Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Limbo on Skates

Limbo was only fun when I was a kid wearing roller skates.

Back then at the local roller rink, it was fun to try and find the right balance and poise to roll under the bar without plopping on my bottom or doing a face plant. The thing about Limbo is that it only gets harder as the game progresses and it all depends on what type of person you are as to how you finish the game regardless of your ability to get under the pole.

In the first round, the dirty wooden bar is so high that a girl of my short stature could almost roll under it without bending at all skating to the end of the line with a sense of false pride. There are, of course, always the ones who fall down in the first round. The boy with no coordination or the girl too busy focusing on impressing said boy that they both falter, laugh at each other and then go off in a corner to play the pre-teen game of ‘boy likes girl too, but boy is too nervous to talk’ game, which is much more fun than Limbo.

Before the second round of limbo no one really takes notice when the bar goes down those precious few inches. There are many who have gained that initial false sense of security the first time and take those inches for granted. But not me, I only have to bend a bit… no biggie. A couple of the taller kids get knocked out of the game and go sit on the benches and chat it up with others or grab a hot dog and a drink and enjoy watching the game while at the same time pointing and laughing at the boy and girl in the corner from the first round.

The third round gets a bit more difficult. The skates you felt so agile and swift on just moments before now feel heavy and clunky. You begin to watch the technique of others to see if there is something they are doing that you could put into your turn to ensure you make it to the next round. But when your turn comes up you look around and realize there aren’t many left in line and the majority of the kids in the rink now have their eyes on your game of Limbo. Can she do it? Can she make it one more round? You take a deep breath to build up your confidence then charge towards the bar like you’re a tiger attacking its prey. It’s not until the bar brushes your hair that you realize you are only going to make it by a very small margin. The victory is sweet, but short lived as you see the pole go down again, so close to the ground you could swear it was completely impossible to get through.

In the fourth round, you start to visibly sweat. Some of the taller, more bendy kids are pulling out split-like maneuvers. Here is where we see the majority of face plants. You move up in line and your nerves start to get the better of you. Can I do it again? Will it work this time? What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t? Am I good enough? This time you approach the pole with shaky caution. As you glide under, you wobble and nearly fall, but you hang on and push yourself just a bit more to get through those last few inches. You did it!

Now we’re down to a select few – the Limbo Elite who look more like contortionists than elementary school children playing a game. This group is typically made up of the gymnasts, the shortest and the ones with the most flexibility. You see one go through with one skate in front of her while the other is pulled close to her chest and she leans ever so gracefully to one side. Another one goes slowly up to the pole and does the side split slowly and very delicately under the pole. All they have to accomplish is clear the pole. If they fall once their on the other side, it doesn’t matter, it’s getting to the other side that counts. On the other side, there will always be someone there to help you up if you happen to fall or suffer a blow to the head, a painful rear or simply cater to your wounded pride.

I’ve seen some kids get to this point and simply give up. They have no confidence and hear the voice in their head declare ‘There’s no way I can get through that”. So they give up, go around the Limbo game, grab a corn dog and pretend to enjoy watching the rest of the game. All the while, they feel like failures, unlike the ones who tried in the first round and fell.

In the end, the winner gets either a cheap toy or a blue ribbon, either one will soon be forgotten because the real prize is to say they made it under the pole!

I never thought I’d say that the game of Limbo is a life lesson worth learning, but it is. Which kid are you? The one, who goes for it and just has fun but fails out of the first round? The one who tries different methods to get under the pole come hell or high water but confidence wanes when it gets tough and they give up? Or are you the one who will skate away with the prize?

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