Ping Pong PalsBy Sue Addelson
Be warned. If you walk into the Village conference room on a Monday or Thursday between 2:00 and 3:30, open the door slowly. Some of our Ping Pong Pals (I promised not to name names) have been known to ricochet balls off the table, ceiling and, yes, even the doors.
The doors are surprisingly soundproof; but open one just a crack and you’ll hear the rapid-fire POP! POP! POP! of the ball hitting paddles; soon followed by the softer PING, PING, PING as the ball bounces across the floor. Then comes a chorus of loud cheers, or groans, or both, from people playing as well as the players in waiting. Throughout all this, there’s endless friendly banter among the group —a mix of teasing, joking and encouragement.
Lately, as many as nine, 10 or more players come to play. They play doubles and rotate partners, so everyone plays with everyone else. They play to 11, so the games go fast and everyone gets as much playing time as they want.
When Toni Johnson plays, which is as often as she can, she grabs a black marker and lists all the players names on a sheet or easel. She adds checkmarks to track the number of games each person plays. They don’t track wins and losses. It’s not about winning. It’s about having fun.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t playing to win. Teri Schwartz brings her own paddle and takes lessons from time to time. Tom Polenzani spins his serve; Dave Folz has a trick serve—hard to return—when he gets it on the table.
However, serving and returning serves doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem. The rule in doubles is that the two partners take turns hitting the ball—no matter where it lands on the table. The serve switches back and forth between opponents, and there’s a specific rotation between partners for serving. The four players are in constant motion. The hardest part of the game, and the only cause of disagreements, is remembering the score and whose turn it is to serve.
One of our founding Villagers (I was sworn to secrecy) donated the table soon after the office opened, against the better judgment of other Villagers (not telling) who insisted the room is too small. The room definitely is too small for a serious game of ping pong, but just the right size for a not-at-all-serious afternoon of exercise, friendship and laughter.