When we walked into the bowling alley, all the pins across the entire long room were dark because no one was bowling. It didn't even seem like they were open. All of the scoreboard screens within view of the counter displayed a golf tournament. An even ubiquitous male voice stated the conditions of the course and the rankings of the competitors.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dim hall, I saw the guy behind the counter. Getting shoes wasn't a problem; he even had 9.5s for me albeit with velcro closures. Lane 10 was about 2/3 of the way down. Instead of the typical curved banquette, there were just oblong tables and chairs on a slightly raised, carpeted area. We put on our shoes and started looking for balls. The pins in our lane lit up in invitation.
The last time I actually bowled was 5 or 6 six years ago. In those days, I used an 11 or 12 pound ball and my second game was typically better than my first. The closest thing I've done since is Wii bowling. In the video game, I've broken 200 both right and left-handed, and I regularly break 170. We typed in our Mii names for inspiration.
Since I hadn't been lifting all that much lately, I found a suitable 10 pound ball and stood at the back diamonds on the floor trying to remember how many steps to take. My form wasn't too bad for my first throw until BAM! It was the loudest bowling-ball-meets-alley crash I'd ever heard. It was so loud that I thought it was going to leave a dent. The sound reverberated across the whole room, and I looked nervously over at the counter. I didn't see anyone giving me the evil eye, so I threw my next ball, attempting to be more gentle without much success. I turned around and said, "I'm going to find a lighter ball."
"The ones down at the end are lighter weights," Gina said.
About halfway down I heard another crash. At least I wasn't the only one bowling loudly.
I spun a couple balls around on the rack, so I could see if my fingers would fit until I found a suitable fluorescent orange 8 pound ball. When I got back to our lane, it was my turn again. I stood just behind the marks and tried to remember between which two arrows I should aim on the lane. I rolled my shoulders back and straightened up. It wouldn't be until halfway through the game that I'd notice I was bringing my posture into perfect alignment while semi-consciously visualizing my throw.
After knocking down a few pins, I'd jog back to watch the animated bowling tip for making the spare. It was the first time I'd ever seen that. So very cool. After my second throw, I'd watch the silly animations on the screen and look for how fast I'd thrown the ball (~12.5 mph).
A kid's birthday party showed up, taking over the bar with balloons and decorations as well as the far end of the lanes. When they arrived, the golf tournament went off and the music came on. "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears.
Though I was aiming for the 1-3 pocket, I hit the 1-2 pocket, making the strike that always seemed so improbable in Wii bowling. "Yes!" I held my arms up in celebration. In the next frame, of course, I only knocked down a total of 3 pins.
A cute bearded guy took a lane a few down from us on our right. He didn't walk much, or at all sometimes, but he held the ball so far up behind himself it created a huge arc enabling him to hurl the ball very fast. I tried lifting the ball back higher for a bigger arc but had nowhere near the strength or flexibility he had.
Then a couple young guys took a lane over to our left. They were just messing around, but one made sure we heard, "That's why we practice."
Shortly after their arrival, the overhead lights went off and flashing, rotating colored lights came up. I had long wanted to try disco bowling, but in the actual moment, I didn't really care because I was focused on trying to bowl better, enough so that I didn't find it distracting. (It'd probably be cooler if the pins and balls glowed in the dark.)
I finished the first game with two strikes and a total of 96. In the old days, I would've at least broken a hundred, but my abysmal score was still enough to put me in first place by 20 points.
My arm was getting tired, but we were having fun, so I punched '2' on the keyboard to start a second game.
This time, my second game was much worse and I came in dead last with around 74. However, I made two spares which I was actually more proud of than my strikes. With every first throw, you're trying to hit the 1-3 pocket for a strike (if you're right-handed), so you're practicing that motion at least once every frame, but spares are often different each time. I understood what I needed my body to do for the most part, I just need to be stronger to have more control.
I was sore the next day, but it was so worth it. It won't be another five years before I go back.
A year ago on TTaT: Oh sacrilege, how you make me laugh