The Tennis Curmudgeon


The Week – Part Fourteen
September 20, 2013, 12:09 am
Filed under: Tennis, Tennis Curmudgeon, The Tennis Curmudgeon | Tags: , ,

FRIDAY

“And how are you feeling this morning?” A too jaunty Tyler said sidling up to me before I’m out of the car. I look at Steve.

“You know why he’s here?” Steve shrugs. I get out of the car to get my bag.

“I’ll have someone. . .Steve, why don’t you. . .oh, I see you’ve already got it. I think next time we can. . .”

“. . .what do you want?” I say. Even on non-busy, non-stressful days I’m a cut to the chase guy. On those rare busy and stressful days I’d rather you pour what you want directly into my head.

“Oh, well, I was. . .”

“. . .seriously, Tyler.” I say stepping as close as possible to Tyler. I gather from his reaction he’s a man who likes his personal space.

“I was wondering if you’d come to the office to see something for a minute.”

“See?” I say stepping back while patting him on the shoulder. “That wasn’t so difficult now, was it?”

I point my arm in the time honored ‘lead the way’ fashion and quickly follow behind. Before we hit the door I ask him to begin filling me in with what we’ll be doing. Again, he’s hesitant so I stop. He continues for a few steps before realizing I’m not behind him. He looks at me knowing there’s no winning.

“There are items on ebay and we were wondering. . .”

“. . .that little motherfucker. . .”

“. . .oh, so you know. . .”

“. . .didn’t waste any time, did he?” I step up to Tyler. “Let’s go see.”

We enter the office and one corner is piled with boxes marked with my name, the date, the match and score sitting on chairs. Hey wait, that’s even the court side chair I used. Oh, I get it now. I’m cutting into their action. Slick. We sit at a desk and look at the monitor.

“So this equipment is legitimate.”

“Legitimate as my ass.” I say using quite an odd term. “Eight hundred and seventy-five dollars?” I look at a nodding Tyler. “For my pillow case? Ewww. Truly, that’s pretty high on the eww factor.” I stand up. “I wonder if there are any suspicious stains on it?”

Tyler was very uncomfortable with my side of the conversation. So I tap him on the shoulder and say,

“You’ve got some downright friendly women around here, Tyler, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.”

“Yes. . .well. . .my. . I was just wondering, because you told me you gave the racket to a guy in a bar.”

“Technically, that’s true. I shipped all the first round crap to a friend and we’ve been in bars. I owe him big time, he wanted it, I didn’t think much about it, what’s the harm?” I look at Tyler truly wondering if there is some harm. I’ve never been collectable before so who knows if there are some rules about things like this.

“None, I guess. It’s just that we were hoping to gather some of the items you’ve used during this historic. . .”

“. . .historic?”

“Run and auction them off for worthy causes, of course.” He’s quick to add the worthy part. I look at the boxes and smile.

“Seems to me you’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.” I walk over and peek into a box.

“Damn.” I pull my head out of the box. “You can’t be serious about selling my empty beer bottles, can you?”

“We’re collecting things you use during this his. . .”

. . .don’t say it or I’ll stuff you in today’s box.” He stands silently then it dawns on me. “That bitch.”

“Now, it’s not his fault. He’s doing nothing wrong. He’s not divulging anything you say or do. He works for us so is doing what he’s told.”

“What about the hotel people?”

“Again, they’re an official hotel of the tournament so we have some pull. All they’re doing is collecting your linens and things.”

“What am I? The fucking Beatles?”

“This is a. . .” Tyler stops himself before he says that stupid word. King George the First is historic. I’m hitting tennis balls. “You have to agree it is something special within the sport.”

“It’s something all right.” I pull out a chair and sit down. I glance at the ebay screen and shake my head clear. “So what’s next? Bobbleheads?”

“We couldn’t get them in time because there’s no guarantee how long you’ll be here.”

“You actually discussed fucking bobbleheads? This is weirder than I thought.”

“We’re just trying to maximize the earnings.”

“I thought all this was going to a ‘worthy cause’?”

“Oh, the monetary reward from match used but sometimes you know in your heart who the highest bidder will be.”

“You people are more treacherous then the players.”

“It’s not for the weak.” Tyler says. “We’re running a business and it’s in the best interest of the business to squeeze every profit opportunity.” Tyler looks at me as steely as any player in a third set death match. “And this week that incidental profit source is you.”

“Pretty slick, Tyler, pretty damn slick. I knew you were a smart bastard.” I smile at Tyler. Tyler seems to relax for the first time. It’s as if he feels free because, even for this moment, he’s let down that façade. “So, what do you need from me? I can’t get back what I gave my friend, but I’ll give you everything else. What else do you need or want from me?”

“Funny you should ask.” Tyler pulls a box out from the back of his desk and puts it on my lap. I open it. Pictures. He gets another one and puts it on the table. “I need you to sign these.” I have to laugh.

