Ping Pong Ponderings

by | Mar 16, 2022 | My Fiction & Essays, What I'm Thinking | 0 comments

Very happy that the Christian Science Monitor published this essay about ping pong during the lockdown this week. I wrote about how the gift of an outdoor ping pong table in February of 2020 affected our experience of the lockdown. Due to space limitations, I couldn’t include everything I wanted to say about the experience–like that because we were outside playing nearly every day, we got to know our neighbor who lives on the other side of our back fence a little bit. Because his front door and driveway open onto a street we don’t see from our house or yard, we probably never would have learned his name. He has a couple of kids, and it was fun to see them out playing ball while we played ping pong. Even nicer, sometimes he would sit on his steps and play guitar. It all made for a very cozy sense of neighborliness.

Nor did I have space to write about our other¬†neighbors, who were renting the house opposite his. They had way too many people and cars in their house, and would sometimes sit in their driveway (which abuts our back fence) running their engines for the entire time we were playing. Once I tried to express, in a friendly manner, that it was unpleasant to have an idling motor running while we were in our yard, and I was told that the driver (who wasn’t actually driving, of course) wanted to run the air-conditioning while he waited for people in the house to get ready to go someplace. And that if I didn’t like it, I could, well, you can guess.

All of which only made me appreciate the fact that we had lived in this neighborhood for seventeen years and had had generally only positive to neutral experiences with our neighbors. And to share, with our other neighbor, a huge sigh of relief when the people with all the cars suddenly moved out, only to be learn a couple of weeks later from the landlord, who was going in and out of the house, about just how much damage had been done to the property and how long he had worked to evict the tenants who he claimed had paid very little rent during their time in the house.

The landlord’s perspective was a challenge to me as someone concerned about tenant rights and housing shortages who lobbied for eviction moratoria during the pandemic. It was interesting to hear the landlord’s tale of woe, but at the same time, a part of me thought–didn’t you run a check on these people before renting to them? and what do you expect, if you’re living 15 miles away (as this landlord does), and renting out a house to an unknown party?

We did have a few pleasant conversations with those other neighbors before they disappeared. They sometimes commented on our ping pong. They had a child who was a baby when they moved in and was walking by the time they left. We sometimes admired the child as they carried it from house to car and back. But mostly I have no idea who they were, where they had come from, and why there were so many of them (probably about 8 people) living in that house. Looking back on the experience, I wish I had made the effort to get over my annoyance at the idling engines and just asked, in a friendly way, “Where are you folks from?”