One pin. One lousy pin. That’s all I managed to knock over in the first frame.
“Crap,” I muttered under my breath.
Earlier this semester, I joined the employee bowling league at the college where I work. I did it as one of my #Powerof41 challenges: do 41 things that scare me.
I know, you’re thinking, Bowling is scary? Not at all. I enjoy bowling. I even own my own shoes, purchased back in Albuquerque when I used to go to the alley at Santa Ana Casino on Sunday mornings. My friends and I were usually the only bowlers there, the haze of Saturday night’s smoke still lingering in the air. After bowling a couple of games, we’d travel south on I-25 to partake of the breakfast buffet at Sandia Casino, easily replacing all of the calories burned.
Bowling with colleagues who have become friends after hours is different from bowling with co-workers in the middle of the day, though. When I saw the email announcing the employee league, I hesitated. What if I’m the worst bowler? I wondered. There was the added pressure of teams. Others would be signing up in groups. I signed up by myself, too chicken to ask the others in my department to join. On the one hand, I knew this would be a great way to meet other people on campus. On the other, I was terrified of the prospect. What if no one talks to me?
I sent the email committing to bowl every Friday at noon before I could change my mind.
As usual, all my fears were unfounded. Instead of being stuck at my desk, I get to walk half a mile to the campus bowling lanes. In addition to calories burned walking, I can burn up to 135 calories per hour while bowling. I stretch my arms before beginning to practice, adding to my flexibility and removing all the kinks that have built up while typing.
There are social benefits to the bowling league, too. I’ve met people I’d never interact with otherwise. Some of them are better bowlers than me. Some are not. Everyone is supportive, celebrating spares and strikes, groaning at splits and those pins that wobble but don’t fall down. Everyone has off days. Like I was having today.
One pin. One lousy pin. We switched lanes for the second frame and, again, I only knocked over the seven pin.
No way I’m going to beat my average, I thought.
The fact that I know what an average is and have learned how pins are numbered are more benefits of the game. These lanes do not have an automatic scoring system. In addition to the physical and social benefits of bowling, my brain is getting a workout, too. I have to add in my head, pay attention to which pins are still standing and which have fallen.
I focused on the center dot. Point to the one pin, I reminded myself. The manager, who made himself my teammate, had gently offered advice on following through a few weeks earlier. Last week, the advice had done me wonders. This week, I was struggling to put it into practice.
I let go of the ball and watched it roll down the lane. Seven pins fell. Over the next few frames, I managed a few spares and a strike. By the end of the game, I had scored ninety points. As I turned in the scoring sheet to the student worker, I remarked on how I was surprised by my final score.
“I only had one point at the beginning,” I said.
“It’s only the first frame,” he responded. “You have the whole game ahead of you.”
Good advice for bowling and for life.