4/12/2011

Bowling and gobstoppers

It was so simple.  Could I be wrong?  One dollar, take away 30 cents, gives you 70 cents change.  What was I missing?

The bowling alley is the Taj Mahal for seven-year-old kids.  Just being there meant it was Saturday -- no school -- and that 4 or 5 of your closest friends were present and in league.  The fifth friend could actually be an annoyance because he was the castaway who had to rotate into the 5-man team and would displace one of us bowlers each frame.  Cause for a beating, but with punches pulled so that each blow and body shot felt as friendly as was the spirit in which it was thrown.  Fag.

The bowling alley had a pizza restaurant, arcade and candy store annexed to the west end.  Nestled in the southern suburb of Chicago, the pizza place was legendary.  But the menu exceeded our candy store budgets.  The burgers and dogs were out of reach, too, unless you were that one lucky bastard whose parents were either rich or wayward with a buck.  I could never tell which.  How could kids with parents that flush know a day's boredom?

I don't understand.  It's simple math.  One-hundred minus thirty is seventy.  If I get it, why doesn't he?

You must wear bowling shoes on the lanes.  No exceptions.  This is a business.  The lanes and the equipment cost a fortune to upkeep.  The shoes protect the hardwood lanes.  You kids need to remember that: no horseplay and always wear bowling shoes on the lanes.  None of us owned bowling shoes so we rented them at the counter, first thing.  I always wondered why the balls were free but the shoes came at a fee.  Seemed backward in my seven-year-old mind.  But so many things did.  For instance, the exchange with the shoe-rental clerk.  The shoe rental fee was 30 cents.  I gave him a dollar.  Shouldn't I get...

I never understood the scoring system in bowling.  I can add numbers.  We'd mastered that a year ago in first grade.  But the compounding effect of spares and strikes escaped me.  I gleaned from the overhead projected scorecard that they bumped your score quickly, and that it was crucial to score well in those frames immediately after the marks.  Somehow in this ethereal magic, a potential 120 pins yielded a score of 300.  I also learned that the overhead projectors could broadcast a silhouette middle finger to the entire facility if you had the nerve and stealth to flip off the scorecard while the chaperone's attention was elsewhere.  Eff you, Bruinswick!

In retrospect I had good reason to flash the finger to the bowling alley.

I couldn't be wrong.  I gave the guy a dollar.  Shoes cost 30 cents.  That should leave me with 70 cents.  Is this guy mental?

Mom gave me a dollar on bowling days just before dropping me off at the alley.  Let me assure the reader that was a king's ransom in 1978.  Sure, shoe rental came out of your end, but the remainder was yours to blow as you please.  Seventy cents, sweet lucre.  You couldn't grab a table and dispatch those college boy wastoid rejects to cook you a large sausage and pepperoni, but in terms of candy, you were Donald Trump incarnated into an obnoxious, 7-year-old body.  And let's face it.  If you're not eating pizza, you may as well reign supreme at the candy counter.  Fine by me.

The problem was, on some Saturdays my stash got me much further than others.  It depended on the Saturday.  Or maybe it was the shoe clerk:  When the girl was renting the shoes, I got a ton of change back.  I did some grievous damage at the candy counter.  But when that one dude was dealing kicks, I walked away with chump change -- barely enough to cover a couple gobstoppers.  I didn't understand.  The shoe fee wasn't fluctuating week to week.  Bowling shoes aren't pork bellies or petroleum.  They were 30 cents, period.  A dollar minus 30 cents was 70 cents.

Mom found out soon enough.  We always needed an adult chaperone to corral us kids, keep score, administrate the aforementioned substitute bowler system, and pretend to lose sight of us when we sought mischief.  My mom finally drew the short straw.  Her turn.  Actually, she didn't mind.  She enjoyed watching me bowl with my friends.  I think she even found the petty mischief wholesome insofar as she was raising a boy with the requisite social tools for hijinks.  But she did not receive the news well when I asked her about my missing change.  That it had become a pattern over the previous weeks angered her further.  She walked slowly but with all the conviction and purpose of an executioner toward the shoe counter.  The paralyzed sales clerk with the face blemished with adolescent patchy stubble and acne knew he had been made.  "How long have you been ripping these kids off?"  I couldn't follow much of the conversation, or I just can't remember it, or better I couldn't grasp it in all its perverted disputation.

I got all seventy cents the following Saturday.

