Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We Used to Set Pins.

You get various odd jobs when you're a kid. Yes, even I worked on occasion. Some might find that hard to believe that, but I did. I started out working on a farm (read my first of second blog), of course there were house chores, mainly washing dishes, cutting grass, I had a brief job with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a door to door salesman, I was an alter boy (no jokes please), and during 7th and 8th grade I was a pin setter.

The alleys were in the basement of our gymnasium. BTW, we had the best gym in the city, probably still do. Jay-Z and Kanye West rented it out when they were in Pittsburgh, my friend's kid got their autograph, but that's beside the point. The league was a church league, I believe they bowled on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Despite being a church league, many of the bowlers were very foul mouthed and rude pricks. There was about six lanes.

Me, my buddy, and my brother all set pins. My dad encouraged us to get the job cause he used to set pins. We worked with a couple kids that went to the local public high school, Ken, and I think, Ralph. Ken was kind of a creepy pale skinned kid that talked weird. Ralph was cool, he'd play soul and reggae music. Ken would debate with Ralph about certain wrestlers and we would be entertained by the discussion. This was late 80's and early 90's.

It was hard work. I was still recovering from a surgery I had about a year before. They really sliced me open good and scraped about 50% of my tibia. Behind the pins is kind of like a pit, and the pins are sort of above, on a wooden platform at the end of the lane. There's a pedal you press with your foot, that will drive up spikes. The pins had little holes on the bottom and you'd set them on spikes. If it was their first ball, you'd just clear away the pins. If it was their second, you'd reset them. You'd always set the ball in the ball return first, before you did any clearing or resetting of pins.

The work was repetitive and draining. You'd always leave sore, or with a sweat. Most of the time I just wanted to work one lane, the high school kids worked 2 lanes at a time, my buddy could do 2 at a time. That was always intimidating.

The bowlers could be obnoxious and I'm sure they made jokes about the pinsetters. I'm unclear what happened one night, I don't know what was said, but I think one of the bowlers made an ethnic slur at Ralph. There was almost a confrontation. Ralph should've beat the shit out of the bowler. The bowlers were assholes, most of them. Most of them weren't very good either.

One night I was working two lanes and was feeling a bit stressed out. Hustling back and forth between lanes, not thinking very clearly. I entered a lane as ball was coming down. I heard screams from the bowlers for me to get out. I was in the pit, behind the pins. I shielded my bad leg and took most of the pins to thigh and waist, on the my right side (the good side). I was kind of rattled. My pride was hurt. I was embarrassed.

Other than being emotionally shaken, it really didn't hurt, though I was bracing for the worst. I continued to work that night, it was no big deal.

I think we got like 9$ for 2.5/3 hours of work, we may have had to split it. That's not a lot of money, for the effort we put into it. I should try to stop down there sometime next time I'm in town during the week. I wonder if the league is still in effect.

As high school came around, I came to my senses and quit the job, realizing it wasn't worth the effort. I can't say I regret the experience. It probably saved me from watching TV or playing video games.  It also kept me in shape and allowed me to buy tennis accessories. (Tennis was also very big back then).

Set 'eem up.

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