Kris told this story around work last week to the amusement of all her little friends. I’ll do my best to reconstruct how she told it, but no guarantees that it’ll be as funny.

One of my goals lately has been to “just say yes” when people ask me to do things. So long as the requests don’t violate my morals (no drugs, no sex with goats), and so long as I have the time, I’m giving new things a try. I’m not just saying “no” out of fear and trepidation.

Charlie Lam, my grade school soccer coach, stopped by work a couple weeks ago. He came by to evangelize his table tennis club. He tried to convince Jeff to join, but he wasn’t interested, so Charlie turned his sights on me. I’ve always like table tennis, and I have nothing going on Tuesday nights (except writing — but then I’m always writing), so I agreed to give it a try. “Just say yes.”

So I went to play table tennis a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. How good would the other players be? Charlie had assured me that most everyone was just a beginner. “Do you remember Danny Hunt?” he had asked me.

“Sure,” I said. “Is Danny playing?”

“No,” he said. “But Danny’s mom is playing.”

Playing table tennis with Charlie and his group brought back a flood of old memories. He was my soccer coach for four years (five?) when I was a boy. I was always intimidated by him, though I’m not sure why. His son, Torey, was a good friend of mine. They lived a half mile away, so we spent a lot of time together. I was on Torey’s horse when my brother Tony ran into it with a bike, causing the animal to throw me to the ground and step on me.

Anyhow, playing table tennis with Charilie and his group felt like old times. He took some time to teach me proper form on my forehand. I didn’t do a good job (and even at my second session the other night I was having trouble), but I tried. We did drills together. We played some mini-games in which other players and I competed to be “king of the hill” (or “king of the table”, in this case).

Eventually, we played some full games. The rules have changed in recent years, I guess. I was confused at first. For example, the serve alternates every two points now instead of every five points. There are infinite “lets” on the serve. The ball must be tossed into the air on service, and must be struck behind the table. The biggest change, though, is that a game goes to eleven points, not 21.

Anyhow, I did well. I won several games, which made me happy. Not bad for my first night. I drove home in a great mood.

“So how was ping-pong?” Kris asked when I got home.

“Exhausting,” I said. “But fun. I’ll go back next week.” I told her all about the night. I told her how I was able to beat a lot of the other players.

“That’s great,” she said. “Who else was there?”

“Oh, nobody you’d know,” I said, getting ready for bed. “It was mostly just a bunch of fifth- and sixth-graders.”

That, my friends, is the story that delights my wife. I don’t think it’s quite as funny as she does. Those kids are good. They’ve been practicing for a while. I’m just starting. Still, Kris yuks it up every time she thinks about me gloating over twelve-year-olds.

3 Replies to “I Learn Ping-Pong”

  1. celeste says:

    oh, it was funny. uber funny, in fact, especially the way gates tells it. “little friends”, huh? hmm, not too sure how to take that.

  2. sabino says:

    I’m going to start calling you “Kramer”. Is it “Ka-ra-te”? Did you dig deep and find your inner self to overcome your opponents?

    I laugh with Kris.

  3. Fotini says:

    that was funny because i thought you were playing with older people instead of grade school kids

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