It is not her husband's commuting to work that disturbs Mary Couture so much as when he has a bad day at the office.Too many of those can make the 9,000-odd miles a year the couple travels on the pro bowling tour seem more like 99,000.
"When things go bad, it makes everything about the tour a little harder," said Mrs. Couture, whose husband, Peter, is in town this week competing in the Professional Bowlers Association Fair Lanes Open at the Fair Lanes alleys in Hyattsville.
"Just watching Pete have a bad time, there's nothing I can do," she said. "I feel every shot right along with him. But I wouldn't change it for the world."
Fortunately for the Coutures, the past couple of years on the PBA tour have not caused them much anxiety. After earning a total of $11,560 in his first five seasons, Couture accumulated more than $94,000 the last two. Last year he was the seventh-leading money winner.
Mary Couture enjoys the travel, despite schedules that might take the couple from Cleveland to Miami to Baltimore to Kansas City in a threeweek span.
"It's not so bad when you have a motor home," she said. They are on their second, a 35-foot long Landau Imperial that replaced a smaller one. The first was not large enough to hold the 40 bowling balls Pete Couture totes.
More than 30 of the tour regulars travel in the big motor homes; several dozen others use vans. Many travel in two-vehicle caravans in case of breakdowns. With respites between the winter, summer and fall tours only six weeks long, most of the families call the mobile homes home all year.
"Our permanent address is a bowling alley in Windsor Locks, Conn.," said Mary Couture. "We live outside it during the offseason."
She added that all routine maintenance and upkeep on the vehicles is taken care of by wives to keep their husbands' minds free to concentrate on bowling.
Wives began traveling en masse with their spouses about six years ago. With a typical tournament holding final matches on Saturday and the next one beginning with a pro-am the following Tuesday, bowlers have only two days to make it to the next stop. All-day sessions keep the wives busy tabulating scores and recording splits, helping carry balls from alley to alley and generally providing psychological support.
Mary Couture was a dental assistant until she quit to travel with her husband last summer.
"I enjoyed my job, but the people at work all said I was crazy for not being with my husband," she said. "We were always striving for the day we could be together permanently, anyway. So I did it sooner. I think if you can afford to be together, you should. It would be different, I guess, if we had children."
Pam Laub, whose husband Larry was the tour's No. 4 money winner in 1978, is expecting a baby in July. But that will not end her six years on the tour.
"I'll stay on the tour until the baby starts school," she said. "At that point, Larry will probably cut down on his number of tour stops, stay closer to home (Santa Rosa, Calif.). I'll still try and get out to the tournaments whenever possible."
Several of the women are reborn Christians. They and others get together among themselves mainly at their own bowling sessions and at weekly bible-class meetings.
"We're trying to restore the closeness between husbands and wives through the classes," said Pam Laub. "Husbands never seem to have enough time to spend with their wives during tournaments. If the wives can get some mellowness in their outlook from the classes, their husbands will hopefully absorb it and lose some of their up-tightness over their games."
One thing the Laubs have to be thankful about is a Monday Night Football game last year that probably saved their lives.
"Some propane leaked and eventually blew up our motor home, thoroughly destroying everything we had," said Pam Laub. "If my husband had not been in the adjoining bowling alley watching television, we'd both probably have been asleep and not heard the gas seeping out. But I was awake and heard it, then grabbed my dog and ran out of the motor home to get him (Larry). Five minutes later, the explosion occurred."
The fact that the home was in great part paid for by Laub's sponsor helped cushion the financial loss. Laub dropped the sponsor this year, preferring to go it alone.
Several other pros also have rid themselves of sponsors -- usually businessmen who provide entry fees, travel and other living expenses in return for a percentage of winnings.
When things are going badly for a pro and the paychecks are both rare and small, a sponsor is appreciated. But when a bowler is hot for a season, wins something like $50,000 and has to fork over as mmuch as half to the sponsor, it hurts.
"We decided this year that Larry was going to try it on his own after five years of sponsorship," said Pam Laub. "He hasn't done that well, hasn't reached a final round yet and has only cashed three checks.
"Maybe a bad year will humble him, though.A lot of times you come out a better bowler after one."