Doug Thompson polishes his bowling balls every day. It’s one of his responsibilities as co-owner of King Pin Bowling.
I’m a terrible bowler, and not that keen on improving. I am, however, a big fan of The Big Lebowski, and owned a bowling shirt in the late 90s, when it was “money” to wear such things. I never figured out, though, if I was supposed to like my shirt because it really was cool, or if it was ironically cool because it was so uncool.
The patrons of King Pin weren’t wearing ironic bowling shirts, although Sherri did tell me about one tournament team that wore printed T-shirts saying, “Our drinking team has a bowling problem.”
Thompson thought that was funny. I thought it was in poor taste. Excessive bowling destroys families, never mind the accidents caused by people who bowl while driving.
I was stationed in the command post – a counter enclosing cubbyholes with shoes of all sizes, as well as snacks and a soda fountain machine.
I looked for the local Vince Vaughn or maybe a Jon Turturro; some slickster with an alligator-skin bowling ball bag. I quickly identified him.
“Whose that guy?” I asked Thompson. “He looks like he takes his bowling seriously.”
“Norbert – Norbert Mudd. He bowled 414 in three strings last Saturday.”
I waited until Norbert sauntered over to restock the supply of bite-sized Tootsie Rolls he kept in his pocket.
“Dude. Dudeness. El Duderino,” I greeted him.
“The Big Lebowski? The Dude?”
He waved me off. Thompson sold him five 50-50 tickets. I thought I heard Mudd say something about “stupid kids” as he ambled back to his lane.
“What lane is he?” I asked Thompson. Four, he said.
I picked up the microphone: “Lane four, lane four. Please keep your toes behind the foul line. I’m watching you, lane four.”
King Pin’s in its 37th year. It has 16 lanes and is equipped for glow-in-the-dark play. Karaoke in the Gutter’s Edge lounge is a new addition.
“I like to sing a bit of karaoke,” I said. I switched on the microphone. Feedback echoed across the lanes.
“It’s witchcraft,” I crooned, “wicked witchcraft…”
Thompson cut the power. The patrons stared.
“These seniors would boo Michael Bubbly,” I muttered.
And it was mostly seniors. The kids are playing computer games, said Thompson, even if the alley hosts 300-plus birthday parties each year. Obesity rates for kids seem to be rising, he said.
“It takes a lot of energy to bowl. You’re using muscles that you don’t use,” he said.
“I’ve still got a bum elbow from my dart days,” I said.
He smiled but there was steel in his eyes. The former navy man knows a jerk when he meets one.
Our time was up. Easy gig.
“Any parting words for potential bowlers out there?” I asked as I gathered my belongings.
“Parting words? I don’t think so. You’ve still got 46 pairs of shoes to disinfect,” he said. “I saved them special.”
Eric Sparling is At Work with area employers every week. Some of what is written here is true. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org