Column: Bowling adventure a source of endless embarasssment

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A friend contacted me and asked if I would be willing to bowl at his establishment, the Holiday Lanes in Albert Lea. It seemed to be an odd request to make of someone like me, who has been an avid non-bowler all of his life.

I don’t know how to bowl. I feel somewhat better now, getting that off my chest. Now and then, it is good for a person to admit his shortcomings. Pardon me, while I take a cleansing breath. I didn’t have the opportunity to bowl as a youth. We were supposed to bowl in our physical education class in junior high, but the first day we showed up at the alley, bowling evolved into the world’s most dangerous game of dodgeball. Bowling was cancelled for my class. The local bowling alley closed shortly after that. Someone stole the ball.

My friend told me that Dick Weber was coming to town and I could bowl with him. I felt even more stupid than I normally do. I didn’t know who Dick Weber was.

Email newsletter signup

But I did know the requester, so I mumbled, &uot;Okay.&uot;

I must admit that I was not as enthused as I should have been about going bowling. I agreed to do so because of one of the guidelines by which I lead my life &045; &uot;Be here now, be somewhere else later.&uot;

I showed up at the alley and watched another friend juggle bowling pins. He was very good. I wanted him to juggle five bowling balls at once, but he had to leave so he wouldn’t have to bowl. I hoped that knocking down bowling pins would be easier than juggling them.

I had bowled before &045; more than 30 years ago. That was a blown knee (with my good knee offering to be much too sympathetic), two torn rotator cuffs and a couple of million miles of hard roads ago. I knew that the object of bowling was to knock down the pins with a ball, but that was the extent of my tenpin knowledge.

I got some shoes at the bowling alley. I asked for a pair that was a size 12. I should have taken a size 13. The shoes pinched, but I am a Minnesotan, of Scandinavian descent and a Lutheran, so the thought of complaining or exchanging them never crossed my mind. Better to have sore feet than have someone think me a malcontent.

I chose a ball. There was a vast selection. They all appeared to be of the same basic shape &045; round. I based my decision entirely upon the color. I picked a purple of the same shade that had once graced the walls of my room in college.

I think the ball weighed a little over 47 pounds. It was a peace-loving bowling ball. I should have picked a ball named &uot;Killer&uot; instead of one named &uot;Lilac.&uot; The ball was obviously a factory second as it had three holes in it, but I decided to use it anyway. If I didn’t complain about the shoes, I certainly wasn’t going to complain about the ball.

I told myself to &uot;be the ball.&uot; I became a ball that tended to drive defensively in order to avoid any collisions. I had worried about hitting the automatic pinsetter. I shouldn’t have been worried. I didn’t hit anything.

After my first bounce down the alley, all the bowlers in adjoining lanes were provided with helmets.

Side bets were being made as to whether or not I would be able to bowl a game with a score high enough to equal my age or roll a three-game series that would match my weight.

I quickly discovered that the strike zone in bowling is a little lower than the one I was familiar with after playing too many games of softball and baseball. I needed a designated bowler.

I threw a lot of strikes. I threw even more open frames. I didn’t fully grasp the whole &uot;spare&uot; thing.

Dick Weber threw something called a &uot;hook&uot; that invariably resulted in a strike.

I tried throwing a hook. It invariably ended up in the gutter. I could have kept my score on my fingers. I bowled for the embarrassment.

I met a lot of nice people at the alley while I was pretending to bowl, but I don’t think that life in the fast lane is for me.

I am looking forward to bowling with Dick Weber again &045; in about 30 years.

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays in the Tribune.)