Scotty is usually the first person I see when I walk in. He’s in his stance, behind the counter, probably bracing for the onslaught that Monday night brings. He’ll be busy making change and selling chances for the strike pot. The place is full-up on Mondays with three leagues taking up almost all of the lanes. I wave at Scotty as I make my way toward the middle section of lanes where the women’s league plays.
My eyes scan the computer screens hanging from the ceiling, looking for the names of the girls on my team. When I see it, I know which lane we’ve been assigned for the night. I’m rarely the first one there these days. I set my bag down and unzip the side pocket where my shoes are stored. I exchange hellos with everyone as I put on my shoes and search my purse for cash to pay my weekly dues.
Andy makes his way over while we’re getting ready and starting to warm up. He knows we’re all good for a hug. Not a week goes by without Andy coming by, looking for his hugs. I ask him how his day was and he always shrugs and gives a shy smile, saying, “Pretty good.”
“Did you work today,” I ask him?
“How was work,” I ask?
“It was boring,” he always says. Andy works at the Goodwill. He hates when they make him stock the shoes.
Andy is twenty years old, but mentally, he’s probably not quite that old. He’s sweet. He’ll wander to and from our lane throughout the evening, cheering and giving high-fives when one of us bowls a good frame. He’ll take extra hugs if he can get away with it too.
I look over to the lane next to us and I’m happy to see that Carol’s team is bowling there. I love Carol’s team. They are never short on laughter. You don’t even have to know these women to know that they’ve been friends for a long, long time. Their team name is Who’s Up?. It wouldn’t take you long to figure out why the name is so appropriate. For as long as they’ve been friends, they never run out of things to talk about. They talk so much they forget to pay attention to the game. Eventually, one of them will remember there’s a game in progress and ask, “Who’s up?”
Michelle is bowling with us this week. She was a regular last year, but decided her life is too busy and that she would just to sub for us when we need her this year. Michelle is always good for lots of shouting and laughter. We all marvel over her shoes. They’re really cute, for bowling shoes.
“I liked ‘em so much, I almost bought a second pair just to wear for everyday,” she tells us. We actually hear this same story every time Michelle bowls with us.
The pull-tab guy is leaning out the window of his pull-tab booth. He rests on his elbows, his hands clasped in front of him as he watches the goings-on in the bowling alley. The booth is lit up behind him, and the glass boxes inside are full of multi-colored pull-tabs. I don’t think he sells a lot of pull-tabs, but he talks with everyone who passes him by and says hello. He flirts with all of the women.
“How are ya,” I ask as I pass his booth?
“Great, now,” he says with a friendly smile on his face.
I see my friend, Terri and remember I have a registration form to turn in. Terri is a bowling coach in her spare time! She’s such a good bowler, she’s not allowed to bowl in the women’s fun league. She has to bowl in the men’s league where the real competition is. I’ve nagged Terri since last summer to run one of her bowling clinics at our bowling alley, and she’s finally scheduled one for this month. The clinic only allows for eighteen participants. I need to turn my form in and make sure I secure a spot. I need the help! I’m in a rut.
I take my form and registration fee to the front desk.
“Hi Terri,” says the tall, bald-ish guy with the deep voice. He’s working alongside Scotty.
“Hey,” I say cheerfully in return, handing him my registration. “How are ya?”
“Good,” he says, deadpan. I don’t know his name. He hasn’t worked there all that long, but I really should know his name. I’ll make it a point to find out.
I return to our lane and we actually do some bowling. There’s an odd number of teams in our league, so once in a while, like tonight, we pull the bye. We bowl, but only against ourselves. It’s fun having a bye week. We can relax and spread out more because we don’t have to share the lane with another team. We take our time and we have fun!
Carol comes over to our lane and sets a glass of beer in front of me on the round pub table where I’m standing, waiting my turn.
“What’s this,” I ask?
“It’s a glass of beer,” she says, looking at me as if this should be obvious.
“I know that it’s beer,” I laugh. “Why are you bringing this to me?”
“It’s a chaser,” she said. “I’m supposed to chase my Bloody Mary with it. But I don’t like beer.”
“We’ll take good care of it,” I assure her. I taste it after she walks away and decide it’s not a beer that I like. We let Teresa, the waitress take it away with our empties later, at the end of the night.
I haven’t bowled really well in weeks. I used to always have three bottles of beer over the course of the evening, one for each game. But lately, for no reason in particular, I’ve been drinking Diet Coke or having just one beer. With Michelle around, there’s more of a party atmosphere and I find myself saying “yes” when Teresa asks if I want a beer, and later, another. I bowl under average my first game, and then just over average in my second game. By game three, I’m drinking my third beer. I’m having fun with my girls and I’m relaxed. I bowl a 182. This is solidly over my current average of 140. From here on out, I will not neglect the three-beer rule! My game obviously depends on beer consumption!
There’s a ruckus going on next to us. One of the girls has thrown her ball, but after her release, the pin-sweeper falls down and stays there. This isn’t right! The pin-sweeper acts as a barrier to her bowling ball. She’s got a pretty hard throw and the ball bounces back, rolling straight back up the lane. She is laughing and embarrassed as she goes back to retrieve her ball. Her team keeps asking, “What did you do?“
It’s not her fault. Something is broken. They are still laughing, hard as they and Carol’s team move to a different lane to finish their games.
Jodi is asking if I can take her place in the state bowling tournament if she has to travel for work the weekend of the tournament. I don’t do tournaments. I’m not good enough and the atmosphere is too serious. Tournaments make me nervous. But I find myself saying, “Of course. If you can’t make it, I’ll do it.”
Denise is saying that she’s not signing up for the clinic. Her handicap is in the seventies. (Read: She’s not a good bowler!) “If I go to the clinic, I’ll get better at this. If I get better at this, my handicap is going to drop. My handicap is the only thing that keeps me competitive in this game.”
Who can argue with that logic?
Our games are finished before we know it. Another night of bowling is behind us. Mary comes over to see how we did and complain about her own games. I call her a big baby and tell her to suck it up. She bowled a six-hundred series several times over the past few weeks. (If there is any question in your mind about what this means, just know that it’s really good!)
Mary’s husband, Lou is calling good-bye to us as they leave. We’re in no hurry to go and we hang around for a little while after we’ve finished. Teresa brings us our tabs and we pay up. I always give her a little more than necessary when I tip her. She’s good to us. Attentive. When I finally leave, there is a succession of good-byes and “see you next weeks” as I make my way to the door.
Did we win? I have no idea. But we had fun and I can’t wait until Monday rolls around again!