Harley’s Bowl was where we rolled, almost every weekend. The 60’s inspired single-story building towered over the otherwise empty field, unless the circus was in town. The bleak architecture neither inspired nor dissuaded us. The Nihilists weren’t scripted yet, there were no Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. No, it was the shine of the oiled lanes that drew us inside. Well that and the nachos.
That summer, Harley’s was our numero uno hangout. With rented shoes and sore thumbs, we mingled with the drunks and degenerates who welcomed us with open arms. We bowled our asses off, man, and when we were finished we would request a print-out of our scores, averages, and ranks. We were bowlers, man. I’m not afraid to admit that I bowled my best game when I was eleven years old.
Our friends’ parents usually dropped us off, and when we were done our parents picked us up. The payphone was outside on the opposite side of the entrance. The chipped blue metal box, atop a frayed phone book that dangled by a chain, was bolted onto the long white cinder block wall. It was so depressing that even ET would pass it up. My brother and I always checked the coin slot for an errant dime and when it wasn’t there, row-sham-bow was invoked to see who would make the collect call. It was like asking a neighbor for flower, and though not afraid neither one of us were totally keen to do it.
“Operator, please press 2 to make a collect call.” The recorded lady always sounded attractive, though a little robotic.
“Press two dude,” said the winner of row-sham-bow.
“I know. Shut up, man,” said the loser.
“After the beep, please state your name.”
“Peek Meyup,” said the loser. It was important to say it quickly, without pause.
527-0852 would ring, and once answered the following recorded message would play in the receiver: Collect call from Peek Meyup, press 1 to accept or 3 to decline?
Mom would snicker, press 3 to decline, and come pick us up. That summer, we probably saved over three bucks.
Just before fall, the phone company, undoubtedly incentivized by the government, replaced the automated system with a real human being. Once again, our jig was up. The operator just wouldn’t believe that we came from a special colony in the mountains that named their kids after their first sentence. So we walked, and my skinny legs became even skinnier. Damn humans!
Originally posted January 28, 2011 from London.
Categories: Creative Writing