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Summit Up

SUMMIT UP

Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column that has been pinging the pong pretty much 24-7 since setting up a table in the garage a few days ago.

Let us tell you, we had to do a little jury-rigging to get this thing operational, since the collapsible model we’re talking about has more moving parts than a nuclear submarine.

Even just unfolding and refolding the instruction sheet requires a degree in particle physics, at the very least, not to mention an electron microscope to read the fine print and to identify what looks to be like about 1,384 separate widgets, washers, clamps and other pieces of miscellaneous machine-tooled metal needed for this “easy-to-assemble” item.

Of course, several of the pictured pieces don’t match anything in the box, and the instructions mysteriously jump from section 12-b(1.5) to section 16-c(2.2). We think this is a particularly cruel form of psychological torture aimed at those of us with mild ADD.

This was the second time we’ve put up the table, and in both cases, we ended with severe blisters on our hands and/or fingers. This time, we were missing a key part, manufactured to micro-millimeter specifications exclusively by Swiss gnomes in an underground ping-pong table factory near Interlaken. They’re back-ordered, so we ended up setting this baby on some saw horses and reinforcing the bottom of the table with two-by-fours and what seemed like a few hundred 2.5-inch wood screws. And since we couldn’t find a Phillips bit for our drill, we ended up turning all those by hand. Ouch.

We don’t feel so bad about any of this since the basic history of ping-pong ” also known as table tennis ” is one of improvisation. We were curious, so we did a bit of research and learned that the game got its start around the end of the 19th Century. It seems that some upper-middle-class Victorians in England weren’t satisfied with simply sipping brandy, playing snooker and smoking cigars after dinner, so they decided to turn their dining room tables into miniature indoor versions of the already popular lawn tennis courts. Plus, as we all know from watching Wimbledon, it tends to rain just a bit in England, so going indoors was probably a good call.

Anyway, according to legend, these ping-pong pioneers used a line of books as a net, the tops of empty cigar boxes as paddles and balls made from old champagne corks. Hmmm, we may try this set-up one night, just for giggles.

And before settling on “ping-pong” as the official name, it was called “whif-whaf,” “gossamer” and “flim-flam.” We’re glad they chose ping-pong, since it’s one of those all-time great alliterative names that, without question, evokes the game.

Hey, at least we have a real net, as opposed to a bunch of paper towels strung up with rubber bands, like we’ve seen in some basements. And real paddles, which beats using kitchen ladles or random pieces of plywood.

We have had to improvise on the rules just a bit since our garage is, uhhh, just a bit crowded with the usual accoutrement of mountain gear, including random ski boots, a pair of 220-cm downhill boards (no bindings), a 25-year-old wood-handled ice axe, not mention several boxes full of National Geographic mags, an old black-and-white photo enlarger, a high chair, snowblower and half a dozen bins full of camping gear. So if you manage to hit it off the rucksack stuffed with a coiled climbing rope and back on to the table, you get two points.

After several bruising games when we bumped into some of this paraphernalia pretty hard, we are starting to think that we might need to wear body armor. A helmet might also be useful, as our 10-year-old is really starting to hit the ball with power. We’re hoping that accuracy soon follows.

We’re also a wee bit concerned about chasing down the balls when they go astray. You never know when you might reach into an old boot and come up with a fistful of mouse turds, or reach behind a bin and get bit by a black widow spider.

The new table has led to much hilarity and mirth, especially our “ballet-style” serve, which involves toe pointing and swooshy hand movements, all of which had our 10-year-old rolling on the floor and laughing to the point of tears the other night.

“My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard,” he said, making us feel like the blisters were worth it.

One thing we definitely approve of is the introduction of colored ping-pong balls. Back in our day, all the balls were plain white, which isn’t bad, just boring. Nowadays, these little beauties come in baby blue, sunshine yellow, neon green … all much easier to find in the semi-lit environs of our play area. Plus, you can wear a matching shirt to better disguise your serve.

For more on ping-pong, we recommend Balls of Fury, a flick with Christopher Walken that should help elevate the game to cult status.

***

We out, trying to not crack our balls.


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