Bowling With Dinosaurs: Having Fun With Accessibility
I love bowling! I am not any good at it, but even though I don’t think I have gotten a strike EVER, I still love it.
Bowling is like the national sport of Vietnam, so when I lived there I went bowling a lot. Every shopping center has a bowling alley, and the locals take it really really seriously. To the point that 5-year-olds will start taking lessons and I have witnessed them rolling strikes (while I couldn’t).
What I couldn't tell anyone is that bowling hurts!
After rolling a few games I couldn't use my arm for a week! But, in Vietnam, when someone invites you to do something, you do it. So, I would go on average twice a week with friends and students. I couldn't say “no” and come across as rude. It was a tough situation to be in socially and physically.
Needless to say, after moving back to the US, I didn't go bowling again.
My day with a purple dinosaur
And I don’t mean Barney. Fast forward to the Summer of 2019.
My Spondylitis Association of America support group wanted to do a group event outside of the university classroom where we meet monthly. Kinda as a way to get out in public with all of our creakiness and live a little.
My co-leader Kristen had a great idea. Because most of the people in the group had limited mobility and unlimited pain, we would rent out two lanes. One completely normal, and the other with all the accommodations the place could provide.
Not ashamed to use the bumpers!
This basically meant putting the bumpers up and using one of the ramps that allow you to roll the ball. You often see these ramps only being used by people in wheelchairs because they can’t roll from a seated position. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to let people see seemingly healthy adults using one, along with the bumpers often reserved for little children.
Driving to the bowling alley, I received a text from Kristen.
“The veggie tray is served, and our dinosaur just arrived!”
What I pictured was a man dressed in a dinosaur costume. What I found was this!
Kristen figured that because we share a name and condition with the Ankylosaurus, it would be perfect for us to use this dinosaur-shaped ramp! And think about how much attention we can get from this!
Bowling like everyone else
We had a great time bowling!
I did not feel awkward at all rolling my ball down a ramp made for children on a gutterball proof lane. In fact, I probably had the most fun I’d ever had bowling. Knowing my back isn't going to break, my arm isn’t going to fall off, and no matter what I do my ball is going to hit something took every ounce of stress off me and allowed me to actually enjoy it.
In “River Denial” fashion I bowled one frame without the ramp. I knocked over 8 pins and instantly regretted it. Sometimes you just need a good reminder of why you don’t do something.
While I don’t think we drew much attention bowling with accommodations, I'm sure a few people saw us. They probably thought we were immature adults, but nobody said anything. Had anyone asked, we would have given them our story and handed them a pamphlet. But, maybe deep down they understood what was going on.
Plus there was a dad at a birthday party who was wearing a belly shirt, cut off jean shorts and a mullet wig to probably embarrass his kid, so all eyes were on him.
Yes, some accommodations are reserved for little kids, but that does not mean adults can’t use them. If there is a way to make life a little less painful, you should not be afraid to use them. This, of course, does not only apply to bowling with dinosaur-shaped ramps, but to motorized shopping carts, blue parking spaces, and asking for help loading your car.
Don’t think of these as giving up or cheating the system, but as using what is available to you so you can live your life a little bit better.
Oh, and on a side note, my dinosaur and I got a strike. See, totally worth it!
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?