I spent last night playing pool.
This is not a game I am any good at, though I do enjoy it. So when a friend of mine invited me over to one of his “guys’ pool nights,” I thought I’d go. I’ve been to a couple of them before and enjoyed them.
I learned to play pool in a church.
When I was a kid, most of the Sundays I spent in church I spent in the basement, where the Sunday school was. We’d sit up in the nave for the first half of the service, and then – in a rite of rather dubious religious significance, now that I think about it – the flag-bearers would come down the aisle, one with the American flag and one with what we were told was the Episcopal flag, do-si-do at the end, and head back up to the front. The American flag was always supposed to be on the right for some reason. And we kids would follow along behind them and out the door, to head down to the basement, while the grown-ups listened to the sermon. I think they envied us.
And there in the basement I learned all of the basics of Christianity as well as a few social skills that have served me well since then – notably that one should know one’s audience prior to making any jokes.
I’m not sure when it occurred to us that in one of those rooms was a pool table, and it certainly never occurred to us that this was in any way odd until much, much later. You just knew that in the first room on the right after you came down the stairs – the unfinished one that led to the boiler room – there was a fully-equipped pool table.
We played for souls.
We spent a lot of happy hours down there in that room, the bunch of us, especially during the annual Church Fair when the basement was set up as a midway - it was a small church, and the kids anywhere close to my age I could count on my fingers. We didn't know many of the actual rules except that you generally tried to get the 8-ball in last, but we made up our own.
So I’m not unfamiliar with the game, despite the evidence presented last night. They did insist on using actual rules, though, so that might explain my results. My talent cannot be confined by artificial rules.
Nor can it be discerned by high-powered instruments, but that is another story.