Several weeks ago I was walking by the middle school in our neighborhood when I noticed a couple of outdoor ping-pong tables on the playground. I’d never seen them there before so I’m guessing they are a new addition to the facilities. (Or maybe my powers of observation just really suck.) In any case, there they were…standing in the sunshine…just begging to be played on.
Both Dr. Darling and I really like to play ping-pong and we’re good enough at it to get a pretty decent workout while playing each other. In the past (especially during the winter months) we have rented table-time at one of the local fitness centers, but like so many other leisure activities in Sweden, it requires a lot of advanced planning. (Spontaneity is not a Swedish strong-suit.) First, you have to become a paying member of the fitness center to even use the tables. Then you have to call ahead (usually by a couple days) to reserve a table, and even if you’ve remembered to do all that, it’s still a 15-minute bike ride along the Öresund to get there…and you just never know what the weather is going to be like, especially in the winter.
So I was really delighted to find two public ping-pong tables within walking distance of our apartment and determined to challenge Dr. Darling to a match as soon as the weather was warm enough to play. That day came yesterday (Saturday), so we packed up the paddles and balls (yes, we have our own) and headed to the school playground. As expected, these outdoor tables were not of the best quality in terms of playing surface. (The elements had NOT been kind.) We chose the one that seemed to be the most level and began to volley…soon finding out that the player on the north end of the table had the perspective of returning the ball from a pitcher’s mound while the person on the south end of the table felt as though they were playing in a ditch.
The other challenge was the fact that there was no net but rather a yellow board that was net-height dividing the two halves of the table. This naturally took some getting used to as any time the ball was hit into this "net" it came back at the player who hit it VERY quickly! Finally, there was the wind-factor. Now I’ve played a lot of regular tennis where I’ve had to adjust my serve and strokes for wind…but I have neither the patience nor the math skills to calculate the necessary adjustments for ping-pong! Especially since the effect on the ball was *very different* depending on which side of the table you were on at the time. We also experienced a brief period of rain that wasn’t enough to keep us from playing but made the table very slippery.
Needless to say, the game we ended up playing outdoors at the playground did not really resemble any other ping-pong match either one of us had ever played before…but it was a lot of fun just the same. (Especially since I won best two out of three!)