Monday, June 1, 2009

Grumpy Old Man

So I was having a great day out yesterday with my wife and a couple friends of ours. We were playing tennis and it was a gorgeous day. My wife and I are novices at best...the stage where you're still hitting the ball over the fence regularly because you haven't quite grasped not to hit it like a baseball. An older man in a bright pink shirt and red tennis shoes rode up on his Harley Davidson, and by the way he was dressed, it was obvious he hadn't ridden far, so the assumption is that he lives in Montreat (wealthy community). Putting these factors together, I have surmised that this man is a wealthy eccentric with not much to do. Even if this is not true, it makes me feel better to assume it to be so.
We had a ball outside the fence (see above), so when the gentleman (term used loosely) pulled up on his bike, I walked over to the fence and asked him if he could kindly get our ball for us. It went something like, "Hey, could you do us a favor? When you get unsaddled, could you throw our ball over?" He then said something unintelligible. To which I replied, "Huh?" He then said something again, which I did not understand. At this point (I'm sure you've been there), it's the awkward moment where you feel the dilemma rising up within you if you should ask again or just pretend like you understood. I asked again. He then said, finally without mush in his mouth, "GIVE ME A MINUTE." Hmmm. Was that not implied in my question, "When you get unsaddled..." I thought so, but apparently, a simple "yes" or "sure" would not suffice for this sour man. So I "gave him a minute" and he returned the ball. I was a bit miffed at his demeanor and wondered to myself, "Why are some people so sour, especially on a day like the tennis courts?" Had it been the DMV, or church, I may have understood. I shook it off and dismissed it quickly as I wanted to return to our match/inning.
A sidenote should be mentioned. There are 5 courts where we play. 5. We were on the side court. It is a LONG way to the 5th court...plenty of room. Being the only ones there, space abounded for any other racqueteers that might wish to play. When grumpy came, he chose the court adjacent to ours. Hmmm again. Interesting. It's like coming into a men's bathroom when multiple urinals are lined up on the wall. Men rules apply, and they are universal. Man #1 takes one on the outsides. Man #2 finds a spot at least one away. It makes sense in my mind that the urinal rule should also apply on tennis courts. Collateral damage is a possibility in both places. In the bathroom, in is mostly the mental/emotional damage of being next to a man in a confined space with man parts exposed. Why would you choose the closest spot? Men don't do this unless there is some sort of social disability involved. Physical collateral damage is possible in the urinal analogy, but only if bad aim is a real issue with one of the parties. On the tennis court, the collateral damage is mostly physical with the inconveneince of potential stray tennis balls coming over from other players' courts. My point in all this is to say: if there are four more open courts, pick a court one away. It just makes sense.
So some time passes and the foursome of older men warms up and begins playing next to our court. We did a good job of keeping our balls under control, but one happened to roll along the fence behind their court. They were not in the middle of a point, so I proceeded to walk along the fence to retrieve our ball from their area. The aforementioned man picked up my ball and beckoned me to come to him, which I then proceeded to do. I put out my hand to get the ball and thanked him at which point he withheld the ball and said succinctly, "Tennis etiquette: your ball can come over, but you cain't." My shocked and dumbfounded retort was an impotent, "Ok, thanks." About a half hour later, many other options came to mind. My favorite being, "Life etiquette: Don't be an ass."
My point; I don't want to be a grumpy old man with a pink shirt and red tennis shoes and nothing good to say. What if the tables were turned? What if some 10 year-olds came and were next to us and having more fun than serious competion? Would I look at them and have good things to think and say? Would I invest in them, even if just in minor ways withholding negativity toward them? I honestly have to answer and say, "I don't know." Maybe I am growing into the man that has the pink shirt, red shoes, and mouth full of manure (in diction and content). I hope not. In the end, I think the experience was good for me, though at the time, I did not like it. God sends lessons through asses in the Old Testament, and he sends lessons through the same on the tennis court.

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