I'm sure many of  you don't necessarily picture me as a bowler, but some of my favourite childhood memories are from the bowling alley.  I remember bowling being one of the mainstay possibilities for birthday celebrations.  As a proud member of the Howard Rockets 4H club as a kid, I loved our annual bowling celebration.  This was back when smoking inside was kosher, and I remember laughingly running out of the alley every 15 minutes or so to get a cold gust of air into my lungs.

During high school and college, such excursions petered out.  My sister Hope loves bowling and does so regularly, but it had virtually no part of my life until just over a year ago at my last birthday when I was surprised at a bowling alley by a dear group of friends.  So inaugurated the new era of bowling in my life, with a couple chance bowling sessions with my sister, as well as bowling in DC under the Eisenhower building at the Truman Bowling alley.  Each of these experiences was special, and my most recent bowling experience had its own special twist.

On Saturday night, I found myself in a bowling alley with three Czechs.  The first difference from American bowling alleys was that we got to go up and pick out our own shoes.  Then, we went over to the six small lanes.  The bowling balls weren't on shelves surrounding, but on the little roundabout area by the ball feed.  There was no ceremonial perusing of bowling balls--checking the weight and fit.  Rather, once our scoreboard was activated, Daniel grabbed a bowling ball and threw it down the lane.  Before the same ball was fed back, he arbitrarily chose another and flung it down as well.

I bowled next, and felt as if I were taking up a lifetime by waiting for the same ball to be fed back to me.  The first few frames flew by.  In between turns, our group stood in eager anticipation of each next turn.  I then asked Daniel, "Here, do you pay by game or by hour?"  He replied that they had purchased an open reservation of sorts, and after we'd had our fill, they would calculate the time and bill us.

Soon our party relaxed a bit to the surrounding seating, though we always attended to our turns promptly with no necessary reminders.  When we'd finally sat, I could observe the environment more readily.  All around, Czechs were bowling with horrible form.  In the next lane, a girl with petal pink skinny jeans would put a ball on her hand, let it droop to her side, and strut towards the lane before shrugging the ball off a locked arm.  Unfathomably, it would often get at least 8 pins down.  Such technique was similar throughout: Czechs would choose a ball (regardless of weight), hurry towards the lane, stop, and hurtle the ball forward.  I began to fear snapped joints.

I finally asked Miriam if she knew why the numbers "9," "11," "13" and so forth were on the balls.  She said she didn't.  I told her it was the weight of the ball in pounds, and gave her some conversions to kilograms.  This was a revelation to her, and she told her father and brother in Czech.  I don't know that it much affected their technique, as they continued to choose any ball which happened to be seated in front of them, but throughout the night I was amazed at the progress in their bowling.  Simon (the father), had started with a score somewhere in the 70s or so, and his final game was in the 160 range or so, having had a game of strikes and spares almost exclusively.

Technique, form, and timelines all aside, it was a fantastic evening in good company.


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