Last week at this time I was standing on a court with a woman on vacation. This week I’m signing five hundred photos that say ‘Golden Match’ while prominently advertising the Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic and select sponsors. Those sponsors were selected via their willingness to pony up some dough. It’s the same deal with the ‘Most Games Won In A Row’ photos.

“Sign them all. Later we’ll bring the streak photographs to you to fill in the final number.”

“You’re thought of everything.”

“We try.” Tyler puts markers on the table. “I’ll leave you to your task. And please write neatly.” Tyler reaches the door and begins to close it behind him.

“One more thing, Tyler.” He stops. “Send in Steve.” Tyler nods asking no questions. I look at the pictures then the computer monitor. “Up to nine hundred dollars. You people are idiots.”

It took longer than expected for Steve to knock on the door. I’d signed about half the ‘Golden Match’ pics when I heard a knock on the door.

“Come in, Steve.” I said a little louder than I had to. The door slowly opens. I keep signing for a few beats after the door closed. “Sit down.” I say without turning from my task.

I hear him sit as quietly as possible. The only sounds in the room are his breathing and the squeak of the marker. I’m not upset with Steve. He’s doing his job. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to fuck with him. I believe that’s my job.

“I know what you’re up to.” Sometimes you can be ill prepared for the response a few simple words can bring.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to. They told me if I didn’t do what they told me I’d be fired. I’ve been having so much fun this week I didn’t want it to end. I really like you. This has been an amazing week. I didn’t want to do anything that would break your trust but they put me in a position where I had no options. I know you’re mad and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you got another driver. I feel terrible for doing it. It’s not who I am. I just didn’t want to get fired. I’ve never been fired from a job before.”

Finally, he had to take a breath. He’d said so many words in such a short span he was out of breath. I signed one more picture before putting down the marker. I slowly turned to him. I looked at him wordlessly for a second. He was expecting the worst.

“You’ve never been fired? Damn. I’d probably been fired from six by the time I was sixteen. I was fired from being a paperboy because this one lady never tipped so I drew devil horns on all the pictures. I was stocking shelves in a grocery store and got fired when I threw a jar of pickles at the owners son. I didn’t hit him, on purpose, I wanted to scare him. Then I got fired. . .”

“. . .okay, I get it. You got fired a lot.” I smile.

“Dude, chill. It’s just me. You were just doing your job. I understand. It’s what you’re supposed to do.”

“You’re not mad.”

“Not at all. I wish you’d told me because we could have fucked with them. Got some really scary porn from the internet and put that in the box.” Steve slouches and laughs. “Go out and buy some lube and the biggest dildo we could find in the state.”

“All right, I get it. You’re on my team.”

“Exactly. But I would have sent you to get the dildo.”

“Yeah, you’re a real team player.”

“Each man has a different role, teammate. And right now my role is to sign all these.” Steve sat there for a minute relaxing.

“Do you need me to do anything?”

“I could use some water and could you do me a favor?” I reach into my bag and take out the list of names. “Can you get two tickets for these people and leave them at will call?” Steve takes the paper and looks it over.

“I know Will and Dave.”

“Are they nice guys?”

“Yeah. How do you know them?”

“They’re tennis players.”

I walk out of the office after signing all the pictures to see a frazzled Naomi running down the hall.

“Hey, what’s up there?”

“Oh my god it’s you!”

“Please, I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you. No need to be so nervous.” She stops and looks at me as if I’m an idiot.

“You’re an idiot.” See? “Are you ever serious?” I can tell she’s too stressed out for my tomfoolery.

“Sorry.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t call players idiots.”

“Not even if it’s true?” She smiles. I knew I could get her.

“No, not even then. I’m glad I found you. I need some favors.”

“Some?”

Turns out she needed me to do two TV interviews, one press conference and an online chat with a tennis blog. It was truly a great thing they had someone typing for me or we would have been there for hours. She said the press requests for a tournament of this size are unprecedented.

“We’re talking major event requests.”

“All because of me?”

“And your histo. . .”

“. . .please don’t.”

“Tyler makes us say it like that.”

“Can I make you stop” She thinks for a second before shrugging her shoulders. “I guess the player’s request trumps the TD’s.: I open my mouth. “In some instances.” I laugh.

“You’re getting to know me too well.” Sometimes it’s hard to see how your actions effect others. Not this time. I could tell Naomi was in the weeds. Not that she wouldn’t pull it off, just that she was understaffed to take on this unexpected turn of events.

“Is there anything I can do to make this easier?” For a split second I’m sure she was about to say, ‘Lose a damn game’ but knew she could never say that. But I got the message.

“Just be available.” She shook my hand and ran off to satisfy the maw of another gaping need.

The match itself was anticlimactic. I was playing Peter McCarrick, ranked about seventy-fifth in the world. Big game. Heavy balls. He had a very determined rhythm. He liked to work quick, get the points over rapidly. If I had a shot at keeping the streak going I had to slow him way down.

Easier said than done.

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