Some of my favorite tennis conversations have involved random chats in the oddest of places. Like when you’re on a plane sandwiched between two strangers because you delayed booking your flight, and one of the slices of bread turns out to be a tennis lover. Next thing you know, you forget completely that you’re pissed at being stuck in the middle. The two of you chat each others ears off all the way to California while the third wheel on the left falls asleep in utter boredom. Good times!
I thoroughly enjoy such moments of randomness. They’re not the same as the random connections you form with strangers at tennis events. Those are also great of course, but in a sense, they are entirely to be expected. After all, you’re all there because you share a common obsession with the same sport.
I prefer those moments when you’re minding your own business and just like that, bam! You run into a fellow tennis lover. Like at a company event (true story) when you meet for the first time the spouse of someone you’ve barely ever spoken to because you and she have nothing in common (and in fact you know that she doesn’t like you). And then her husband turns out to be as raving mad about tennis as you are. And the two of you want to talk to each other all night. Except that now he has to recalibrate all of the crappy things he has heard about you. And you have to figure out a way to sneak in a convo about Nadal that’s going to easily last three hours, without pissing off his wife. Like I said, good times!
But then there are moments when tennis conversations become a bit more challenging. Like when you’re trying to tell your non-interested daughter why someone named Milos Raonic is such a promising talent. And next thing you know you’re going on and on, forgetting for a moment that you’re not sandwiched on a plane, until you eventually notice her eyes glazing over. And then you stop, and save it for the next random moment when you happen to run into a real tennis fan.
For a while there, I coped by using tennis message boards for tennis conversation. But despite the best intentions of moderators, tennis boards often quickly become very ugly, as fans of the one player line up to attack fans of the other. After a while, it just stops being enjoyable. Of course ironically, the more polite the board, the less enjoyable the tennis conversation. Because let’s face it, talking tennis properly requires the expression of passion.
So when I made an appt. with this dentist, I was at first pleasantly surprised to discover that he was a tennis fan. I did not discover this right away. I was having an implant procedure with several stages that in all lasted over the course of an entire year. In fact I’m still not finished. But now I dread the follow-ups.
For the first few visits, he was sweet and gentle, with the element of professionalism that makes the best dentists great. And because the procedure I was having was not covered by my health insurance, I went to pains to find a dentist with whom I felt very comfortable. I thought I had found him.
Until the day I sauntered in wearing a tennis outfit. The match against a moon-baller had gone on forever and the only thing I had to change into was just more tennis clothing. His eyes lit up when he saw me. For a moment I was vain enough to think that I was making him hot. But that swiftly passed as he excitedly asked if I played tennis. All I managed to say was “Yes” before he launched into “Me too!”, and then proceeded to regale me with a blow by blow report of his latest match.
This then has become the pattern of our appointments. I show up. I sit in the chair. He presses the button at the bottom so that I am lying prone looking up at him. He towers over me while wearing blue gloves and the thing that looks like a jeweler’s visor light on his forehead. And then he proceeds to drone on and on about his latest match. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. Always he is boring.
I smile politely and even venture a question or two. I can’t help that I was raised to be polite, even when I’m being short-changed. I suppose because his time is my money, he has never once asked me about my game. Indeed, since discovering that I am a tennischick, he no longer asks me about myself period. He doesn’t even ask about my mouth. I have ceased to exist. I am nothing but the repository for his monthly game reports.
The experience has made me realize that part of the joy of those special random moments that I cherish is the mutuality of the experience. It’s two tennis lovers bonding for a moment over a sport they love. Who cares if this discovery happens to occur in the bathroom of a Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Unfortunately for me, it is so not happening at the dentist’s office.