“I bet the bowling alley will be a ghost town. It’s so sad that no one goes bowling anymore,” I said to Jeff. I was feeling some childhood birthday party nostalgia as we drove to the Hanover Lanes on Route 10, near his parents’ house in northern New Jersey. “Yeah, it’s a dying sport,” he agreed.
He called his parents and asked them if they had any interest in keeping us company while we played a few games, and they said they’d head over.
But, to our surprise, the dark, puddled parking lot was packed with Pontiacs and pick-up trucks. We walked through a crowd of smokers and a cloud of smoke at the door—and into a full-on party.
It was 9pm, and the man at the front desk apologetically explained that Wednesday nights are league nights: We wouldn’t get a lane until 11pm at the earliest. “We’re open tomorrow?”
We thanked him and started zipping up our puffy winter coats to leave. And we stood by the overpriced vending machine while Jeff called his parents to tell them not to come.
As he spoke with his mom, I looked around. There was a skinny, middle-aged couple in matching, tie-dyed ACDC t-shirts and bowling wrist braces. There was an enormous man wearing a signed Rangers jersey and a beret over his unruly dark blonde afro. There were so many sequins. And, most notably, there were beyond-impressive spin moves and strike after nonchalant strike.
“Jeff, there’s no way I’m leaving,” I said.
Jeff hesitated for a moment, then looked around himself. “Mom, you know what? We’re going to sit at the bar and watch the bowlers. Do you still want to come hang out, if we’re not bowling?”
We pulled up two extra plastic black stools next to ours at the pale blue Formica bar and ordered ourselves a pair of Coors Lights. Ten minutes later, Myrna and Marvin walked through the double-glass doors.
“Are you guys familiar with the song Which One of These is Not Like the Other?” I whispered. “That’s us.” But we were clearly appreciators, so no one seemed to mind.
“I hope you’re not waiting for a lane?” the bartender asked smugly.
“Nope!” Jeff responded with pride. “Just here to drink!” The bartender looked confused, but turned to Marvin, “What can I getcha?”
“Do you have Drambuie for a Rusty Nail?”
“Um, I think we have some… somewhere… but I haven’t served it for a pretty long time. It might not be a good idea to drink it.”
“Okay, no problem,” Marvin said. “Then I’ll just have Creme de Menthe on the rocks.” The bartender went through the motion of glancing at his sparse selection of bottles.
“Sorry. It’s just that… Not too many people order Creme de Menthe at the bowling alley.”
Suddenly it was 11pm. Jeff and I were assigned some neon pink and yellow Velcro bowling shoes and Lane 3 after all. I didn’t break 100, but I did throw three strikes in one otherwise-pathetic game.
And, I’m not naming names, but one of our two designated drivers was pulled over on the way home for having her tail lights turned off.
We should really go to the bowling alley more often.