On a recent work at home day I decided to take a creative lunch break. Rather than run out to my local salad shop, I decided to infiltrate a place I had been trying to break back into since I was a senior in high school. After much procrastination, I finally did it. I called up the New Rochelle Racquet Club and asked if I could sub in one of their tennis leagues.
You see, back in the day - the day being 1986, I was quite the tennis player. I was on my high school tennis team and played competitively - even winning some major competitions in New York City. But then, like a long lost friend who moves to another town, my tennis racquet was put away in a closet and wasn't heard from again until my recent visit to the neighborhood tennis club.
At first, it seemed harmless enough. Half of the women were retirees, the other stay at home moms and the third contingent - the subs, seemed to be the ones with one foot in and one foot out. They probably worked but still need a good tennis fix every now and again. I chatted up the woman who ran the league and explained that I used to be pretty good but hadn't played in a while. She re-assured me that tennis is like riding a bike. I'd pick it back up in no time. She decided to place me in a group with older players (rather than the stay at home mom clique who probably would have ridiculed me afterwards) and off I went.
The first faux pas I made during my infiltration of the league was that I wasn't wearing any tennis whites. Worse yet, I had put on the only pair of trendy sweat pants I could find but it didn't have pockets. And so, every time I stuck a ball down my pants, I had to wedge it into the side of my underwear so that it wouldn't fall down my leg while I was playing...I know - a lovely image - I never said the truth was pretty.
And then we started to hit. Usually, when you play tennis, you use one ball at a time to practice. Not the ladies on this court. They insisted on playing with two balls at the same time - which completely through me off since I didn't have control of my racquet yet, so every time the woman directly across the way hit a ball to me, I smacked it to her partner who was busy hitting a separate ball to the player next to me.
Practice time ended pretty quickly and we moved on to game play. Gulp. During the first set, I was pretty pathetic. The balls came at me and I tried to smack them back across and they either landed directly into the net or out of bounce. When I was up at the net, I was either too close or too far from the net to put the ball away and show those old biddies who was boss. We of course, lost the first few games, until I got my rhythm back and then it was time for me to serve.
My serve, thankfully is the best thing about my game...when I'm playing well. Since these women pretty much thought I sucked, they were completely blown away when I shot back a few aces during my round. After one nice slice that was complimented by one of the players, I remarked, "that was vintage 1986" - harkening back to my glory days when I was at the top of my game. All I got back from that woman was a blank stare - she must have thought I was a total freak. Lovely.
After having some good moments on the court and many more bad ones, I came away losing one set, winning one and was in the process of cruising through the third (primarily because my partner was pretty damn good) when the ladies decided to call it quits...it was probably time for canasta. As for me, I put my tennis racquet back in its holder, rubbed my shoulder, which was now pretty sore since those muscles hadn't been used in a while and headed back to my home office to get back to work.
While I thought infiltrating the ladies tennis league would be great fun, I realized that these days, I'm a little over my head and in desperate need of practice. Maybe I should just grab some court time with some people I know and feel comfortable with. Because when you play with die-hard tennis league retirees, they have no interest in how good you used to be.