It's morning at the Lakeside Tennis Club. You hear the pluck-pluck, pluck-pluck rhythm of tennis balls resounding off racquets' sweet spots. It's inspiring; almost exhilarating.
It's what Home Security might term Condition Yellow.
Too soon, the Yellow escalates to Orange. All eyes notice but pretend not to. Play continues, although somewhat subdued. She has arrived; Elaine-the-Pain.
She saunters across the patio, taking mental roll call; who is here; who is not.
Elaine is on the club's board of directors and she struts around like she owns the place. Well, why not! She's been a member since Major Wingfield "invented" the game from the Greeks and called it Sphairistike. The game survived but the name did not.
You can see why.
"Anyone for Sphairistike?"
Elaine is my Aunt Hazel's sister: Aunt Elaine. No one calls her Aunt Elaine. Everyone calls her "Elaine-the-Pain." Even her closest friends don't admire her, but a good gossip is a magnetic draw.
"Not today Humphrey."
Although members are aware of the rules and generally comply without prodding, Elaine likes to direct court traffic whether it needs it or not. She can be a real pain.
Aunt Hazel obviously doesn't like her sister Elaine at all.
"She's so vain. She's a pain! What's she ever done for this club? Tell me that!"
Friend Sylvia retorts: "Well she's here every morning making sure the courts are groomed, the grounds policed and the club house clean and in order."
(Oh boy! This has been an ongoing argument between these two and, as usual, it is going to be nip-and-tuck. Let's follow their argument in the framework of a Match Tie Break; first to ten by two. Let's call Hazel's opening remark a service ace, and Sylvia's response also a service ace.) (One All. Sylvia to serve.)
Aunt Hazel reacts to the challenge. "Well yeah. But what else does she do?"
(Sylvia spins in her serve. Hazel rips a return down the line.) (Two One, Hazel.)
"She organized the women's morning robin round which is very popular. We play in it."
(Sylvia rips back Hazel's serve with a backhand down the line.) (Two All.)
"Oh that! But what else!"
(Hazel's next serve. It's weak)
"She's here all during the USTA- sanctioned tournaments, adult and junior, everyday helping out."
(Sylvia's return is a sharp crosscourt winner.) (Sylvia, Three Two.)
(Hazel's response to Sylvia's slice serve is a feeble drop shot attempt. Sylvia jumps on it with a shot deep to the corner. It's in.) (Hazel is down, Two Four)
"She buys the food. And helps prepare it."
(Sylvia's serve. She spins another slice serve wide.)
"That's it? Anyone can do that! What else does she really do for the club?"
(Hazel's response is defensive. She can only lob and it is short. Sylvia, with perfect form, turns, points and angles her overhead to the service box corner.) ( Five Two, Sylvia)
Sylvia, still on the offensive: "She's on the board of directors and oversees the club tournaments. She's our liaison to USTA."
(It's Hazel's serve, but it is short and Sylvia executes a text book drop shot.) (Six Two Sylvia.)
"Anyway she's too bossy. Always telling people what they ought to do. They don't need that."
(Hazel aces down the middle for Three Six.)
"Well, what would the club be without her?"
(Sylvia serves, now on the defensive, then nets a top spin crosscourt attempt.) (Sylvia still leads Six Four.)
"Oh someone would pickup those chores."
(Sylvia's strong serve is blocked back by Aunt Hazel.)
"Really! Who? No one has so far!"
(Sylvia answers with pace. Hazel frames it.) (Seven Four, Sylvia.)
"Oh that's limp!"
(Hazel serves an ace.) (Seven Five, still Sylvia.)
"Maybe, but it's true!"
(Sylvia returns Hazel's next serve, moves to the net and volleys too deep.) (Seven Six, still Sylvia.)
"Come on Hazel. Elaine may be truly a pain. But most clubs have someone like her who makes it a better club. Didn't you vote for her to be on the board?"
(Service Ace by Sylvia.) (Eight Six.)
"No one else was running for the office!"
(Hazel nets the next return of serve) (Sylvia, Nine Six)
"No one ever does."
(Sylvia, Service Ace.) (Game, Set and Match.)
Hazel and Sylvia can banter the arguments all day, and probably will, but the issues are clear. We all love to go to the courts and play, but few are willing to take on the day-to-day chores of keeping the tennis club a better place. Those who do can sometimes be a pain. It's always the same few, the doers, who make it go.
Maybe it's a justified attitude. Elaine has been a member of the club since Bill Tilden played there years ago, and feels some ownership.
She's there every day, mentally logging in who is and who isn't. She may dominate board meetings with her opinions, too often wrong but never in doubt. The tennis club is her home. It's her life.
Like the Lakeside Tennis Club maybe your club has an Elaine-like person; call her Floss-the-Boss, Bill-the-Pill, Nosey Rosie, Frank the Crank; those persons who make the tennis club a better place. Maybe your Elaine person is not such a pain. Your's may even be Neat Pete, Genial Jenny or Dan the Man, but they all make the clubs go.
So a salute to Elaine-the-Pain, Floss-the-Boss, Bill-the-Pill, Nosey Rosie, Frank the Crank, Neat Pete, Genial Jenny, Dan the Man and all those like them who make things keep going at our tennis clubs. Because of their actions the pluck-pluck, pluck-pluck rhythm of tennis balls resounding off racquets' sweet spots continues. It's inspiring. It is exhilarating.
Thanks Elaine; thanks for the pain.