The Bowling Alley Revelation
How My Sister’s Embarrassing Mishap Led Me To My Passion
This incident occurred about 50 years ago. So I am not saying that I remember it all accurately. And although I could ask my sister – since it is her incident, not mine – I really don’t want her to screw up my memories with facts.
Because, after all, it is the way I perceived it then and the way I remember it now that makes it important to me.
So I don’t care whether all the details are 100% correct. And if you are wondering whether any of this is exaggerated… well, holy crap, I am a writer! Of course, it is exaggerated.
But probably not much.
It was a small, but crazy, event, and I don’t have to embellish it very much to bring out the crazy.
So here goes:
About 50 years ago, my sister had a weird accident.
She was commuting to college because she liked living at home. She liked my mother and father and my other sister and my brother, and even inexplicably liked me too, a brooding high-schooler.
Her college required her to take a phys-ed course. This was back in the war-protesting, hippie days, and no one wanted to take phys-ed. But it was a requirement, and so she signed up for the least offensive course she could find – Bowling.
Once a week, she went to a bowling alley near campus and bowled for an hour with her other classmates. How the school thought Bowling would advance her higher education or prepare her for adulthood, I do not know. Perhaps the math skills portion of life. Or the cheerful wearing of someone else’s shoes.
The bowling alley was very old. She described it to me once as “dark and sticky”. So although I never went there, I had a very distinct idea of the place.
Not all the equipment worked well. And on the day of the “incident”, it was the ball return machine that was being cantankerous. It was really slow and the bowlers would have to wait so long to get their balls back that they were bowling with two balls to speed things up a bit. And there did not seem to be quite enough power to spit the ball out of the return. And so the bowling ball would sort of just sit inside the edge of the bowling ball cave.
The solution was to just kind of stick your hand in there and coax that sucker out.
So that’s how the kids bowled that day – alternating between two balls and prying out reluctant balls from the return machine.
And at some point, my sister put her fingers into the top of the ball return to pull a ball out exactly when another ball came up the return and smacked the first ball. And jammed her fingers between the machine and the ball. And she was painfully (but not too dangerously) stuck. Everyone tried to get her fingers out. They tried pushing the ball back into the hole – but it was completely immovable. They pulled at her fingers and pushed at the ball, but it just got tighter and tighter.
The bowling alley manager called the fire department, who might have been able to put out a fire or save a cat stuck in a tree, but who could not get my sister’s fingers out of the ball machine.
Someone got my sister a chair. In the meantime, her fingers were starting to swell, which hurt and only made matters worse as far as how tightly they and the ball were wedged.
The only thing they could do was take the machine apart. But they could not power off the ball return. They had to shut off the power to the whole building. Everyone had to stop bowling. Leagues went home.
And so the utility company shut off the power and the bowling alley maintenance guy took the machine apart.
And my sister came home with fingers as big and red as Polish sausages.
My mother was distraught. She’s a nurse and she realized how close my sister had come to losing her fingers. But nothing was broken – only very badly bruised. And once my sister began to recover (or perhaps a little before, since we are a cruelly sardonic family), we could not stop howling over the sheer hilarious insanity of the whole incident.
But here’s the thing:
I adored my sister. (Still do.) And I wanted to be like her in every way. I copied her shamelessly as a kid. Dressing like her and taking up her hobbies. Tagging along. (And by the way, she generously let me.)
But I imagine that most people would be thinking, “I’m so glad that wasn’t me!”, and guessing that this would have been the day when I stopped envying my sister.
But you’d be wrong.
Because the thing I remember most about that day, half a century ago, was that I was JEALOUS.
Yes, I was jealous of my sister’s humiliating idiotic bowling alley incident. Jealous of her sitting in a chair with her fingers stuck in the machine, with the fire truck in the parking lot and the utility company shutting down the power. I kind of hoped they had to shut down the whole city.
And WHY was I jealous?
Because it was SUCH A GOOD STORY!
And that was my first inkling that I wanted to be a writer.