By Michelle Roach
When imagining the typical bowler, you probably think of a middle-aged to older gentlemen with a beer belly. At 25 years old, female, and actively trying to avoid a beer belly, I am definitely a standout on my bowling league. Another time I stood out on the lanes was when I went bowling with 18 people with blindness or vision loss at Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired’s recreational event in Eau Claire.
The event was from noon to 4pm and we all had a blast. Some of the people at the event had never bowled before and others were captains of their blind bowling league. New and seasoned bowlers approached the lanes using adaptive railings that led straight up to the line. We ate pizza, joked with one another, met new people, and bowled for a few solid hours. You could hear each person’s “yes!” as they heard the ball hit the pins and each person’s sigh, yelp, or “shucks!” when they heard the ball hit the gutter from anywhere in the alley. We were definitely the life of the party!
When it was time to pack up, while everyone was getting their things together and bundling back up to go out into the cold February afternoon, I was making sure we had all of the Council’s stuff put away, that the lanes were cleaned up, and that my passengers were all ready to go. When we had everything set, I took my stuff outside and led Gene, Joe, and Lee (who were all visually impaired) to our Subaru. All of us were pooped from a fun day; Gene and Joe even took a snooze on our way back to Madison. While they slept, Lee and I had great conversation about bowling, the Capitol building, employment, clothes and shopping, and much more. While Lee was talking about her favorite old dresses, I was fidgeting with the heat, and reached down to pull off my stuffy boot. When my hand met my heel, I realized that I wasn’t wearing my boots at all; I was halfway home with my bowling shoes still on my feet!
I casually mentioned to Lee when she ended her story, “So…I still have my bowling shoes on…” and after a few seconds of silence, we both started laughing. We both recounted what everyone was doing for the last ten minutes at the alley and realized that I hadn’t stopped for a minute to put my shoes back on. Lee then made the appropriate, obvious, and tacky joke: “Well, no one could see that you still had them on!” and we laughed some more. In all the years I have been bowling, I couldn’t think of the last time I had forgotten to trade back my bowling shoes for street shoes. However, I could remember hundreds of times when I was on my way out the door and a friend pointed down at my feet, laughing, “Leave your bowling shoes here, Michelle!” and all of the times I teased my friends after I noticed that they were also trying to go home with theirs.
This particular moment, many others of laughter, and even others of discomfort that I experience while spending time with folks who are blind strengthen my understanding of what it is to “see” and be aware. I believe that most people with vision loss are more self-aware than I am in a number of ways, and I appreciate learning from my blind and visually impaired peers how I can become better at noticing all parts of each experience. And, rest assured, I won’t forget to look down at my own two feet before I leave the bowling alley next time!