunday afternoon I set out to meet some friends to go skating at the Minsk Arena. It turns out you don’t just show up at the rink when you want to skate: You need to choose a time and buy your ticket before that particular session sells out. Each session lasts 45 minutes, after which they clean the ice. They do this because of very high demand, especially in light of the fact that most public skating areas are outdoors and very cold right now.

I started nice and early so I could get there in time to buy tickets for the 3:00 session. As I approached the bus stop, I saw a bus approach. “What luck!” I thought. Believing that most buses on that street continue straight as far as the arena, I got on intending to ask questions later. But seeing passengers carrying skis, I didn’t even ask any questions. The city’s best ski area faces the arena, and I assumed the skiers planned to go there.

I should have asked questions at least once the skiers got off the bus earlier than I expected, but by this time I was warm and happy so I didn’t move. I finally did decide to move, however, when the bus turned left onto an unknown street. I got off at the first stop, and discovered that I could not walk back to the big street safely because snow covered whatever sidewalk or trail I might have otherwise followed and the bridge I wanted to cross had no sidewalk at all.

So I crossed the street and got onto the first bus to arrive, figuring any bus that got me across the bridge was a good bus. Not only did it cross the bridge, it followed a cloverleaf back to Victory Boulevard toward the arena. You can imagine my satisfaction, then, settling into my seat still in good time to buy tickets for our group. I must have been satisfied for almost a whole minute before the bus moved into the left-turn lane. I got up and stood by the door, ready to jump out at the next stop. But the bus did not stop. I told the driver I’d made a mistake and asked him how far to the next stop. He did not take pity on me, but finally let me out at the regular stop facing an empty field a full kilometer from Victory Boulevard.

This time I asked how to get to the arena, and a passerby told me to walk back up the road and wait at the bus stop around the bend. Along the way I found a taxi driver snoozing in his car. He agreed to get me to my destination for about US$ 2.50, which I paid with gratitude.

I have a problem about publishing this story because my wife already thinks I’m not always as attentive to navigational details as I should be. I have not told her these details about my adventure and she doesn’t read 100% of my blog posts. If you know her, I’d prefer that you keep this particular incident to yourselves at least until I’ve put a little distance on it.

By the way, the 3:00 session included only the speed-skating track that goes all the way around the hockey practice arena. None of us had ever worn speed skates before, and they are VERY different from hockey skates. For one thing, they don’t steer. For another thing, the long blades catch easily on the ice and threaten to catch on each other if you cross your feet in the turns. Malcolm did cross his feet successfully, but I don’t think the rest of us tried. We had a great time, though, the only four people on fresh-fresh ice as smooth as glass. I’d definitely like to go back.

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