For three years in a row, years ago, I kept asking for a backscratcher, a bamboo one like my parents bought when we were in Korea. First I hinted, then I plainly stated, and then I outright demanded that I wanted one for Christmas. When I didn’t get it the third year, I went out finally found one in a dollar store. It had to be bamboo, you know; bamboo works best for scratching a back, I don’t know why. I’ve tried the plastic version with a clawed hand at a friend’s house, and it doesn’t provide the same “oh yeeeeeah” climax of soothing relief.
So imagine my surprise late this Christmas Eve when I was ordered by my family to ignore the sounds in the garage, and then I was told to go out to the garage, and I found a Ping Pong Table in a box leaning against the deep freezer. Wow. I had mentioned only once to my youngest grandkids, Spud and Rex, while driving them to school during the last week before vacation, that I’d like a Ping Pong Table—and there it was! I’ll have to mention many more things to them.
The gift was in cardboard, though, four big pieces of painted plywood with lots of hardware. Little by little over the next week I put it together on the floor of my garage. I’m 754 months old now, and I no longer have the exercise of Exwork to keep me in shape, so it was an exhausting task to assemble the table. Recently I’ve seen reported on TV a new ailment, the Selfie Wrist. Well, boohoo to that. Is it worse than the classic Tennis Elbow? Or the more prevalent Writer’s Cramp, which I’ve had, and the related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from typing, which I have not developed for some reason. How about Golfer Shoulders, or the more modern Netflix Binger Eyes? There’s an ailment at Exwork I insisted was real but no one believed me: Dirt-loader Spinal Column. That’s a vague ache that runs from just behind the skull to the tail bone, the coccyx (KOK-siks). (I had to use that word simply because I looked it up. What a strange name.)
At home, I suffer from what I call Listener’s Ear, which I developed from years of my wife telling me all about her crappy day, which she usually does while standing to my right when I’m in my recliner. Of course, that might not actually be damaging to the eardrum so much as it’s an overload of information in the left temporal lobe. Either way, it quickly triggers the flight aspect of the fight-or-flight response. Naturally I just sit there and suppress running away, but consequently I hear better in my left ear. (That might really be from my firing an M16 and such over the years, but I don’t recall my annual hearing test reporting any loss in my right ear at the time.)
It took me five days to finish putting the table together. The project went like this: to attach a mounting plate, I hand-started the screws in three of the pre-drilled holes (which were just pocks in the plywood and so I had to tap them in with a hammer first) used a battery drill with a Philips bit to turn the screws almost all the way down (to avoid Screwdriver Wrist, which is worse than the Selfie version, I’m sure), and then tightened them by hand (to keep from reaming out the hole with the drill), then replaced the screw bit with a drill bit to bore a starter in the fourth hole, because that part of the plate didn’t line up, screwed that in with a driver and bit, repeat the next hour, repeat the day after next.
It was probably just four hours of work, but I took lots of breaks, and took a whole day to recover after each effort of assembly, letting my right knee convalesce from all that kneeling. Oh, I tried switching to my left knee, but I’m right-handed, and so I’m right-everything, and my left patella and all the muscles on that side of my body didn’t like it.
A day later, my good friend from Exwork, Senor Cargador, helped me turn the thing upright onto its legs and rollers, and the next afternoon I got to play a practice game with my grandson, Rex. I was slow at it, not having played for twenty-three years, and I still felt the heat of Ping Pong Table Knee in my right leg from working all those screws and nuts and bolts. But my muscles started remembering, and I got in some good shots. I look forward to high-dewpoint sweaty games in the garage with friends and family in the coming months. Weef?