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The Zamboni: Some wheels weren't meant to be reinvented

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The Zamboni: Some wheels weren't meant to be reinvented
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The story would be comical if it weren't true.

The ice was too rough to skate on, so they brought in the Olympia -- a cheaper, less ugly Zamboni rip-off -- to take care of the problem. It didn't work, so they tried another one. Still, no love. Finally, after three Olympia machines didn't do the job, they had had a Zamboni trucked 300 miles across Canada from Calgary.


It rode into Richmond Olympic Oval as if on a steed -- Old Faithful to the rescue, and cleaned the ice with the clumsy charm and perfection that made the Zamboni name famous.

As I watched this whole bizarre scene unfold, I just had to laugh. The Olympic Committee should have known better to mess with an American tradition -- it was just asking for God's wrath. I realize the overall budget of this year's cursed Olympic Games was only $1 billion, but you just can't skimp when it comes to the ice re-surfacers.

This incident has had me questioning the value of change for change's sake. The Zamboni has done its job faithfully for over 60 years. Every ice arena surfaced by a Zamboni machine truly is a masterpiece -- (very) slowly and painstakingly made as smooth as glass. It may be about as aerodynamic as a sail and slower than molasses, but the Zamboni does what it needs to do, and does it well.

The Zamboni machine is the epitome of clumsy perfection, the perfect testament to the truism that form follows function.

True, a lot of things in our society do need to change. A lot. I can't get a job at McDonald's, Antarctica is slowly dismantling itself into icebergs the size of Luxembourg, America has yet to shake it's chronic addiction to romping free-for-alls in foreign countries, and Planet Earth in general is slowly suffocating itself in a thick haze of pollution and smog.

We as a society are going to be in trouble if we stop anywhere short of all-out revolution.

But maybe there are some things in our world that should remain the same, some wheels that needn't be reinvented. It hurts me -- an idealist and self-proclaimed "original thinker" -- to say this, but maybe buildings should have their doors in the walls -- not on the roof, as I've often envisioned.

Maybe the spoon is the most efficient eating device we're going to come up with. Maybe people were meant to walk on their two legs -- not their hands, as I've always sworn I'd teach my children. Maybe I should stop trying to find new and exciting ways to put on my pants in the morning, and do it as people have for thousands of years: one leg at a time.

In some ways, maybe the way things are is just the way they were meant to be.

There is so little right in the world, that when we do come across things that are beautiful and true, it's a shame to do away with them. There's no use throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The Zamboni is less an ice-resurfacing machine than a parable incarnate, illustrating the values of patience and a job done well, as well as teaching us not to judge based on outward appearances but to look inward at the drives, the conveyors, the souls of one another. The Olympias, on the other hand, represent all that is faulty with society today: soulless streamlining, money-grubbing capitalism, and the insatiable human desire for improvement and progress, even when that means trying to improve on something which was perfected half a century ago.

My advice to Russia for 2014: have a few Zamboni machines on hand.