Things learned in quarantine: Table tennis

Things learned in quarantine: Table tennis
Written By: Steve Lange | Jun 16th 2020

Sure, some people call it “ping pong.” And I get openly mocked by friends and extended family when I call it “table tennis.” But I think I’ve earned the right.

Last summer, we bought a $40 ping pong table from a woman in Kasson. This is the third ping pong table we have owned over the past 20 years. Because the world, we’ve realized, is made up of two kinds of people: Those who can use a ping pong table for its intended purpose, and those who — when faced with a flat, table-like surface in the garage — will use it to attempt to rebuild a motorcycle carburetor over a year-long period. I fall solidly in that second group.

Also, quick theory: There are only maybe seven ping pong tables in the Rochester area, and they just keep changing hands. I’m pretty sure the table we bought was the same one we owned eight years ago.

Anyway, it’s turned out to be the best investment we’ve ever made. Because, almost every single night for the past 90 nights, we’ve played ping pong. At least it started out as ping pong. After about night 20, son Henry, 18, and I started to take the game very seriously. We watched tutorials. Secretly practiced our serves in the garage. We bought $35 paddles that we keep in cases.

We retrofitted the garage by clipping tarps into place and hanging those silver reflector lights. Created a magnetic scoreboard. Purchased those old-school stretchy athletic headbands from eBay.

We always listen to one of the local oldies stations on the garage radio. Try to be the first to name each title and band as soon as a song comes on. Henry now knows his Billy Joel from his Billy Idol. Kenny Loggins from Kenny Rogers. REM from ELO.

Henry and I play nearly a dozen games of ping pong a night. Lindy and our daughters sometimes set up folding chairs in the garage to watch.

Sure, Henry now beats me regularly.

At least once a game, though, we manage to put together some extended rally — forehand smashes and backhand saves, topspin then backspin, the ball hitting that crease in the middle of the table and taking some crazy bounce. We’re diving across the garage and slamming into the the toolbench or the beer fridge.

We’re yelling and laughing and singing along to a Supertramp song. I own a $35 paddle with a handle that I have sanded down to fit my special penhold grip. I wear a headband and play in front of a crowd.

So yeah, I call it table tennis.

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