10-Pin Lamentations (2014-02-13 Daily) [1 of 2]
David C. Hughes
When Mary first asked me to take Hannah to a bowling alley for a birthday party in Fort Worth, I figured I’d ease the pain a little by pawning her off on the host family and spending the time knocking down some pins. I packed up my trusty 1987-era 15-pound Brunswick black urethane bowling ball, my stylin’ brown suede bowling shoes, and my 1996 Rangers “Drive for the Pennant” rally rag, threw the kid in the car, and headed into town to reconnect with the one sport I was actually good at back in the day.
After we arrived at the bowling alley, I transferred my daughter over to the host family and their seven-year-old birthday girl and headed to the desk to purchase my lane time. “That’ll be $36.81,” the nice young man behind the counter said, smiling a big bright smile. “For one hour.” What?! I gulped. Okay, okay, let me think. I took a deep breath, remembering the days when I could bowl three games for less than ten bucks, and reminiscing about the time I could pay by the game rather than by the hour. I emptied my wallet, handed over the cash, and vowed to squeeze in the most number of games I could in that precious hour. Guess I’ll have to settle for a sip of water and a month-old mint from Sonic for lunch, I thought. “I started the timer already,” the nice young man told me as he handed me the receipt, “but you get ten minutes to get set up.” Thank God for small miracles. I nodded and hustled to my lane, lucky number 7.
The nice young man had strategically located me three lanes away from where my daughter and the rest of the birthday party entourage would be slamming six pound balls into bumpers, squealing from too much sugar, and caring not one wit about their scores. But the first thing I noticed as I approached my lane was the other birthday party taking place on lanes 5 and 6. Not cool, I thought as I glanced down at the other 41 or so open lanes to my right. To add insult to injury, the party next to me was using giant ball slides shaped liked dinosaurs, colored bright fluorescent orange and broccoli green. And they constantly pushed their slides over the foul lines, inducing a random but seemingly constant buzz every time the sensor caught the foul.
I sat down, pulled out my ball, set it on the ball return rack, slipped on my sportin’ suede shoes, and placed my rally rag on the bright chrome control panel sprouting from the ball return like some two-headed cyclon from a 50’s sci-fi movie. I glanced above me at the 48-inch flat screen monitor and tried to interpret the instructions. “Type in the bowler’s name then hit ▼ then hit ●.” The ● was colored red. Uh-huh. I looked at the strangely retro computer keypad glinting in the fluorescent light. Right. I typed in my name then searched in vain for something that looked like a ▼. Not finding it, I hit the conventionally-shaped down-arrow key, you know, the ones on practically every keyboard ever produced. The cursor on the monitor jumped down a line. Oh, so that’s what that means. Cripes! Next I searched for the red ●. Not finding it, I hit the orange dot on the keypad, and voila! my name popped up on the screen, with a line of boxes resembling an old-fashioned score sheet to the right of it. The computer monitor then prompted me to start the scoring by rolling the ball down the lane. Okay, isn’t that kind of obvious? At least that’s how we used to do it back in the good old days.
Ahh, the good old days, when people actually knew how to score bowling . . . . Yes, I remember those days well, when my parents, both league bowlers, sat us down at the mica-laminated table sporting well-used ashtrays, a built-in bottle opener, and beer bottle holders, and explained the intricacies of keeping score. My two brothers and my sister picked up the unorthodox scoring methodology right away, and we loved it when my parents let us keep score, checking our math over our shoulder. Spares count ten plus the next ball. Strikes count ten plus the next two balls. If you get a strike on the opening of the tenth frame, you get two more balls. If you pick up a spare in the tenth frame, you also get an extra ball. Three strikes is a turkey. A score of 111 is a house, and Mom made sure we knew how to draw the roof over the number. And a strike made by a ball smacking the head pin from the left was called a Brooklyn. Why? I don’t know, but I’m sure the computer-savvy, bowling-scoring-illiterate kids nowadays could Google that one and tell you in three seconds. Whatever.
Copyright © 2014 David C Hughes