Those sneakers with wheels in the heel have obtained the rare spontaneous ubiquity that, when I was a child, was reserved for things like slap-bracelets and Tamagotchis. The most popular brand is Heelys, but type “roller sneakers” into Google and you’ll find a shitload of links selling similar products. Heelys were invented about ten years ago by roller skate enthusiast Roger Adams, who — I’m guessing — hates both children and their parents.
Ashley and I went to the grocery store yesterday. There were these two girls, eleven or twelve years old at the most, gliding along behind their mother on their pairs of Heelys. They were totally oblivious to anyone else in the store, the Heelys apparently having an affect similar to the mysterious alien game on that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd were the only ones not hypnotized, and had to save the crew. Not my favorite episode. Any episode where Wesley charges to the rescue will not come highly recommended from me.
The surprising thing about Heelys isn’t that the government allows them to be sold to children — they’ve been allowing the sale of Slinkys, essentially slightly dulled coils of razor wire, for sixty years. The real surprise is how readily, even eagerly, parents have provided Heelys to their children. That doesn’t sound like responsible parenting to me; it sounds like “You will annoy virtually every person you see in public from now on, and hopefully someday you’ll slip and cave in your skull and die.” When we were Christmas shopping at the mall a week or so before Christmas, Ashley and I walked past a woman and her two children, including a little girl gliding along on her Heelys. Just as we passed each other, the girl slipped and fell straight back, taking a nasty back-bump on the concrete floor of Macy’s. She didn’t hit her head, but I know it knocked the wind out of her. It’s a good thing she fell flat on her back, because as hard as she went down, she probably would have broken an arm trying to catch herself.
Teenagers have taken to Heelys like hookers to a bucket of blow. Children and teens naturally gravitate to things they know will irritate the shit out of people the same age as their parents. I see kids on Heelys all the time at the mall. I never see security guards telling them to knock it off, which is strange since roller skating is banned, and I don’t see the difference. The worst part is that the roller sneakers hardly ever act without accomplices; give a teenage girl a pair of Heelys, an iPod, a cell phone, and some gum to pop and crack obnoxiously, and you’ve got a perfect storm of annoying adolescence. Heelys are dangerous, irksome, and expensive (between $60-$100, according to this article at CBSNews.com). I can only conclude that parents who buy these shoes for their kids detest their children, their fellow human beings, and themselves most of all.