Gutter Language: Going Off the Rails

   Photo: Andrew Riggs/The Collegian/Cal State University – Fresno

Yesterday we signed our six year old son back up for Saturday league bowling.  Last year he was in the “Bumpers” league, but this year he has moved up.  Translation:  He will not be bowling with bumper rails anymore.  He loved it last year, but after his first day this year?  Meh!  Not so much.

Here’s why.  He rolled a lot of gutter balls.   At six, when the bowling ball weighs about 1/6 of your skinny body’s weight, it is kind of hard to muster up the strength to get the ball rolling fast, stay centered, and annihilate the pins at the end without the aid of some bumper rails to help you along the way.  Several times the ball rolled so S-L-O-W-L-Y, it came to a complete STOP just shy of reaching the end of the alley.

So my little munchkin did what any child who is embarrassed would do:   He deliberately rolled another ball in the gutter to push the stalled ball out of the way.  It too stopped.  As did the third one.  Help was summoned.   Yes my child was the recipient of attention when the cavalry was called in to relieve him.  The attendant at the desk carefully made his way down in league-sanctioned shoes, as not to damage the floor, and with a whisper of a push, drove all three balls to their rightful destiny.

Remember when you were a little kid, if you were fortunate enough to have a bunk bed, your parents wouldn’t dream of letting you stay on the top bunk without rails to keep you secure.  Never mind the fact that they felt totally safe letting you sleep the two or three feet off the ground without benefit of rails previously.  Falling six feet onto a barrage of plastic toys beneath is just too dangerous. 

As a little kid you are taught to hold the rails on everything!  Staircases, escalators, you name it!  Somewhere around age five, you realize rails are more fun to hang on, climb on, and weave in and out of when standing in boring long lines.  Their original purpose to keep you safe becomes obscured as you grow and learn to either ignore them, or hang all over them as if they were jungle gym equipment.

Since everything is a metaphor in the mind of Liz Logic, I quickly made the connection yesterday how bowling resembles life.  Profound, no?

We spend our days trying to knock down the pins and get the highest score.  That is to say, we are driven to reach our goals, walk the straight and narrow, or preferably run (for the ultra-ambitious) the (rat) race with endurance, and “get ‘er done”.  Don’t deviate from the path.

Don’t go off the rails!

     Everybody knows someone completely off the rails .  As soon as you read that, you are thinking of someone fairly cuckoo, maybe kind of crazy.  They probably were attracted to seeing what’s on the other side of the rails, or made some choices that took them to the gutter of life like a magnet drawn to steel.

Yes, when we live life without benefit of rails, if you are prone to temptation, you might wind up in the gutter.  That being said, if you are curious, and prone to innovation, then maybe you should risk walking just past the gutter, into the other lane and see what answers or fortunes await you.

Taking risks, asking why, and thinking in terms of “I wonder what would happen if I….” are the dominant thoughts of great scientists, inventors, artists, and technology creators!

Life is full of danger both externally in the world around us, and especially internally by the choices we freely make.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, you become aware the rails are slowly lowering, until one day they are level with the ground.  Soon it’s up to you baby!

  • Sink or swim.
  • Straighten up and fly right.
  • Color inside the lines.
  • Walk the straight and narrow or else!

A little caveat here—this same son who has experienced the embarrassment of a stalled bowling ball (several of them, several times actually!) is also the same child who once when playing skee ball threw the ball so badly, it not only deviated from the walls of his lane, but actually skipped over into the neighboring lane, rolled up the hill, and landed in the 40-point bin.  Score!  Even if it’s for the other team!

What can I say?  That’s my boy!  I love him.  I’m proud of him—even when he veers toward the gutter or jumps the track entirely.

Here’s to you and the choices you make today.  Enjoy life, aim true, and navigate safely when the rails are lowered!

Post script to story:  So I’m surfing Facebook today (8/19/12) and I run across this lovely gem of a pic.  Since I also have a daughter who dances, I had to put this in here.   Stay UNIQUE!

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