Entry 3

Still no bowling pins.

Dick told us on Monday that they were very dirty, and he was sending them to Syracuse to be cleaned. They wouldn’t be back until Wednesday, he declared.

I, for one, am extremely grateful that he has denied us access to the pins. All these drills, isolating the bowling into individual movements, keeps me from worrying about how many pins I’m knocking down. I can’t compare myself to anyone else, except to notice how much better my mother is at rolling the bowling ball to me in a kneeling position. And, ultimately, I’m not so competitive that her superiority there really gets me down (besides, I’m better than her in the balance drills).

A group we bowled with this morning
A group we bowled with this morning

After three days of bowling with these folks, I can honestly say that I have almost no idea who is a better bowler than I am. I’m not embarrassed to make mistakes in front of any of them. I’ve seen them all throw the ball into the gutter, drop the ball too soon, fling it out too far onto the lanes, or just plain fall down.

Some of them are bound to be close to 200-average bowlers (the men I’ve overheard at meals always get around to asking each other their averages—the asker always seems to have a higher average than the askee, but he works that information in very modestly, of course. I have no idea what any of the women’s averages are). In the drills, however, high average or low, we all look equally stupid. Hands on hips, sliding around and chanting in cadence, the 6-footers look much sillier than the rest of us. Is that why the coaches make us all do it?

But while the drills do make us look silly, at least at first, they also, eventually, let us all excel. When everything gets reduced to a small movement that we can practice on its own, we all learn it. This morning we tried getting what looked like empty masking tape rolls to roll backward toward ourselves. I took immense, ridiculous pleasure in getting my tape roll to roll towards me on the first try. Other members of my group were not so talented. Some took ages to master their tape rolls. But I, I had mine cowed immediately. Sure, Jason looks like one of those guys who could power the ball into the pocket with a sonic boom. But kneeling on the floor, spinning a roll of tape, I had him beat hands down.

The tape exercise bore fruit immediately, as we moved to bigger and better things—kneeling on the floor and rolling a ball to our partners, using the technique we practiced on the tape rolls. I found that I could get much better spin on the ball now that I could work with tape. Wax on, wax off.

Rich, coaching Mom on her Free Pendulum Swing
Rich, coaching Mom on her Free Pendulum Swing

They did let us stand up eventually. We did more work on balance, and I worked on the Free Pendulum Swing some more, finding that if I don’t lean forward at the waist, I end up pushing or “muscling” the ball toward the pins (or where they would be if they were there). Muscling is bad. Free pendulum swing is good. Dick says to repeat the word “easy” as you release the ball. It helps. I’m a lot more likely to “let the ball do the work” if I’m saying “easy.”

But telling yourself to relax is a complicated business. Yesterday I had an extremely tense time of it during the end-of-session relaxation exercise, because I had to keep translating the voice on the relaxation tape for my mom, who was lying next to me. The sound quality was poor, the tape had a somewhat posh British accent, and my mom can’t hear so well. It didn’t leave me with a pleasant feeling of well-being. Likewise being told to relax by a coach who has his hand on your arm during your backswing.

“Easy, Paula.”

I think the pins are back from their metaphorical trip to Syracuse tomorrow. I don’t want them back. I don’t want to know, really. But I guess I’ll have to face it eventually. I’ll have to see whether I can knock down more pins now than I could last week. I wish I could just continue in this scoreless limbo for a few more days. I know we won’t be keeping score tomorrow, even if the pins are back. But the comparisons are bound to start.