Flush with change at the bowling alley, I agonized over the missed opportunities of weeks past.  Change is candy, and candy is coin of the realm at the alleys.  The bowling itself is incidental.  All I knew was, hit big on those frames after a mark.  Maybe I could break a hundred.  Who cares?  Hey, Triple Digits, can you kick my ass?  What I loved was having a cache of caramels and Dots and gum balls in my pocket.  But what ate at my guts was how I let that punk get one over on me every other Saturday.  I knew the arithmetic.  I could take away 30 from a dollar in my sleep.  But an adult (anybody with car keys is an adult in kids' eyes, and this burnout highschooler behind the shoe counter qualified) was giving me back a quarter, give or take.  The grown-up had to be right.  My mistake.  What did I know?  Even if I did ask after the missing change, he'd just bulldoze a heap of convolution and minutiae that convinced me of nothing but served its purpose of blunting the point that shoes cost 30 cents and I gave him a dollar.

And sometimes, when I'm susceptible to a bout of cynicism, I swear the whole goddamn world is chock full of adolescent bowling alley clerks trying to rent me a pair of size-13 shoes with a peculiar premium and a story at the ready.

21 comments:

C... said...

Sounds like every employer I ever had. They want you to work like you make $100,000 + but pay you $30,000 or less.

Shawn said...

Are you from Illinois? The burbs? Me too. Well actually the suburbs of the suburbs!

We did the bowling alley and the skating rink...roller skating, white skates with big puffy royal blue pom-poms on the toe!

I was thrilled when automatic counters where installed!

Damn that pimple faced teenage clerk for stealing your 70 cents week after week. He's probably one rich bastard today thanks to you and your friends!

Impulsive Addict said...

How dare he steal your money? What an asshole. I bet you could take him if you know where he lives. How come he didn't lose his job?

Btw, I SUCK at bowling. It's a good day if I break 90. No joke.

Jennifer Fabulous said...

How awful! I don't understand how people can sleep at night, knowing they are ripping off innocent little children. :(

I'm glad your mom took action. I'd be pissed too!

I love bowling. I suck at it, but the experience is SO fun, especially now as a grown up. There is something so cozy about going bowling with friends/my bf and drinking beer and playing a few rounds of pool afterwards. I'm sad because the old-school bowling alley (which had been around for 40 years) just shut down across the street from my apartment. I used to walk there and play all the time, it was so cheap. :(

Mouthwash said...

um... your blog name is AMAZING! haha.

Amber
Ambersmouthwash

XLMIC said...

Go, MOM! lol

Wow... you could get into triple digits? I am still waiting for that day :)

Xazmin said...

I love your writing. It cracks me up.

I'm sorry for all your lost change/candy over the course of your bowling days.

But he prolly still works there. So, ya know - crime doesn't pay.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Good for Mom! That's awful to rip off little kids (or anyone, really) like that.

Not So Simply Single said...

The world is filled with stupid people. I swear their should be a light on top of people head with either an "L" for LOSER or a "W" for winner, then we wouldn't have to waste our time wondering who we were dealing with...

You crack me up...

Laughing out loud here in Maui...

Lisa

Bitchzilla On the Loose said...

So 70 cents + 30 cents = 1 dollar? :O:O
Damm. I never knew that :|

And you, LBB, come and claim your award.. >:P
It's been waiting for you... for long enough now...



Bitchzilla on The loose.

heartinhand said...

I love your mom!

I remember being a kid and being able to buy a pop, a bag of chips, a chocolate bar and penny candy all for a buck. *sigh*

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick said...

I love your mom for doing that. I used to hang out at the bowling alley on Saturdays, too. The smell of that stuff they sprayed in the shoes still brings back a flood of memories. (What was that stuff?)

Heather said...

Yeah for MOM!!
Boo for acne scarred teenager. What do you think he did with all those quarters?

Great post - brought me back to one free game of bowling a day during summer and tobacco stained over head projectors at the alley.

Sandra said...

Awe...see now I feel like I should buy you some candy...what some candy little boy?...sorry, it seems I've just chanelled my inner predator :)

Anonymous said...

I could actually smell the bowling alley, and hear the balls hitting the pins as I read this. Great blog.

T-Rex

Not So Simply Single said...

LLB, could use some male input on my blog if you have a second or two to space...you sexy thing you...

Lisa

Chapter Two said...

to answer your question on my blog - a stent goes from the kidney to the bladder through the ureter. It is meant to keep the ureter open and allow kidney stones to pass through the ureter more easily . In my case it was meant to keep my ureter open while it healed.

I love that you visit me. thank you very much. I often hit reply on your comments via email but it won't let me reply....sigh......

Date Girl said...

Go Mom for storming in and making it right. I used to spend every week at the bowling alley in high school. Sadly it never improved my game.

Heff said...

Always double-down on Pork Bellies.

Always.

Vivienne @ the V Spot said...

Wow. As the mom to a whole buncha boys, I wonder what yours went through when deciding whether or not to intervene. How cool that she did it, and that you remember it.
(Dang, I love a good story. Well done)

thoughtsappear said...

You just reminded me how much I hate bowling shoes.