Friday, November 18, 2016

I was a teenage pinsetter

I was once a pinsetter. Really. The grade school associated with the high school I went to had ten bowling lanes. On the third floor. Honestly. What possessed the builders of St. Hedwig Grade School to put bowling lanes on the third floor is beyond me.

When school was out for the day five of us high school boys would set pins. We got two lanes at a time, and would jump back and forth maintaining them, sitting on a perch in between throws. The lanes were actually semi-automatic. We'd take pins out the pit at the end of the lane and place them in a triangular rack, which was motorized, then hit a switch to reset the pins after the bowler's two throws. There was a track to set the balls on to roll them back to the player.

There were only two real drawbacks. One was that we might be hit by flying pins while on our perches. The second was that there were no rakes. You know, the sliding things which drop down after a ball has hit the pins. That was only a problem when and if a bowler wasn't paying attention and threw a ball while you were in the pit. We learned early on not to return a ball until we were out of the it. Yet that couldn't stop some anxious player from grabbing another ball to finish his turn.

I was only hit by a ball once. While down in the pit I heard the distinct rumble of the ball. I looked up through a window which allowed pinsetters to see the down the lane, saw the ball disappear into the bottom of it, and before any of my choicest expletives could clear my throat, the ball cracked me square in the left shin. Man did that hurt.

The guy who threw it ran to the back apologizing profusely, and it left one large welt. But I finished my shift, and other than that, I genuinely enjoyed pinsetting.

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