Ghosts in the Alley
By ice rivers
Someone once told me that deciding to become a teacher was like deciding to open a bowling hall in your brain.
The intoxicating toxic smell of beer, burgers, fries, smoke, competition, swearing, praying, first dates, mixed leaues, ball returns, phone booths, yelling, handicaps, heartbreak, pin ball machines, beginners beginning, gutters, hooks, miracles, strikes, spares, splits, open frames and always always the crash of pins and the possibility of perfection surrounded by a myriad of impossibilities.
That simile no longer holds much weight.
Unless you're a retired teacher looking for memories
Bowling alleys are becoming extinct. They used to be a haven for smokers. Ever since the law prohibited smoking from the alleys, bowling has been on the decline.
A couple of months ago I stopped into the last bowling alley we have in the area. Once there were seven.
I wanted to see who was still rolling what. As fate would have it, I recognized a former student of mine. I didn't remember his name but since I could see it posted on the computerized scoring over his alley, I could and did call him by that first name if he recognized me.
In the time that I had been watching, Chad had rolled three thunderous strikes and had a 178 going in the seventh frame.
We were the only two customers at Bowl-A-Roll. I wasn't bowling but I was drinking a beer. There was nobody at the bar and I had waited awhile for the keeper to come over and draw me my draft.
"Chad, how ya doin' man?"
"Great, Mr. Rivers, whatchoo doin' here?"
"Dude, I been at the bar watchinchoo throw some strikes."
"How many choo seen?"
"I caught the last three. You're good. What's your average?"
"217" said Chad without discernible emotion.
"217! Whoa! Who's the high man in your league?"
"I am, what can I say?"
"Chad, back in my day 217 was the average game that a pro bowler scored. You could have made some money tour back then."
"No more," said Chad "now you gotta average about 235. The alleys are oiled better and the balls have improved. Excuse me a minute."
At that, Chad picked up his ball, took his stance and rolled another southpaw thunderbolt down the alley. As soon as his ball struck the head pin, all ten pins seemed to leap spinning into the air at once: another explosion. Chad walked back to me all non-chalant.
He turned to me and said said "hey I bowl a lot".
I thought to myself, "Man, I wish I could do something..just one thing....the way that kid just did when he rolled that ball down the alley. Just one thing....and if I ever did that one thing, would I be so graceful and non-chalant about it?
Some teacher at some time had taught Chad well.
I finished my beer. I gave Chad a parting grin and went on my way.
A couple of days later, I was reading local bowling scores in the paper and noticed that Chad had rolled a three game series of 812 including a perfect game...12 strikes in a row. A lot of bowlers have bowled a lot of games, very few have rolled an 812 series with a perfect game.
I've never bowled a 812 series in anything that I've ever done anytime in the history of my life, and I've lived a little.
I keep hoping and trying to someday bowl a "perfect game" in my ongoing pursuit of love, liberty and happiness.
I keep living.
I keep learning.
I keep remembering ghosts of bowling alleys past
The intoxicating toxic smell of beer, burgers, fries, smoke, competition, swearing, praying, first dates, mixed leaues, ball returns, phone booths, yelling, handicaps, heartbreak, pin ball machines, miracles, beginners beginning, gutters, hooks strikes, spares, splits, open frames and always always the crash of pins and the possibility of perfection surrounded by a myriad of impossibilities.
A lot like the teaching life used to be.