There was quite a buzz in the office about the fall league that would be resuming soon. My boss and her boyfriend were on it, as were several of my co-workers in classified advertising and staffers from other departments.
In an effort to help the cause, impress my boss and fast-track my immersion into the company’s culture, I signed up. After all, how hard could it be?
Now would be a good time to mention (although I did not mention it to anyone back then) that I had never bowled before in my life. I was a pretty darn good miniature golfer, could rally on the tennis court and knew a lot of card games, but somehow I’d managed to make it to the ripe age of 24 without bowling.
I may be naïve but I’m not stupid. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was setting myself up for failure and humiliation. I was surprised to learn that bowlers had their own custom-drilled balls with their initials engraved in them. In fact, some had two bowling balls — for the same reason that some golfers carry two putters in their bag.
These folks had all the accessories to boot: bowling bags, shoes, towels and fancy team shirts with their names embroidered on them. I listened to them talk and discovered how much I didn’t know about bowling.
I overheard the seasoned bowlers mention a woman in Kalihi who was considered the best ball driller on the islands. I went to see her after work and, on her recommendation, purchased a 12-pound. black Cougar that she crafted to fit my grip perfectly and finished off with my initials. I bought a pale blue bowling bag and grey suede bowling shoes with blue trim.
I stashed my gear in the car and the next day at lunch I drove to the nearest bowling alley, which happened to be the very same one where the league would play. After watching other bowlers for a while, I took a deep breath and threw my first ball.
I practiced every day at lunch and at least once on the weekends until the league started, and continued long after the league was underway. I went from throwing gutter balls to a 134 average over the course of two seasons and even rolled a couple of 200 games. And, yes, eventually I purchased a second ball, an Ebonite, 2 pounds heavier in a bright red swirly pattern.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2012. My family is visiting and someone suggests we go bowling. I find my bowling shoes and head to Tsunami Lanes to bowl for the first time in probably 30 years. My 3-year-old granddaughter and I tie the first game. I pull ahead by 20 or so pins in the second.
Now, I think, I’m ready for the annual Crescent City Rotary Club’s Bowl-A-Rama fundraiser. I won’t be sitting it out this year! I announce I’ll coach our team, which is co-sponsored by the Triplicate and Darren McElfresh.
Despite my confidence going in Saturday, I bowled as badly as I did the first time I walked into Kapiolani Lanes on my lunch hour. I could blame the fact that they turned out the overhead lights, turned on the strobes, turned up the disco music and basically battered my senses so I couldn’t get into the zone, but I’m not sure I still have a zone.
I even tried using two balls but neither had the punch of my Ebonite or the accuracy of my old Cougar. My trusty bowling shoes looked old and tired. I felt old and tired. But I had a fun afternoon, washing down humble pie with a cold beer and helping to raise some money for three deserving local causes. I’ll be back for more next year.