Hut Angels –Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Hilary Meyers
August 27, 2012
West Hartford, CT

Hut AngelI have been playing platform tennis for many years, mostly with good friends, but also in interclub league play. I began entering “B” level tournaments three years ago and then gradually mustered enough nerve to enter several of the PCQ/NRT events. This year I was honored with an invitation to join my region’s President’s Cup team after I had already decided to try my hand at Nationals with my partner, Laurie Holl. At all tournaments it is inside the paddle hut where skill levels are neutralized and the passion for the game manifests itself in numerous ways. I submit the following heart-warming and reaffirming experience as an illustration of the special aura that a paddle hut can foster.

Laurie and I had planned a one-night stay at a local hotel to get us from play on Thursday (President’s Cup) to play on Friday (the beginning of Nationals). Our expectations for advancement had not extended into Saturday, but there we were—still competing but with no accommodations in place for Friday night. We were in the paddle hut, huddled together, musing aloud to one another about our options. Just then a woman’s voice sang out, “You could stay at my house. I have two empty bedrooms that you are welcome to use.” The voice belonged to a woman clad in a bright green T-shirt. She was one of the hut helpers on duty that day. Initially, we thought that it was one of those knee-jerk offers that are not meant to be taken seriously.  However, she reiterated the invitation and then left the hut to grab a quick lunch in the next building.

After the woman’s departure, we renewed our deliberations about what to do and whether we could see ourselves taking her up on her offer. I then consulted with the “hut commander” about the sincerity of the magnanimous proposal, whereupon she confirmed that the woman was a kind and generous individual, and if she had made such a suggestion she meant to honor it. We found our “angel” as she was finishing her lunch, told her that we would love to be the beneficiaries of her hospitality, and worked out the details of when and where.

2012 Region II Women's President's Cup TeamOur “hotel” for the night was a beautiful home where we each had our own spacious room. After depositing our belongings, Laurie and I left for the Friday evening dinner/social that was on the schedule for Nationals participants. Upon our return to Garden City several hours later, our host was in the midst of a movie night with two of her friends. She hit the pause button on the remote, and we enjoyed an easy and lovely conversation with our new friend and her friends, who, in turn, became our friends.

I have always been favorably impressed with the sub-culture of the paddle hut. Friendships blossom quickly, “small world” overlaps are discovered regularly, and love of the game is the profound common thread. Yet, the generous invitation spontaneously proffered to us far exceeded normal paddle hut etiquette. Yes, it was thrilling to be a participating athlete in the APTA Nationals weekend, but beyond that, it was touching and validating to be a stranger-turned-house guest in the blink of an eye. Hut helpers are wonderful volunteers, in general, but we experienced one who has made a lasting impression with her selflessness and open spirit. Our “angel” has a name – thank you, Laura Bader.

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