Human Zamboni


I arrived at the Jahnsportpark a bit later than usual. I left early,
but I had to wait five minutes to cross the street in front of the
house where we live. With the temperature stuck for days in the high
teens, I assume more people were driving to work. I couldn’t think of
an alternative explanation for the traffic.

I arrived at a completely frozen exercise field. The ground was icy
and the residual snow was firmly packed. Joggers had blazed a wider
trail since my last visit. The trail around the grounds was buried
underneath a few centimeters of ice and snow. In its absence, they had
rounded the corners of the makeshift track reducing the circumference
of the loop by a number of meters.

I started my initial lap of the field without a particular design in
mind. I noticed that someone had pulled a saucer or toboggan around
the field. The track was the approximate width of an upright tire, but
there was no tread.

Frozen Jogging Trail in Jahnsportpark

Frozen Jogging Trail in Jahnsportpark

I slipped a bit on an ice patch and started thinking about Vincent, the
older brother of our god child, Lazlo, who lives with his family near
Geneva, Switzerland. Vincent is currently in the US for one year. He
is participating in an exchange program for high school students. (I
hope he doesn’t extend his tour like his parents, who left for a two
year teaching assignment four years ago and haven’t returned yet.)

Vincent recently wrote in his blog about an ice hockey game. As a
lapsed hockey fan and former Texas youth champion, I wish Vincent had
enjoyed the game more than the rink-side entertainment. He didn’t even
mention the Zamboni, the mythic beast of a machine that cleans the ice
between periods.

As a kid, I used to dream about driving a Zamboni someday. I was
fascinated by the slow, methodical, and deliberate trail an
experienced driver could make over the scuffed ice. Like a monk in a
zen garden, a true Zamboni master could perfectly bisect the frozen
surface and steer a fine loop around the rink without sliding. The
fine art of Zamboni driving is the perfect contrast to the hectic,
often violent sporting event.

I was always disappointed when a driver would fail to
elicit a cheer or even a small acknowledgment for making the ice
whole again. I loved how a driver would pump the water controls one
last time in what seemed like a final act of defiance before leaving
the ice. They never pumped their arms in a show victory.

Clearing the Ice at the Jahnsportpark

Clearing the Ice at the Jahnsportpark

As I continued around the field, I started to make my own pattern on
the ground. I noticed that my previous training session had left a
frozen impression in the snow. I decided to cross the field in a
different direction so as to maintain the resistance pulling on my
line as well as spare the field from becoming too flat and too
level. I could always come back and flatten the surface once my
training season comes to an end.


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