Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bourgeois Bowling

Growing up in Ohio, bowling was a very popular activity among the working and middle-classes. From the time I was 5 until about 15, birthday parties were often held at bowling alleys, with bowling AND pizza to follow. It was practically nirvana for kids to be invited to a bowling/pizza party. Even afterwards, through my 20s, bowling was and and is a blast. Thus, I was very excited this past weekend when I had the opportunity to go bowling in Rio. However, I should have known what I was getting into.

For those who have never been bowling (what is wrong with you people?), they are usually extremely…“functional” places. You go. You bowl. Period. No super-nice decorations. No “classy” environment. Some alleys are a bit better than others (particularly in Akron, which is apparently the bowling capital of the world and hosts a few professional bowling events every year); however, the difference between one bowling alley and another are never as different as, say, upstate New York vs. rural Mississippi. Bowling tends to be a working- to mid-middle class event in the states, and the alleys match their clientele.

Not in Rio. I should have known what I was getting into, given that the bowling alley was Barra de Tijuca, one of the (if not the) wealthiest parts of the city. However, this was unlike any bowling I’ve ever seen. The only way to describe it is absolute bougie-bowling.

To begin with, they charged by the hour, and oh, did they charge. It cost 56 reais (roughly 25 bucks) for four people to bowl for ONE hour (roughly two games), and that didn’t include shoes (again, for those who never go bowling, you can usually pay about 15 bucks for four people to bowl for 3 games in the states). Additionally, this was the fanciest bowling alley I’ve ever seen. It was painfully clean (to the point of glaringly white walls), there was no stale smoke smell, there were no stains on the carpet, none of those little machines where you try to grab an ugly stuffed animal with the claw, none of this. There was an honest-to-god liquor bar that served vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky, and other fancy, expensive drinks (no choice between only Miller or Miller Lite here).

As for the clientele, it was CLEARLY wealthy (upper-middle class to upper class), and they dressed like it (this is the first time I have ever seen pumps and jewelry at a bowling alley) and, not surprisingly, as white as the pure driven snow. In contrast, the wait staff (yes, there was wait staff) was noticably brown, were dressed like waiters, and did EVERYTHING for you (whether you wanted them to or not). Thus, they came to your lane and put your names in the computer before you could start, and kept coming by to see if you wanted any drinks, food, etc. This sat rather poorly for me – where I come from, if you don’t know how to operate the computer, you have no right to bowl.

It ended up being enjoyable, save for the obnoxious kid in the lane over who would dance his way into our lane WHILE WE WERE BOWLING, which is one of the greatest sins there is at the bowling alley and which actually affected my score twice (the little bastard was lucky – Walter would have pulled out his piece and shot the kid on the spot). However, as we paid the 78 reais (35 bucks – some of our party got drinks), I remained somewhat amazed at the notion that bowling was a status symbol here. I just kept saying to myself…

“You’d never find the Dude here…”