So today was Monday (Not today as in ‘the same day as it is now’, today as in ‘the day I wrote the first iteration of the first sentence of this paragraph’ which isn’t actually the same day that I edited it or posted it. As I’ve said before, I don’t write quickly.) and Monday typically means hockey. (Today was also, in a manner of speaking, the second Monday of Winter. Bet you didn’t know that. To celebrate the event I made a massive concession and wore shoes. They weren’t orange.)
I live about a kilometer and a half from an arena (the arena from ‘Stinking’) — an arena with largish dressing rooms, excellent showers and no atrium. We no longer play there because, of course, they closed it. They closed it and several other ‘neighbourhood’ arenas when they built a new one — a wildly expensive new one way the hell out in an industrial park (about twelve kilometers from where I live; the easiest route there involves a six lane controlled-access highway). The new one has four ice surfaces, small dressing rooms, so-so showers and a huge atrium. (Architects seem to get positively orgasmic about atriums. Roomy dressing rooms? Decent showers? The evidence would tend to suggest not so much.) There was much criticism of the choice of location; during the city council debates prior to the commencement of construction, one councillor responded to the criticism by saying that the location was fine because children playing hockey there could always ride their bikes. (Ten plus kilometers. Probably in winter. Carrying a thirty pound bag and a stick. Along some of the busiest roads in the city — we’ll assume he didn’t intend them to take the highway. Clearly municipal politicians are not more gifted with common sense than their national counterparts.)
We played there all summer, but since it’s now Winter, we moved closer. Three kilometers closer — it’s about 9k away, more or less, if you take the same highway. (If you’re keeping score, the dressing rooms are maybe a little bigger but with lower ceilings; the showers are no better and the hot water is often… spotty. There is no atrium.)
I keep mentioning distance because (a) putting arenas in the middle of nowhere makes things measurably less convenient for residents who want to play hockey and represents a significant decrease in service and (b) a drive that long allows one to play a modest amount of music on the way to the rink. On Monday I was thinking about (b).
I’ve mentioned before that I am, at best, an indifferent hockey player. Worse, I don’t have the stamina or energy that I used to have (Heck, who does?). Hockey takes a lot out of me — after a game I’m often exhausted; the walk to the parking lot feels like about a million zillion miles. I feel like hell. I suspect I look like hell too.
So on the way to the rink, the music in the car turned — as it often does — to Frank Zappa. Frank has (had — he died in 1993) a reputation for creating and playing music that was…. difficult. Not radio-friendly. Inaccessible. (Some of it. Today in the car the software algorithm that I don’t understand played two tracks that aren’t. Not in the least. IMHO, anyway.). On Monday, when I was driving to humiliation, exhaustion and possible nausea the Infernal Music Machine decided to play a little tune called “When Yuppies go to Hell.” I was stopped at a traffic light when Frank started telling me that I was going to hell; I laughed so hard that the nice lady in the minivan next to me probably thought I was having convulsions.
Sometimes I’m my own entertainment.
I wasn’t going to talk about that. (Well, maybe not for that long.) I was going to talk about blackboards.
A typical arena will have at least four dressing rooms — two for the teams now playing and two more for the folks that will follow them. There are often more but four is a useful minimum. With groups of varying size and composition coming and going every hour plus the necessity of regular room cleanings (hockey players are, to put it mildly, slobs) this presents a minor scheduling challenge.
That’s where the blackboard comes in: you arrive at the arena, walk through the door and consult the blackboard hanging just inside. The board says that your group has been assigned dressing rooms 5 and 6 so you go there, pick one with free space, change, play hockey and try not to hurt yourself or barf. Simple.
There are, of course, complications.
First of all, the rink rat (not the broom kind) is often busy — between running the Zamboni, sweeping up balls of tape and washing dressing room floors covered in phlegm, he’s often too busy to update the blackboard. And the blackboard usually isn’t a real blackboard; real blackboards are wonderful and forever but they’re a little pricey so it’s probably just plywood covered in that icky black paint — after a few years the ‘blackboard’ isn’t particularly legible anyway. (There’s no point replacing it because people get out of the habit of reading it because it’s out of date and illegible. And there’s probably no money to replace it in any case. If only they had bought a good one in the first place…)
In the new arena described above, there are no blackboards, presumably because blackboards, despite using no electricity and lasting forever, are old-fashioned. They’re passé. They’re so last century. No, the new arena has television sets. Large panel, flat screen high-definition television sets that are presumably controlled by computer. These are newer and more expensive, hence (so the thinking must go) better.
Actually, in one way they sort of are: they can be updated remotely. The rink rat doesn’t have to walk to the television to make changes. That probably saves… seconds. This doesn’t mean, though, that they’re always correct. Just like the traditional blackboard-that-isn’t-a-blackboard, they have a decent chance of being out of date. In our last Monday at the new arena, for example, when I arrived the televisions were displaying information from four to six hours earlier in the day. Helpful thing, that.
It has long been quite clear that it was only a matter of time before this revolutionary and helpful technology was duplicated at other, older, city arenas — which sort of explains the very first thing I saw when I walked through the door of the arena on Monday. The blackboard was gone and had been replaced with… a large panel flat screen high-definition television set. So I looked at it to see which dressing rooms we had been assigned. Turns out we hadn’t been assigned any — the television set said the only thing happening at the arena was a trade show.
Oh. That didn’t bode well. If there was some sort of show there wouldn’t be hockey. So I walked forward and looked for booths and ticket-takers and vendors and booth babes. There weren’t any — there was just ice. So, since I wasn’t the first person there (I’m always a little late) I looked for a room with familiar… faces in it. I changed and reminded myself yet again to get my skates sharpened. I played. I didn’t hurt myself or barf but I was humiliated by a young lady one third my age. Typical game, really.
When I got home I looked up the home show. It was in early April, so the brand new, high-tech replacement for a blackboard was five months out of date.
Isn’t technology wonderful?