Pong Night in Maine

April 17, 2017

When I moved to a small town on the coast of Maine over ten years ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to Monday Night Pong by a local farmer. I've been going almost every Monday since.

Monday Night Pong has been a mostly male local institution for over twenty years. Held in the same 2-story barn all that time. No matter what holiday that Monday falls on, the doors are always open and somebody always shows up. The tables (2 tables: one upstairs and one downstairs) are usually clean enough to play on unless, the owner of the barn, has been doing wood projects and needed a large table to work on.

We clear the table of the dust and chips and ready the net. We make sure the unevenly placed six working lights are all plugged in. Occasionally somebody mutters about fixing the weirdly placed burnt-out florescent bulbs, but we make do. Our pong-playing fierceness lights any dark corners in the barn.

Usually there's about six to twelve guys that show up, ranging in age from twenty to sixty. Our eldest player will turn eighty-eight in May! We ask him, "You gonna make it to Pong this Monday?" He always replies with either "Is the Pope Catholic?" or "Does a bear shit in the woods?”

As with most of us, it is just too much fun to miss. We almost always play doubles, switching partners often. There is zero trash talk. We deal in compliments! We are there to be playful. It's simply a chance to play no matter our skill level. Play doesn't happen so much for a lot of us after we 'grow up'.

We are unleashed for a few hours into the world of simple play, unfettered by anything more important than just getting the ball back over the net. We prove to ourselves by showing up, that we're young enough to still have abandoned fun, one more time yet again. At the end of the evening, we feel tired, yet refreshed knowing we showed up and give our all to play well.

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