In our second day at Retirement Camp (that’s what I’ve decided to call these ten weeks in this “active adult” community in Arizona), I guess I agreed to play pickle-ball. It happened like this. My friend and I were driving around the area, each of us getting more and more excited over all the offerings that we’d be able to take advantage of.
Kathy: “So would you like to play pickle-ball sometime? Oh look, there’s a Culver’s.”
You see what happened here, right? She thought I was excited to play pickle-ball, when in fact, I was anticipating a Butter Burger and scoop of frozen custard in my future.
The next thing I know, we have a date for a lesson with our neighbor, Rick. He stops by to go over some of the rules and the first thing he asks is, “What kind of shoes do you have?”
Oh no. I am not going to buy a pair of pickle-ball shoes just to join my list of “special occasion” footwear long forgotten, but lined up neatly in my closet – I dust them annually: golf shoes, cross country ski boots, water work-out shoes, tap dancing shoes and wait for it, here’s the biggie – my curling shoes. That’s right, years ago, I took a winter long curling class one time and you cannot curl without shoes adapted for the purpose. However would you toss or sweep? Nope, I’m playing pickle-ball in tennis shoes, even knowing I could catch the edge and go tumbling. It was a risk I was willing to take.
Pickle-ball is the official sport of retirees in Florida and Arizona and as such, is part of the orientation here, I am convinced. As the thermometer works its way north of 90, it feels more like hazing to me. It’s for people whose knees and backs don’t support tennis anymore, but who still have the competitive spirit. I have great knees and a strong back and no competitive spirit (except for euchre), but a trip to Culver’s – I’ll play for that.
It’s played with a wiffle ball on a badminton size court, with a tennis net, and oversized ping pong paddles. It features a “kitchen”, the seven foot strip of real estate on each side of the net, and sometimes you can go in the kitchen, and sometimes, you can’t. I’m still working on that rule. I just know I love to cook, so usually, any chance to be in the kitchen is good with me. You play in partners (usually) until the first team gets to 11 or if you’re me, until your ice water runs out. Then I’m done.
A week or so after our lesson, Kathy asked if I’d like to play in a novice tournament. I swear I thought she said “would you like to play with other beginners?” Realize, we had not stepped on the court since our only lesson. I agreed and as luck would have it, we were paired with Phil, 82, and Patti, 85, a former tennis champion who had the right court shoes, I might add. They reached 11 before my bottle of water was half gone, and on several occasions, I missed a critical lob into the kitchen, but I was only there looking for my frozen custard, so it didn’t really matter to me.