Barb hates bowling alleys. She probably doesn’t feel great about pool halls either, but she definitely hates bowling alleys. The ones she remembers are filled with smoke, sticky with spilled beer, and smelly from all those recycling bowling shoes. Not to mention those awful polyester bowling shirts that were once the vogue. The net result is that I have not bowled a game (or a line, in bowler lingo) for close to thirty years–back when my nephews had birthday parties at some local lanes.
But my non-kegeling streak came to a gutter pounding end this weekend. With Barb out of town visiting permanent Florida snowbirds, I had my chance to meet up with Marty, the husband of another of Barb’s friends for a heart-pounding, thumb-popping trip to the boards. Yes, after declining Marty’s first two invitations over the past year, I finally said yes.
I assumed that at 2 pm on a weekend when Corona Madness is starting to grip the nation the bowling alley would be deserted, with perhaps one or two lanes occupied by bored oldsters who didn’t know the world has passed them by. I was stunned to find the place packed. A youth traveling-team tournament took up 3/4 of the lanes, boys and girls bowling, cheering, and bumping fists.
The smoke and the sticky floors I remembered from back in the day were gone, the former legislated away, the latter banished by the general sobriety of the kids bowling. Alas, the polyester bowling shirts remained, even more flamboyant than in days of yore, the shirts colored with in-your-face Day-Glo blues, reds, and purples. What was new to me was that many of the teens were bowling with two hands on their bowling ball throughout their backswing, something I had never seen before. Times have changed.
Our foursome settled onto our two quiter lanes, and I noticed something else new and confusing. The bowlers on the alleys to our right were going crazy with high fives every time one of their teammates rolled a nine on their first ball. Nines are OK, but what was the big deal? I asked Marty, and learned that those bowlers were paying something called “9 Pin, No Tap.” It’s a fancy way of saying that a nine counts as a strike. Say, what??? These were grown-ups! Man (and woman) up and admit that is just a way to jack up your scores. You need gutter bumpers too?
OK, enough griping. How did I bowl? My bowling shoes fit fine. My fingers still fit in my ball. It took me a few frames to nail down my starting point, my stride, and my release. But by halfway through the first of our 3 games, I felt as if I was in midseason form. I was throwing my ball as straight as a Daryl Dixon arrow (I don’t have the superhook most of the other bowlers were throwing) and it was popping nicely into the pocket. I was even picking up a decent percentage of my spares. My final scores were good, or at least good enough for me.
Will I bowl again? Sure, though it may have to wait until Barb goes to Florida again. But Marty, next time it’s on me!
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