Profile Story: Emerald Lanes’ Unsung Hero

Smells of fried food and coffee fill the air on a brisk Sunday morning at Emerald Lanes bowling alley. The crashing sounds of pins being knocked over is the only thing that breaks the silence as the ten or so bowlers themselves are quiet and not talkative. A door,  painted into the wall behind the lanes opens and out ambles George Weiss.

As he slowly walks from behind the lanes, Weiss scans the occupied lanes. Weiss’ official title at Emerald Lanes is ‘maintenance manager’ but his role at the bowling alley includes far more than the title would suggest. As well as fixing all of the complex machinery that is needed to make a bowling alley work, Weiss is also responsible for opening up in the mornings, answering phones, processing and setting up bowling leagues, and dealing with customer service.

Weiss is an older man with white hair on his almost bald head and a well-kept white/grey beard. Glasses cover his eyes and he wears a dark blue polo with an Emerald Lanes logo on the chest that is mostly covered by a plaid jacket he wears over-top. His dark blue jeans and weathered shoes indicated that they have seen quite a bit of wear. A ring on his pinky finger proudly displays the number ‘300’ to signify the perfect game he has bowled.

The customer service part of the job is what Weiss enjoys the most. The human element was on of the things that was lacking in his previous job in the paint department at a Freightliner truck manufacturing plant. Weiss enjoys interacting with people as opposed to only parts.

Parts are in the front of Weiss’ mind today though as he gets to the front counter. He grabs a thick book full of part listings, takes it to the front and begins scouring the pages. He is searching for one part in particular, a belt for an air compressor. His search is proving to be difficult as the particular brand of compressor he owns is no longer made. Weiss spots something he think might work and lets his coworker, Forrest Cardwell know.

“This one is similar and we can get it from Home Depot or Jerry’s,” he says in a low, warm voice. Cardwell acknowledges and makes a quip about needing to get the compressor fixed. George then turns his attention to the lanes:

“That ball is legal,” he calls out to one of the bowlers and an older man looks up to the counter, smiles, and thanks him.

Weiss is in his element. He has been working at this job for over 35 years and has been bowling much longer. He bowled for the first time at a birthday party when he was about 7 years old but he never bowled regularly until he was in his junior year of high school. It started as just a place to get out of the house but soon Weiss became a regular at the alley. He became involved in a junior bowling league and got a job at his local alley.

Weiss’ coworkers appreciate his experience working in a bowling alley as well as he people-friendly attitude:

“It’s fun working with George, he is very knowledgable,” said Cardwell. “He makes the job enjoyable.”

Weiss returns to the room behind the lanes. On his way he hears a crackling over the intercom system. “Hey George, while you’re back there we have a jam in lane 8.” Weiss’ pace quickens as he walks behind the rows of pinsetters, large machines that automatically clear and reset pins. He passes about six of the large machines before grabbing a shiny aluminum tool hanging on the wall and surgically inserts it into one of the pin setters. He skillfully fishes around into the machine until the jam is resolved.

With the machine fixed, Weiss returns to the front counter and gazes out at the lanes. Chatter among the bowlers has increased now as the coffee has seen to hit them. Weiss periodically glances down at the price book. Here is surrounded by three of his favorite things: bowling, parts, and people.

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