Bowling For Pizza, Bowling For Fun

Every Sunday the bowling alley at WPAFB has “Family Day.” For $6.00 per person you get 3 lines of bowling, shoe rental, a slice of pizza, and a small soda. Sounds like a lot, but when you factor in the real costs – games are normally $2.45 a line, shoes $1, pizza $1.25 slice, and a small soda is $.75, it’s a bargain.

Yesterday the place was packed; Family Day starts at 1pm and we got there at about 1:05, when there was already a long line at the counter to get a lane. We counted the people and determined we’d have no problem getting a lane right off, so we waited, paid our money and got our Free Pizza ticket, then got our balls and shoes out of the locker (yep, the free shoe rental is wasted on us; we’re the geeky people who try to bowl at least once a week) and started to bowl.

It was a good bowling day. Unlike last Sunday, when I couldn’t seem to get the ball off my hand without turning my wrist or crossing my arm in front of my body (and the scores showed it), everything felt right. I was hitting my mark, my delivery felt smooth, and I was picking up spares.

I even got one terribly ugly split, the kind you expect only people with 200+ averages to pick up (and that is so not me), and told the Spouse Thingy that if I picked it up, he owed me dinner out. It was a safe bet; I left a 4-7-9-10 split. We both knew I could get the 4-7, but tip the 4 over into the 9 and have it take out the 10? No fricking way.

Oh yeah. He owes me dinner out.

We got halfway through our second game when a family took the lane next to ours. They had with them a little girl, about 3 or 4 years old (so, of course, the bumpers went up). We both like watching little kids bowl; they try so hard to mimic the adults, right up to sticking their ball-side leg out after rolling the ball.

This little girl, though, wasn’t intent on mimicking anyone. She just wanted to have fun.

Every time she rolled the ball, she squealed “YAY!!!!” and clapped her hands.
Every time her mother or father rolled the ball, she squealed “YAY!!!” and clapped her hands.
Every other roll or so she added “I did it!” or “Daddy did it!”

It didn’t matter whether or not any pins were knocked over. She had no concept of the score or who was winning. It didn’t matter. She got to use a bright orange ball, and she got to go out there and set it down, then push it with both hands, and she got to watch it roll. If it hit pins, great. If not, that was fine, too.

We spent more time watching her, laughing at her sheer joy. We paid less attention to our own scores, mostly because we didn’t care. We were having too good a time watching this little girl have the time of her life.

I can clearly remember thinking that I wish I had ever had that much fun playing a game. The things I do, I want to do well. I want to break my average every time I bowl (which, when you think about, is borderline stupid, because breaking it just makes it go up every time, and ceases to be “average.”) When I’m involved any game—Scrabble or Monopoly or golf or fricking Tiddly Winks—I want to win.

It clicked.
That’s not playing.
That’s working.

The best thing… when I stopped paying attention to my own game, which was actually going pretty well, and started enjoying this little girl’s sense of fun and accomplishment, I started doing even better. I topped my average by at least 16 pins.

I was actually playing at the game, not working at it.

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