The perfect game (10:07 p.m.)

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

John Hildreth spends his nights talking about strikes, spares and gutter balls.

The 22-year-old manager at Oak Mountain Lanes in Pelham said his job is mainly making sure customers are happy.

Hildreth changed career paths three years ago when a family friend called and told him about a position at the bowling alley. He had previously been a delivery driver.

Hildreth was hesitant at first because he wasn’t much of a bowler at the time.

“I bowled when I was a kid, but I wasn’t a bowler when I started working here,” Hildreth said. “We are not forced to bowl, but if you do, you are able to help people who are having trouble.”

So Hildreth started spending his time off work at the alley bowling. Since he started bowling, Hildreth said his game has improved — he bowled a 245 in his best game and also has a split under his belt – enough for him to play in leagues.

Though there is plenty of work for Hildreth to do making customers happy, most of his stressful work comes behind the glossy lanes.

“The machines are a lot bigger and intricate than people think. They have hundreds of moving parts,” Hildreth said. “It can get stressful, especially when it’s a full house.”

As 30-pound bowling balls slammed into pins, Hildreth points out a machine that was broken earlier in the night.

“We try not to work on them while people are bowling,” Hildreth said.

Hildreth said when all 32 lanes are full with bowlers he sometimes has to work on the broken machines as people continue to play.

Though stressful at times, Hildreth said there are also some funny moments on the job.

“(The funny parts) are all the people that goof around and bowl,” Hildreth said. “Also, if they cross that line people don’t realize it is slick, and they fall.”