Tennis ’til I Die

This weekend was lovely. Just lovely. Today we walked to Target to grab some household stuff, just so we could be out and about, and yesterday we went to the park where walked on a trail and played some tennis and confronted a racist. Just another fun weekend in Georgia. Okay, listen. I know I live in the “Progressive South” which is an oxymoron of sorts, but if we are going to believe that we really do have a more progressive South, Atlanta is the place to believe that. But the truth of the matter is this is still Georgia. This is still the South, regardless of how blue our state gets and I was aptly reminded of that this weekend.

Jerimiah loves to play tennis. Jackson and I could take it or leave it, but we’ve been promising to hit the courts with him for awhile now so we did on Saturday. We have a public park in our quiet, little suburban town. It’s nestled deep in the woods, between lovely houses and adorable elementary schools. Truth be told it’s a gem of a park, with a large pond, hiking trails, a waterfall, tennis courts, soccer fields, a dog park, and several playgrounds. It’s kinda great.

So when we got to the park the tennis courts were full. We waited on the bleachers for a court to open up, as one does, common tennis etiquette and what not, and then court three opened up. We waited for about 45 minutes which isn’t too bad. There are signs that ask you limit your play to an hour if people are waiting, so it makes sense. We got to court three and started playing.

On courts one and two there were four men, all playing singles. One set of men were speaking Spanish, the other set was speaking possibly Mandarin, I can’t be sure. The point here is none of them were white. On court four were four high schoolers, three boys and a girl. Two were white, two were Black. Why does this matter, Missy? Just wait.

About half an hour into our play a white woman and an Asian woman, along with two little girls came into the courts. They had tennis bags and were dressed to the nines in tennis gear. In fact, when I first saw them I wondered if one of them was a trainer or something like that. But then I quickly learned, no. I learned this because they came into the courts, even though the courts were full and they walked directly to our bench and sat down. I didn’t say anything to them and they said noting to me, but the white woman was bent out of shape that there were no free courts and she was hellbent on finding the six more courts she thought we had. She argued with the Asian woman about this. I got a very married couple vibe from them. They were however causing a scene and the other players on the course started to look at us. I think they assumed these two women were with us, because I mean, who just comes and sits on your bench unless you know them?

Anyway, while the white woman goes in search of these mysterious other courts another family walked up to the tennis courts and sat their items down on the bleachers outside like we had. They were obviously there to wait for an open court. It’s about that time that the kids were leaving and they asked the new family, which happened to be a Black family, if they wanted their court. They said yes and they started the transition.

Now I didn’t know all of this. I was pretty into this game we were having, and frustrated with the people on our bench who were sitting very close to our shit and causing a scene and I sort of assumed the new family knew the kids, or were with them. But as the transition of the court was happening the white lady came back into the courts and saw what was happening and walked over to the kids and the Black family and started yelling. I immediately knew what was happening. We were about to see a “Karen” flip her shit.

I sort of half listened for a few minutes and gathered that the kids did not know the family, but that they assumed that “Karen” was with us. Meanwhile the Black family had already taken the court and were starting to warm up. The family was a mom and her three high school/college kids and the kids were actually fucking tennis stars or something. Like they started to hit the ball and everyone stopped and watched them. Jackson said, “I didn’t know people were that good.” Like they had to be on a college team. Anyway, this angered “Karen” and on top of the “This was our court” shit, she started throwing in some racial slurs. That’s when I had to step in.

Jackson had hit a wild ball over to their court and I ran over to grab it. They had stopped playing at this point because “Karen” was actually standing in the middle of the court, meanwhile Jerimiah was trying to get the Asian woman to get the “Karen” under control and the Asian woman was yelling her name and begging her to get back over to our bench. Natalie. That was the real name of the “Karen” I wish I’d learned her last name. The kids that were with them looked mortified and sat in silence, while “Karen” and the mom of the tennis stars started pulling their phones out and filming each other. I walked up for my ball and everyone kind of stopped. One of the kids handed me the ball and I apologized to him for what the “Karen” was saying and he smiled and said not to worry about it, happens all the time.

That angered me, so as I walked back to my court I looked at “Karen” and said, “Hey, these kids are just trying to play. Will you get off their court and maybe wait outside the fence, we will be done in a few minutes.” This comment elicited an “Ohhh” from the high school kids who had stuck around to see what was happening and “Karen” flipped out on me. She told me, “I pay fucking taxes!” To which I said, “Yeah, we all do.” Laughter from the kids. This really pissed her off and she said, “I’ve never even been here because I play at (insert some club I’m supposed to know about) and there are no rules posted here.” To which I said, “Well, it’s common courtesy to stay off a court that you’re not playing at, so maybe next time just wait outside until a court opens up.” She starts yelling, “You could have told me that,” and I walk away because there was actually no telling this woman anything.

By this time the Asian woman has gathered the kids and all their things and is leaving the court. She got the hint. She goes and gets Natalie and they leave. All play resumes. A couple minutes later I’m fuming still, the mom of the tennis stars is on her phone I think to her husband telling her about this crazy lady and I decide I need to go talk to her. So I walk over and outside the fence where she is and she hangs up and I apologize to her and she thanks me, thanks me for coming over and for saying something to her. She explains that she thought they were with us, again, because they were on our damn bench, and I assured her no, we didn’t know them, they just walked onto the courts while we were all playing. We started to talk about what the woman had said to them, when one of the tennis stars says, “Mom be careful, she’s back.” We turn around and here comes “Karen” up the damn hill again toward us. She had been leaving then saw us talking and decided to stop and say more crazy shit. At this point Jackson starts to meander over and I’m like, okay I have to diffuse, but “Karen” is already screaming up the hill, accusing us of talking about her. Which was right, cause, uhh, she cray.

Sherry, the mom of the tennis stars, is like, “Oh Lord here we go again.” At this point she walks with me into the tennis courts hoping that “Karen” will stay outside, which she does but she’s screaming about Sherry’s “Husband” and that’s when I realize that she thinks Sherry’s oldest son is her husband and Sherry is like, “That’s not my husband, you are screaming at my children. These are my children.” And this sets “Karen” off and she says to Sherry, “Oh you probably can’t even get a husband. You probably want a white one, but you can’t get one.” I’m halfway to my bench at this point because I’ve decided to call the cops, but then I stop. My mind is like a tennis match, y’all. I’m all, don’t be a “white savior” here, Sherry has this, then I’m all, no, as a white woman I need to woman up to this “Karen” and put her in her place. Then I’m like what if she is crazy. But if I call the cops they might assume the Black family is in the wrong because that’s the kind of world we live in. All this is running through my mind, so I start back toward Sherry to ask her what she wants me to do, “Karen” sees me and leaves but not before screaming, “Oh yeah, Black Lives Matter.” Which coincidently was the shirt Jackson had on that day.

Ugh.

Obviously we stayed on the court until a man and his preschool daughter walked up with tennis balls and waited at the bleachers, because there was no way I was going to leave the court open for “Karen” to play at if they came back. I would have played tennis ’til I died, y’all. ‘Til I died.

When we left Sherry and her family thanked us again, we exchanged numbers in case anything crazy happened, I apologized again and I told her to be safe. The high school kids were walking back by and they stopped and we all chatted. They said they had no idea that she was waiting for a court and they just thought they did what they were supposed to do. I told them not to worry about it, that they were fine. That they did do the right thing and then I apologized to them. I was so sad they had to see that. And then we left. I didn’t see the “Karen” so I felt okay about it, but shit y’all.

Be kind to people. It’s not that much to ask.

M.