It’s been a while since the last serious social faux-pas, but like the proverbial London buses, three (at least) came along and ran me over all at once last Friday.
I was playing a doubles match in the annual tournaments at my local squash club for the first time, having entered myself on the back of a run of good results. I’d previously (wisely) confined myself to playing squash with close friends, who were familiar with the fact that my charmingly folksy Mediterranean shouty gesticulatorama dummy-spitting implement-breaking on-court demeanour was emblematic of my unique emotionally-demonstrative patchwork personality, rather than, say, of me being a dickhead.
The evening started badly; I turned up 10 minutes late; not entirely my fault, as I’d been held up at a 3-hour monthly meeting of the Maintenance Administration Committee of the block of flats where I own a rental property. (Imagine how boring that meeting sounds, then magnify it by a factor equivalent to the disparity between N-Dubz’ fame and their talent, and you’ll get close to how dull it actually was. Just when I thought the meeting had finished - on 2 hrs 20 mins, which would in itself have been the longest meeting ever - an old fella piped up with a dispute about an old insurance claim, which had occurred before I even bought my flat. The upshot was that the managing agent promised to look into it, but would need to dig out the relevant paperwork, and I SWEAR that the last TWENTY minutes of the discussion - all of which took place whilst I was desperate for a piss as well as to depart - consisted entirely of “Well, you know, I’m really not happy - I want this sorted as soon as possible”. “OK, we’ll dig out the paperwork and look into it”. “Well, as long as you do, because I really don’t think this is being handled correctly”. “No, I understand - we’ll get the file out and report back next month”. “Right, as long as you make sure this is investigated properly, because I’m very…” etc etc etc etc. Etc.)
(Yawn…) oh, sorry, where was I? Oh yes, 10 minutes late for squash. In the normal run of things, you’d think that this wasn’t a blue-whale-sized deal; yet I turned up to a sea of faces stonier than Cheech and Chong put together; for it seems that a) doubles matches tend to go on for longer than the normal 40-minute allotted period, and b) the whole evening was booked up with doubles matches - mine, and then 7 others. Thus my late arrival had inconvenienced everyone playing after us - 28 separate individuals, their extended families and probably entire circles of close friends, extending outwards to 3 or 4 degrees of separation… in fact, I’m half-expecting to see “Inconsiderate Squash Bastard Ruins Friday” as the headline in this week’s installment of your super soaraway Kentish Express.
On to the game itself; I was playing with a guy of around 40 against an older man and a woman of 35 or so with a heavily bandaged knee. Having never before played doubles, I was instructed to call a let (whereby the point is replayed) if I was in any danger at all of banging into anyone - however, keen no doubt to make up as much time as possible to atone for my late arrival, I ignored this advice and proceeded to run into / knock to the ground said partially injured woman FIVE times during the course of play. She didn’t seem to mind. Much. The first couple of times, at least. My physically intimidating approach paid off as we raced into a 2-1 lead - then, however, on surrendering a 6-point advantage in game 4 and losing the game with a poor shot, I launched into my trademark battle-cry of “OH, for FUCK’S sake!” - only to look up at the viewing gallery and see the young families of both my partner and knee-woman staring at me, kids borderline quizzical / frightened, adults ashen-faced; cue appropriate self-abasement. The deciding game was a close one; we held the lead and match point at 14-13, and my serve (directed deliberately straight at knee-woman’s patella, obviously) had the opposition in trouble - my partner was set up for an easy put-away… which he proceeded to dunk into the “foul” area at the bottom of the wall. We (or rather I) then lost the next two points as well, and that was that. Well, nearly. The last point over, the now-dead ball rolled to my feet, and in a fit of pique, I took a frustrated swing, miscued completely - and looked up to see the ball whizzing at 90mph straight into the bowlarks of my startled partner. Cue tuts from the gallery and a sotto-voce chorus of “that’s really not on” / “what a bad loser” etc. A massively suppliant round of “sorry”s to anyone who would make eye contact with me didn’t seem to do the trick, as I was roundly ignored in the bar when drinks were being taken afterwards. And as I write this, there’s a mysterious and unexpected “call me back” message from the club’s membership secretary on my phone…
Still, it’s the taking part that counts.