If you were to see me walking onto the clay courts at the Highlands tennis center in Forest Park, you might think I’m pretty good. I have tennis shorts, a nice tennis shirt and, most impressively, a headband that almost matches my shirt. I am not some guy out there in cutoffs and a T-shirt.
But when the game begins, I do not glide along the baseline and drive the ball with the upward stroke that creates topspin. I shuffle along and weakly push the ball back toward the net. Sometimes it goes over. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Yet I do not buy cheap tennis balls. I go top shelf. I buy Pro Penn balls. A can of three costs about four bucks. I could go to a big box store and buy a can of cheap tennis balls for about three bucks.
I take no joy in admitting this. Nobody who plays a sport wants to be the guy that spends money on equipment and clothes but has no game. Still, at a certain point in life, you take stock of yourself. If you are that guy, you are that guy.
Which is why I recently drove to Racquetman, a tennis store on Manchester Avenue near Interstate 270. I bought several cans of Pro Penn balls. This was the second of my day’s two errands. First, I had been to a drive-in bank on Lindell Boulevard.
I came home feeling good about myself. “Missions accomplished,” I said to my wife. Then I went upstairs to rest.
As I emptied my pockets, I discovered, to my horror, that I had only one hearing aid. And please don’t ask, “What good are hearing aids when they’re in your pocket?” Believe me, that question has been asked already. I have no good answer. I am like a defendant in traffic court who pleads, “Guilty with an explanation.”
My hearing aids sometimes talk to me. “Battery low,” they say. It is jarring, to say the least, to hear something like that completely out of the blue — Who are you? What batteries are you talking about? — and I would not want it to happen in heavy traffic.
My hearing aids are very expensive. I checked and rechecked my pockets. Nothing. I fought off the initial wave of panic and steadied myself. Perhaps the missing hearing aid was in the car. Maybe I had put a check and deposit slip in my pocket — I have refused to allow, as a matter of principle, automatic deposits whenever possible — so there was a chance that when I reached into my pocket for the deposit slip, the hearing aid came out. Possible, but unlikely. I had a distinct recollection that the deposit slip and the check had been in my wallet and that was in my back pocket, not a side pocket.
Still, I looked in the car. I could not find the hearing aid.
That left Racquetman. I mentally retraced my steps. I pulled into the parking lot. I got out of the car. I locked it. I must have. I always do. I went into the store and bought five cans of balls. The young man behind the counter asked me if I wanted a bag. I said no, and picked up the cans and headed back to my car.
It is not easy to carry five cans of tennis balls. They were slipping as I approached the car. I remember awkwardly getting a couple of cans on the roof of the car as I reached into my pocket for the car keys. It must have been at that point, when I was fumbling with the tennis balls and pulling the keys out of my pocket, that the hearing aid fell out.
A sense of righteousness washed over me. I had opted not to get a bag because I was doing my small part to save the earth. Plastic bags are bad. They end up in the oceans. Creatures of the sea eat them and die.
I am part of the greatest consumer culture that has ever existed. My carbon footprint is gigantic. I eat hamburgers. I drive for miles to buy tennis balls. I live a life of luxury that the planet cannot sustain. But occasionally, I try to do the right thing.
I turned down a plastic bag and instead carried the five cans of tennis balls to my car. And this is how karma rewards me?
Perhaps the government should make me whole. People who buy electric cars get a tax break. So do people who install solar panels. I am a liberal who believes in rewarding good behavior. In the end, we will win or lose our battle for the Earth’s future through the efforts of individuals. Cori Bush is my congresswoman. I made a mental note to contact her.
Hearing aids, by the way, are not covered by most health insurance policies. That has always seemed odd to me. Health insurance covers almost everything. People with health insurance abuse it all the time. They get treatments they don’t really need. Nobody who didn’t need a hearing aid would get one.
The day after I lost my hearing aid, my wife and I headed to Texas to see our son and his wife and child. I wore my remaining hearing aid. It was in my left ear.
When I was a young man, hipsters wore earrings. Wearing an earring in one ear meant you were gay. In the other ear, it meant you were a pirate. I could never remember which was which.
I wondered, as I walked around Texas, if anyone thought I was sending a signal, and if so, what signal did they think I was I sending.
That made me feel uncomfortable. Whenever I left my son’s house, I slipped my hearing aid into my pocket. I did not lose it.
My wife had made arrangements for somebody to cut our grass while we were in Texas. So we came home to a nicely trimmed lawn. And there, in the short grass, was my right hearing aid.
How could it have fallen out of my pocket while I was walking from the car to the house? A miracle, a mystery. Would it work after having been in the elements for more than a week? I put it on.
“Battery low,” it said.