Bowling With the Work Crew (A night of losing)

I got this email from one of the contractor companies we work with.  It said keep a certain Saturday clear so that we can do something as a group.  This excited me.  I love doing things as a group!  It doesn't happen often here, so this was a welcome event for me.  I responded immediately that I would clear that Saturday.  Even more exciting was the fact that the event that evening would be disclosed at a later date.  What?  This was getting better and better.

A week or so later we got word that the event would be bowling.  Even better!  I'm not "great" at bowling, but I can hang with other novice bowlers.  Not to brag, but when I was 12, my brother and I got bowling balls for Christmas.  They came in their own bags, too!  Like professionals.  For context, we never so much as got holes drilled into the balls.  I don't know what ever happened to those bowling balls.  I hope someone found them and used them properly.  Back then my mother taught us how to bowl.  It was fun.  100 was always my measuring stick.  If I bowled over 100 I would be happy with my performance.

I didn't bowl very often throughout my life until I got to Turkey.  The bowling alley on base was a fun hang out.  My friend Marco had a technique that I really liked.  He would release the ball and it would make a curving motion down the lane.  I had been bowling in a straight line.  I wanted Marco to teach me his cool trick.   He explained the technique.  A step over to the right, two fingers in the holes, ball rested in your palm, release with thumb pointed upward.  I tried it.  STRIKE!  No way!  I tried it the next time around.  STRIKE!  Wow.  Marco was impressed as well.  Had he created a monster?

Of course my performance regressed a bit.  But I felt this new way of bowling was perfect for me.  The spin of the ball was cool and the way it looked like a gutterball, but turned into a good pickup was appealing.  This was my new way to bowl.  I bowled the most I had bowled in my life.  I was never spectacular, but I was better than before.  Now I'd be utterly disappointed if I bowled under 100.

I have only been bowling three times in Sweden.  Once when I was here visiting that cute girl I met on vacation in Turkey.  Once with that girl (Swedie)'s family and once for a friend's birthday.  I don't know how well I did on those outings.  I never took it too seriously anyway.  Standard for me is to try hard the first game, get better the second game thanks to alcohol and then try different tricks the third time around.  I was never the best, but never the worst.  Bowling was what it's supposed to be.  It was fun.  No pressure.

I figured it would be the same with my work family.  I was sure I'd be rusty, but I'd shake that off and then get back to my regular fun bowling and finish hopefully over my measuring mark of 100.  This would be fun. Especially after a few beers.

We got there and hovered around the people that were finishing up at our lanes.  It was so passive-aggressive that I almost got Swedish citizenship.  Don't say anything to the people.  Just hover and chit-chat amongst yourselves.  Then act as if you're accidentally in the way when the people grab their jackets and push their way past you.

       - Oy! Sorry, is that yours?  Am I in the way? Sorry.

Knowing damn well we're there to pressure those people to leave.  Oh, Swedes.  You're hilarious.  I digress.  We got started.  I could tell everyone was sizing each other up.  It's funny how things are unspoken competitions.  I told myself I wouldn't buy into it.  I was here for the team building.  I'd have a good time and probably win anyway because I'm decent at bowling.  I sent my first ball down the lane.  My release was okay I thought.  Maybe it would curve too much.  The ball slid all the way across the lane from right to left into the gutter.  I was shocked.  A gutterball?  I turned around to all the Swedes watching and judging.  A couple of them were laughing.  Some felt sorry for me.  You know what?  I'll bowl a strike to pick up my spare and show them.  The ball curved a little less this time.  I hit ONE pin.

Now I was the laughing stock of the night already!  My confidence wasn't shaken.  I'd bowl a turkey (three strikes) tonight.  I was sure of it.  I came up the next time, then the next, then the next.  Basically the same shit.  Now I was walking back in shame and hearing tips from these average bowlers that I was SURE I was just as good as.  I was having fun, but I was determined to show that I wasn't as bad as I looked.  Eventually everyone was telling me to stop spinning the ball.  I hadn't bowled straight since that magical night in Turkey.  My best bowling had been using Marco's Curve.  I was going to either go down in flames with it or rise like a Phoenix with it.

I went down in flames!  My first game I bowled a 25.  I watched little awkward children with the athletic ability of a newborn deer bowl better than me in other lanes.  It was just gutterball after gutterball.  Halfway through the game I realized that we were on TEAMS.  I was DESTROYING my team.  Now I felt pressure to switch to bowling like I was 12 again.  Somehow that would be more of a loss to me.  I had too much pride.  Plus I KNEW I could meet those pins with Marco's Curve.  The second game I bowled a whopping 45.  Not even a damn 50.  Not even HALF of my goal at the AGE OF TWELVE!

I wanted to prove myself.  I wanted to have a third game and show that I know how to bowl for real.  I looked behind our table and saw the next group of passive-aggressive Swedes quietly chatting amongst themselves just like we did the last group.  It was over.  And yes by "it" I mean life. I was at the absolute lowest point I could think of.  Everybody felt sorry for me.  My boss was trying to negotiate a scoring curve for us since we had a "special bowler" on the team.  Somehow through it all I still had a good time.  We would have dinner and play more games tonight.  Maybe I'd redeem myself.

Next up was shuffleboard.  My team lost (yes because of me AGAIN).  We'd play the losers from the other board.  Cool, we got this... No we don't.  I knocked my partner's potential winning marker off the board on my last try.  Good one, Jon.  We lost to the losers.  I don't know how my confidence remained in tact.  I did win a "Whack-a-Mole" type of game against one of the contractors.  That's my consolation prize.  I also out-punched another guy on this punch meter game.  Great, I was a fucking neanderthal.

I went to pee away my sorrow.  I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands.  I reassured myself that these were just games.  It meant nothing.  It was fun hanging out with the guys from work.  The night was awesome.  Keep having fun, man.  It's not like you said bowling is your thing.  You'd kick their asses in something like basketball.  THAT'S more your thing.

I walked up to the group.  It was time to go to a bar.  They were standing around a basketball game.  They had been shooting.  The VP pointed at the game and put money in.  It was my turn.  They told me the score I had to beat to not be the complete loser tonight.  This is my game.  I can play some basketball.  I'll spare you the drama.  I fucking lost.  Again.  This just wasn't my night.  That's alright. It was everybody's night.  We went to a bar far away from any games from hell and had drinks together. It was a great night out just as advertised.  Now I have to live with random comments about how I suck at bowling.  I can't wait to prove them wrong at the next outing.  Until next time...

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