Tennis Strikes Again! To Each His Own Sport
September 10, 2014
Sunday morning, 7AM. Rise and shine! For most people, Sunday morning is all about lying in, probably coping with a slight hangover due to large amount of the cheap rosé taken in the night before. But not for Sedrik and I. For us, Sunday mornings are about blood, sweat and tears. After a week full of “I will make you bleed,” “here comes the paaaiiiiin” or “what did you call my mom?,” thrown at each other’s faces, Sunday morning is when the head to head collision takes place. And just like gentlemen, we settle it in court. A tennis court that is…
Sunday September 7th, we head out to the far reaches of Paris’ 18th district to try out a new tennis court. After hitting it hard on the concrete surface of the Luxembourg Garden’s courts the past months, we had to try out new terrain. 7:50AM, the tennis courts were in sight and I was ready to “kick ass”, but a small detail was keeping me from mentally preparing to face my arch nemesis: the gates are closed. At 8AM sharp, Sedrik appeared from the quiet streets of Montmartre hill on his new shiny white electric scooter with his tennis racket on his back. 8AM sharp, but still no sign of life within the sports club premises.
Very quickly after approaching the large sports complex, we noticed a very small sign on the door that said “the area is closed due to strikes.” Now why didn’t it surprise me? Oh yeah… because we live in FRANCE! Just as we were about to abandon, a guy walking past us gave us a compassionate nod and says: “it’s closed, they are still on strike”. Although we did crack a smile when he mentioned the word “still”, he must have noticed our disappointment, to which he immediately reacted by saying “but follow me, there is a hole in the gate to access the sports club for free.” Indeed, just a few meters away from the main entrance, someone had stretched the iron bars of the fence to have people slide. So after a few contortions and acrobatics, we were in and ready to enjoy our newly unauthorized Sunday morning tennis.
Our friend walked towards the soccer (football) field in a distance while we passed the racetrack and the artificial mountain climbing rock to finally find the tennis courts. The tension was reaching a climax, we were both ready to inflict severe punishment to one another. But just as we made our way into the battle court, our dismay hit rock bottom: there were no nets!
What you have to understand is that the French like perfection and refinement. When they do something (food, fashion, cosmetics..), they do it with the utmost perfection even if it takes a hundred years to reach excellence, which often pays in the end. And that goes for the national sport as well: strikes. Yes, the French really do excel in the art of strikes: making sure not to go to work (but still get paid), but also making sure to ruin someone else’s day by thinking about all the little things that could surely render his/her day useless.
But the beauty of it is that life goes on, as the French have gotten used to all these strikes. We did manage to hit a few tennis balls (in case you were wondering, yes, we are pros and who needs a net anyway) and broke a sweat. And just when we thought that we would be the only people to play on a netless tennis court, other people started playing on the other courts. Some joggers had crawled through the hole to make their way to the race track and in a distance, our good friend had been joined by 10 fellow soccer players who were all enjoying their free morning football match.
To each his own sport. While some try to maintain a healthy way of life by burning calories, others try to maintain a life by fighting the inequalities of the society they live in. The right to go on strike is a privilege that only a handful of countries offer to their inhabitants, and this should not be forgotten. France does have the reputation of abusing this privilege, getting a lot of media attention when reaching dramatic proportions just like when the national soccer team went on strike during the 2000 football world cup. But the freedom to fight for one’s rights is a noble cause. But just like any “national sport”, it has to be fair play. We just hope that by next weekend, we will avoid slithering through the stretched-out bars of the gate to access the tennis courts in a more conventional manner, find tennis nets (although once more, we really don’t need them) and decently smash, whack, slam some yellow balls.