“Why don’t you go hit some tennis balls,” my father said to me in response to all the stress I have been under. I had not played tennis in years and the idea of hitting a tennis ball sounded appealing. “Go to the club and hit against the backboard, or hit with the tennis pro if you want, I’ll pay for it,” my father said. I decided to take him up on his suggestion, and dressed in some old sweat pants and a brown Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt, borrowed my wife’s tennis racket and went off to play tennis.
It had been years since I had played against this back board. As a kid I was here almost every day. I felt tight and stiff. I have grown older than my years (36) and my body was unhappy about being forced into these strange postures. However, after a few minutes of warming up and stretching- my game came back to me. I hit the tennis ball just like the pro I used to be. My backhand was a little rusty but my forehand stroke was still in top condition. I bent my knees and released all of my stress with each swing. The sun warmed my body as I slowly began to forget about all my worries and just concentrated upon hitting the tennis ball.
I was unpleasantly greeted by a middle aged man in a Nike sweat suit wearing a yellow Nike hat upon his head. He looked very serious. “Excuse me,” he said with an official intonation in his voice- “Are you a member of this tennis club?” My first inclination was to be offended. I had grown up playing tennis on these courts and was here long before he had ever come around. This was my turf. I took a deep breath and said “yes, in fact I am.” “May I have your club number,”he said. “Why do you ask,” I said with some hint of animosity in my voice. “Because I have never seen you around before, and quite frankly you do not look like the average club member,” he said implying that this was a prestigious tennis club and I did not look like one who had any money in the bank. “Since I am the tennis pro here at Round Hill Country Club, it is my duty to keep these courts safe.” I felt the anger rise up in my body which was covered in a noon time sweat. Just because I had long hair, a beard and was not wearing the appropriate tennis gear certainly did not make me a threat. Granted I LOOKED OUT OF PLACE, BUT HIS ACCUSATION THAT I MAY BE SOME KIND OF THREAT WAS SIMPLY OFFENSIVE.
After a few minutes of struggle and argument he threatened to kick me off the court if I did not give some proof of my identity or club number. “How dare you question my legitimacy,” I continued on, “you have no idea the implications of your mis- judgment. You are profiling me!!” “Just give me your club number sir,” he said with a hint of legality in his voice. I told him I did not know my club number (my father would not give me the number because he was afraid that I would use it to buy booze and food at the country club bar) but I gave him my last name.
He stopped to think for a moment and then he asked me what my mothers name was. When I told him his whole demeanor changed, as if a light had gone off in his head. I went from being a potential terrorist to the son of a club member. He apologized for his interrogation of me but said again that it was his job to make sure these courts were safe. He then asked me if my name was Randall. When I told him it was he said, “your mother always talks about you and tells me what a great tennis player you are.” “Oh,” I said without interest- wanting him to just go away so I could resume my game with the back board. There was a moment of awkward silence between us and then he said to me before leaving, “can I offer you a complementary can of new tennis balls as an apology?” Of course I said- “don’t worry about it.”