Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bowling, anyone?

There is a very gentle rain falling this comfortable, warm morning. They say that in spite of all the rain we've had over the past few weeks, we're still officially in drought conditions, so this light rain won't help that, but it's giving all the flowers and potted plants a little instant gratification without asking me for any exertion, so I'm all for it. Soon we and the kitties will be piling into the car for the trip to Delaware, and I must do my Thursday chores in preparation. This short spell of quiet is welcome.

I was never much of a sportsman. I took bowling in college and flunked it. The year I entered the University of Kentucky, one semester of phys ed was a requirement for any degree. The choice of classes was huge; I remember being relieved I wouldn't have to subject myself to the rigors of football or track or, at UK, that school's signature game of basketball. In short, the requirement was nothing to fret over and I simply put at the back of my mind, and then totally forgot about until I was reminded towards the end of my time there that I still had one more class to take.

I chose bowling, which I had always enjoyed. There was a thrice-weekly 8 AM class, so I signed up for that. (I like getting some things of the way early in the morning.) Somehow, I guess I never learned where the class was held, but it didn't seem hard to figure out--I think you'd agree that the university's bowling alleys were not an unreasonable assumption? At the appointed hour, that's where I showed up. The place was empty, and after waiting 15 minutes or so for other class members, or a teacher, I just tore off a scoring sheet, bowled a game, and left the completed sheet, with my name on it, at the alley. I did this faithfully three times a week for as many "class" meetings as were scheduled, and went on my merry way, satisfied that I had completed my phys ed requirement. It was only when I received my final transcript that I learned that I'd failed the class, for "never showing up." No explanation from me would repair the misunderstanding. I never did learn where the class met, and to this day my official record shows that I failed college bowling. At least I didn't have to stay an extra semester make it up, thank God for small favors. Since I got an "F" in class instead of an incomplete, I guess the university did finally take my word for it that I had "gone to class" in good faith. They just wouldn't say I passed it. I'm sure somebody got a few chuckles out of the whole thing. I know I do now.

When I was in my pre-teens, there was a sudden push in this area to build bowling emporiums (I hesitate to call these palaces mere "alleys") seemingly on every vacant city lot. Two went up within walking distance of my house. Groups of us would go there and bowl a few games in all sorts of weather--I can remember walking to the lanes in sweltering heat as well as when there was snow on the ground. Our favorite place was huge, with both duck- and tenpins, 20 lanes each. And it had the most delicious hot dogs with mustard and onion relish. I loved the place, loved having fun with my friends, and even loved the bowling. I never really cared how well I did--in fact if I could be the butt of jokes by having the most ridiculously low score once or twice I didn't mind. It just added to the fun. The extremely rare strikes and spares I did manage were icing on the cake.

I had a friend once, extremely competitive by nature, who disovered bowling in a big way in his 30s. He became obsessed, watching all the championship matches on TV and traveling to some. He even got videos of masters demonstrating their techniques and would watch them repeatedly until he fell asleep, testing the theory that the subconscious processes new knowledge even while you sleep. It seemed to work. He became an expert bowler and a fierce competitor, taking his game ultra seriously.

He was also no longer any fun to play with. The game itself had taken precedence over the enjoyment of the group getting together to play it, and suddenly we all had to take our own efforts as seriously as he did or there was no group cohesion. Oh, we all wanted to do as well we could, but none of the rest of us lived or died by our scores the way he did. Soon the fun little bowling group drifted apart, and that's the last significant time I spent at the lanes. Maybe we'll start up again sometime.

We don't see that friend any more, either.


Kat said...

I think I would have been a bit mystified when no one else appeared and gone looking for an answer.

My college would have given an F as well for exceeding the alloted absences. They too would have counted the F.

Ralph said...

To tell you the truth, I didn't care that much. I was too stupid at the time to realize my degree may be at stake. I wa just doing what I thought I had to do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ralph,

How I envy "these Delaware weekends"... even though I sense there is a lot of work to them.

I had to smile about your bowling course. Recently, I was assisting someone on a college outline and noticed the Gym Requirement. For me, I would choose the Yoga or the Badminton.

Needless to say, back in the day, Bowling was one of the top "social outlets". We had an intramural after school program although we did learn the game during a gym outing. They segmented all our school sports into age, season, etc.etc. One memory is when JFK became President and started his Physical Fitness program. It was our first year at our new high school with what seemed to be a huge football field. The gym teacher said - okay girls - start running. I think we all collapsed on the grass... fitness, back then, not even close to what it is today.

We had two bowling alleys and for many of us it was the Saturday afternoon hangout or where we could go with a girlfriend and meet up with a boyfriend. We were 13 and 14 at the time - so this was a big deal. I liked bowling and actually if I paid attention, I could do well.

Oh well... enough said for now. Your commentary/essay brought some memories to surface.


Nan said...

What a funny story!!