Today was the first day of indoor tennis. My Monday group is now meeting on Wednesdays. New day, new time, new court, but the same ladies. And of course, the same club.
I love playing tennis indoors. I know it’s meant to be an outdoor game, and I’ve made my peace with that, but I love all that indoor tennis affords you. You’re not thwarted by rain. There are no other pesky elements to contend with. No wind. No sun in your eyes. No gnats buzzing around your sweaty face. There are no lawnmowers, leaf blowers, train whistles, buzzards (yes, once there were buzzards – or maybe they were hawks – but in either case they were circling a little too low for comfort), chipmunks, mosquitoes or bees. There are no young children on the next court rallying with their moms, so you don’t have to worry about stray balls (incoming) or curse words (outgoing). Indoor tennis is a nice, controlled environment where your attention can be placed solely and completely on your game.
Well, except for the funky club conditions.
The club does have air-conditioning, but they don’t ever turn it on. Ditto, it seems, for heat. Today it was much hotter indoors than out, and the club tries to rectify that with these big-ass fans that are built into the walls. The fans are loud – clankity-clank-clank loud – and burst on intermittently and without notice. It’s a small price to pay for indoor comfort.
In the winter the courts are cold. Sometimes women play in fleece and scarves. You can hear the heater now and then, when it comes on it sounds like gunfire, but somehow it never warms up in there.
Occassionally there are inexplicable puddles on the court. Well, not really on the court, but there have been pools of water right outside the sideline and it’s always little curious where those puddles could have come from.
Sometimes the club smells like gas, sometimes it smells like paint, and sometimes it smells like glue – like an industrial strength adhesive that you’d use when installing new carpeting. All smells that give you headaches and that, if you smelled in your own home, might prompt you to evacuate your children and maybe even call 911. But they usually only last a day or so at the club, so we often play through them.
Last year the toilet stall door was locked, leaving only one stall available for all the aging bladders that populate Ladies Tennis. For some reason it took two or three days for someone to get that stall door open. When access was finally gained, it was discovered that the toilet was full of feces and paper. It wasn’t clogged, it’s just that no one had flushed.
“Even more troubling than how long it took to open that stall,” said Laura the Tennis Pro, “is the notion of how that situation came to be. Someone actually pooped and then crawled under the door to leave it there.”
Look, I’m not saying indoor tennis is perfect. But there is something sweet and magical that happens indoors that, for some reason, doesn’t translate for me when there’s sky and birds and cicadas all around. The club sequesters us from the real world. We are removed from it. It’s private. When I'm inside that tennis club, it's like the rest of my life just disappears. Even with the poop and puddles, it’s hard sometimes to walk out the door.