I had a good time. It was awful, but I had a good time. The it in question was my performance at pool. I knew roughly how the game was supposed to be played. I had to use the stick thing to push a white ball toward one of the many other balls scattered around the table. When hit, this second ball would then obligingly fall into one of six holes, leading my opponent to cheer and clap wildly and insist I go again.
Unfortunately, this is not how things actually turned out. The problem was, we rented a table that had a set of badly defective balls, not to mention pockets that were far too small. That’s why, no matter how energetically I used the wooden pole to whack the white ball in the direction of the stripy or spotty ones, I could never get any of them to disappear down the holes.
The sad result of being forced to use such substandard equipment was that at no stage did my playing partner have an opportunity to applaud my efforts, although I did at least manage to elicit a couple of sniggers from the people at the next table. How wonderful to know that I was able to bring a little joy into their lives.
Yet, despite being deceived into renting abominably substandard equipment, I can truthfully say that I still had an enjoyable time. This was because the person I was playing against was a) an old friend back in town for a brief visit, and b) of a level of sporting excellence very similar to my own.
Things were slightly awkward at the beginning of our game, of course. We’d never played pool against each other before—indeed, I hadn’t played pool against anyone for a couple of decades—so my friend was uneasy for the first ten or fifteen minutes. He didn’t relax until it gradually became clear to him that the standard of play I was exhibiting was an accurate reflection of my true ability and not the first stage of some elaborate Paul Newman-style hustle.
We did our best with the skinny wooden bats we were given and waved them enthusiastically all over the place, but the balls remained stubbornly on the table throughout, although in an impressive number of different configurations. We had so little success in clearing the table, I eventually came to believe neither of us would ever be able to get anything down a pocket, even if we held a ball directly over one of them and tried hitting it through with a mallet. Eventually, we completely ran out of time to clear the balls, having only booked the table for two hours.
It was true our game had not been as successful as I’d hoped. In fact, by the end, it seemed to have provoked an alarming degree of amusement from nearby players. Nevertheless, daunting as it was to walk right past all those stifled guffaws, I somehow found the courage I needed. It came to me the moment I realized there were bars on the restroom windows. Since the beer had been pretty good, and also because I felt sorry for the staff, I decided not to make a scene and complain about the faulty balls and pool clubs they’d given us. Instead, I simply paid my money, threw my change toward my jacket pocket, and sprinted for the door.
There was some talk of continuing the sporting theme of the evening by next going bowling. But then my friend said he was pretty sure players were not allowed to throw their bowling balls with two hands. This seemed to complicate the rules unnecessarily, so we gave up and decided to go to an Irish pub instead.
© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)
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