What the hell am i supposed to do with these? i can’t throw them out.
A few weeks ago, while driving home from the mountains with my wife after snowboarding, i smelt something nasty. A large majority of the time i don’t smell ANYTHING. My krooked nose (yes, i'll use the Gonz spelling) also included a deviated septum until a surgery in my twenties cleared the path. Maybe all those important, developmental years spent without anything making it to my smell receptors means i never fully “learned” how to smell. Maybe something else, i don’t really know, but the reality is the same either way - i rarely can smell anything. Because of this, when i actually DO smell something it elicits a strong reaction. “i can smell the ocean… it smells great… i’m moving there!” “This coconut scented candle smells great… i’m going to buy all of them.”
Well, on our way home i caught a whiff of something RIPE! “Oh man, do my boots smell? i love those boots, i’m not ready to replace them.” Spring snowboarding means all those snowboard boot features that keep you comfy and warm in the cold, cause you to sweat during the best riding time of the year. Not amused by my sudden sense of distraught panic, My wife reaches back, grabs one of my boots, and takes a huff. “You’re boots don’t smell” she exclaims, throwing it back with the rest of our gear. Thank goodness. But what caused that smell i distinctly experienced? The world may never know.
Several days later, i was loading up the car as the sun set so that i could get a little more sleep in the morning before taking off for another episode of spring riding the next day. i opened the tailgate and BAM - that smell again. The car was warm from sitting out all day under the spring sun, but it was empty, except for the reusable grocery bags we keep in the car. Did some small piece of food get stuck in one of those bags and now was rotting in the warmth of the sun? As i grabbed the bags the source of the smell was revealed: my skateboarding knee pads.
What were they doing in there? They must have been in the back all winter, left from some time in the fall. The coldness of the season kept them in some carbonite-suspended-animation until the automotive greenhouse effect re-activated them. They smelled bad! i took the offending agents out of the car and threw them on the floor of the garage. But now what am i supposed to do with them?
i’ve had these knee pads since the 1980’s. Yes, there is a lot wrong with that statement. It is 2019, but somewhat to my defense, i very rarely wear pads. Like, extremely rarely. Yeah i know, safety blah, blah, blah, but i say Safety Second (i may be a good role model for several attributes but don’t look to me for this one)! There are only two circumstances where you’ll find me skating in knee pads. One - at a park requiring me to (FYI: if required to cover your knees at a park, i’d rather wear knee pads with my short than skate in pants). Two - i’m trying something dumber than usual, like dropping into a competition grade halfpipe or occasionally when getting comfortable with a deep bowl i’ve never skated before. So… you know… actual hours used is… ok, i guess still beyond acceptable.
Why is a middle aged man wearing the same size pads he did when in elementary school? Was he a giant then or a garden gnome now? The complex answer lies in the difficulty of growing up a skater in Northern New England in my generation. You see, there was no internet in the 80’s, and if you lived as far Northeast as i did there were no skateshops then either. Procuring skate hardgoods was difficult enough, so no one wasted their time even contemplating how to find skateboard-related clothing let alone PADS. None of us wore padding of any type doing ANYTHING in those days. We were jumping bikes and playing pond hockey without even the thought of putting something on our heads for protection. Astronauts wore helmet and i was no astronaut… unfortunately. Once we started building halfpipes in people’s backyards (engineered by elementary school kids) and got our hands on a few skate mags somehow, the idea of being able to slide out on a pair of knee pads sounded pretty nice. Thing is, all we had available to us were sporting goods stores which basically meant volleyball type “all soft” knee pads. After learning the hard way that you can’t slide out on the toes of your sneakers and ‘those’ knee pads like the guys in the mags were doing, we just accepted that our knees were going to bleed, filled with splinters and tiny bits of asphalt, for the rest of our lives.
That was until one day, while my family was on vacation (i remember not where). We stopped in some local sporting goods store and it had a corner with some skateboard stuff. And in that corner was a pair of Rector knee pads, just like the ones i saw skaters wearing in the mags! Granted, there was only one pair, and it was adult size large… and sure i was the second shortest boy in my class (yes, not THE shortest), and yes i could probably fit both of my skin and bone legs into either one of those pads with room left over to slide both my arms in, but they were RECTOR - REAL SKATEBOARDING PADS! No matter the family vacation budget, when a kid is showing a ‘Christmas Morning’ level of excitement over the idea of safety equipment, odds are you are going to get yourself some knee pads. Maybe they figured they’d pay for themselves in savings from all the Band Aids, gauze, and patches for my Sears Tuff Skins i was destroying. Reasons were inconsequential to me because that day i became the proud owner of a pair of Rector knee pads! i wrapped those straps around my legs twice before securing them to the velcro and proceeded to test their ‘slidability’ on every surface available for the duration of our vacation. And that, true believer, is how a person can wear the same size knee pads as a child and into middle age.
We won’t even get into how 30+ year old pads likely aren’t providing any level of impact protection at this point.
But i can’t throw them out. i wore these pads at Mount Thrashmore. At ZT Maximus. At Zero Gravity. At Rats. At random parks and parking lots on vacations. On a countless number of days in the driveway and in the street in front of our house flying off makeshift launchramps. On so many backyard halfpipes, some lasting for only a day. There were far fewer pads than skaters floating around. These pads got handed around whenever someone was forced to wear a pair (days with 3-5 skaters and only one complete set of safety equipment - handed off for runs) or when someone was about to attempt something SO beyond what any of us were trying, that pads were used for a maiden attempt. So… locked deep within those pads is likely the DNA of all the people i skated with during the 1980’s and early 90’s*, not that any of us are worth cloning.
*(during the mid to late 90’s you couldn’t go fast enough on the tiny wheels to need pads in any circumstance).
So there they sit. My Rector knee pads. On the floor of my garage. Can’t throw them out. Can’t keep them near anyone with a functioning nose at temperatures above freezing. Until i can find a deserving solution for their years of service, there they will remain. Or until my wife and i get tired of tripping over them.