The Price of Oddity and Vanity

He looked around to make sure that no one was looking.  Finding that no heads were turned his way, he began his journey with what he called his “burden” in one hand and his “just in case” in the other.  The air was stale with cheap tobacco smoke and these borrowed shoes pinched his feet—not to mention they repulsed at least two of his other senses.  As he grew closer to the line, his steps grew slow and deliberate.  A prayer continued its loop through his tedious mind, “All at once, all at once.”  Before he realized it, he had arrived.  The red line was now beneath him.  He placed his “just in case” carefully on the floor beside him.  He breathed deeply, closed his eyes, lifted his “burden” close to his heart and stepped back.  In one sweeping motion, his arm swung forward and released the ball quickly onto the floor.  As his ball rushed forward towards the teeming pins, he held his breath.  The crash of pins broke the silence.  His lips moved faintly as he counted the felled adversaries: seven, eight, nine!  Nine?!  Only nine?
“I just needed one more,” he said through gritted teeth.  He swung an angry fist in the through the murky air and picked up the “just in case” ball.
For most people, not seeing an X the first time, every time is a disappointing but normal fact of life.  For George, this was a matter of social life and death as he saw it.  He was not bowling for a championship of any kind, nor had he made any bets or hopes of besting anyone.  No, today, he had brought along a few friends.  Their bowling skills were average and they were friendly people.  So what’s the problem, you might ask?  To find this answer, think back to your first bowling experiences with your friends.  If you were unable to get a strike right off, you were forced to wait for the pins to be cleared and for the ball to come back to you.  Thus a rather long awkward waiting period would ensue.  This is the embarrassing social pressure that George could not live under.
Hurriedly, he threw the “just in case” ball as fast he could.  If done correctly, this would ensure that the awkward forty-five second pause of shame and humiliation could be successfully avoided.  However, there was much skill involved in the timing. If he threw too late, the gate would come down and he might forever lose his privilege to bowl in this alley.  This time though, the gods must have been smiling upon him, for he nailed the last pin right before the machine came down to grab it.  He turned crisply, walked quickly to the scoreboard, pushed the button, and sat down.  He was glad to see that his plan had worked so well.  As he looked around at the handful of other bowlers, he felt something like pity for them as they stood dumbly waiting for their balls to return.  The silence seemed to mock them as they stood giving everyone watching, a chance to revel in the fact that that bowler missed.  George’s friends though were very impressed with his feat–that or dumbfounded.  Either way, at least he didn’t look ridiculous.

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