My USTA rating has gone up so I was put on the number three doubles team in my league match last week. Each team consists of a higher and lower ranked player. Being the best player on the third team is a promotion over being the second best player on the second team. Presumably I would be able to lead the lower numbered team to victory instead of playing second fiddle to a better player.

Things were not going well. I expected our match to start at 11:30 but no courts were available. We started an hour late. In one of the matches that had already started, our opponents were calling balls out when they landed on the line. My teammates had to resort to line call monitors to make them honest.

Once my match started, my opponents repeatedly hit solid groundstrokes and penetrating volleys. One of them lifted an impossible stretch volley over the net at such an angle that it went from one side of the court to the other and landed only a few feet away from the net. It was then that I realized our opponents had flipped their teams. We were playing the number two team, not the number three team. This is a common strategy in our league. You sacrifice your number three team to your opponents’ number one team and win the other two matches by playing your number one against their number two, and your number two against their number three.

I floored the accelerator in my turbocharged baby station wagon and moved in front of him. Not such a good idea. His bumper clipped the backside of mine.

I was also not happy that my opponents’ fan base yelled loudly whenever they made a good play. Fair enough, I suppose, but it pissed me off. I don’t like looking bad and I didn’t like insult added to injury, in this case the sound of clapping and stamping feet as the ball spiraled weakly off my racket and into the net.

I was not in a good mood and I was not a gracious opponent. After yet another good reflex volley landed beyond my reach, I turned my back on my opponents and walked to the baseline.

On the way home from the match, I entered a crowded freeway with a poorly marked entry lane. A man driving behind me in a large SUV became impatient with my lack of progress and shot out in front of me and into the next lane. That pissed me off even more. I floored the accelerator in my turbocharged baby station wagon and moved in front of him. Not such a good idea. His bumper clipped the backside of mine.

Now I had to pull over and face the music. I didn’t want to pull over on the freeway exit so I made him drive all the way into Griffith Park and pull over next to some playing fields.

I got out and walked over to his car. At first I was defensive. “What’s the damage? What’s damage?” I yelled over his justifiable criticism of my driving skills. I finally realized that aggression wasn’t the best approach here, I was at fault, so I calmed down. “Look”, he said, “I’m a nice guy, I wanted you to pull over so I could tell you that you can’t drive like that. It’s not right. I could have rolled that little car. What’s the point of that?”

He was right. I hung my head. When he asked me if it made sense to scratch up a car just to get onto a highway, I sank deeper and shook my head no. We looked at the scratches on his bumper. “They can probably be buffed out, this is a lease, I don’t care that much, but is that the way you should drive?”

“No, ” I said, “I apologize.”

He let out a sigh and accepted my apology. “Alright then, have a nice day.” He walked round to the driver’s side and drove off.

When I tried to find my way out of Griffith Park, a police car blocked the freeway entrance I needed. I drove onto Griffith Park Drive thinking it was Griffith Park Boulevard, a street that runs near my house. After a number of turns, I was back at the playing fields. I finally got onto the freeway going in the wrong direction, took an exit to get turned around, then headed home.

You never know when you’ll run into a nice person who’s willing to straighten you out.

By the way, my team won the match, 2-1, despite the other team’s tactics.

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