Sometimes when you love something, you have to throw stones at it. Not because you want to hurt it, but because you want it to improve, because you love it. For instance, I throw stones at crows because I want the strongest, fastest, most agile crows in America.
I love the ping-pong tables that the City of Seattle, in its finite wisdom, has deposited in several public spaces over the past years. It's an inexpensive way to encourage interaction between people—mixing, understanding, recreation, friendly competition. Let the great city churn! I played poorly on the Westlake table all summer, and it was lovely. Thank you, Seattle.
But what the fuck is this ping-pong table doing here, on the edge of Elliott Bay, looking like a lost goat?
Was no physicist consulted? A ping-pong ball requires a prevailing wind of approximately zero mph to be set horribly off course, and this has got to be one of the breeziest places in the city. This table is about as useful as a nacho cheese dispenser would be on the International Space Station. Further reading, I'm told, can be found in Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, in which a tennis court is cut into a rock cliff on the Mediterranean by a plucky, well-meaning young man who at first fails to consider how many tennis balls would be lost at sea.
So who put it here? The ping-pong tables "have been the result of various partnerships and efforts"—in the case of the offending table, this means a collaborative effort between Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Office of the Waterfront, established by Mayor Murray last year to help give a little structure and life to a neighborhood stuck between a half-removed viaduct and a half-completed seawall. Reached for comment, a spokesperson from Seattle Parks and Recreation said of table placement:
The siting of the tables is usually based on the practical needs of the park. The tables need to be somewhere where people can move freely around the table without colliding with pedestrians and the table needs to be out of areas that are frequently used for other programming or events or where maintenance vehicles need access.
Oddly, this site does meet most of those requirements—quite an accomplishment in itself; even Westlake Park's table, for instance, probably creates the occasional pedestrian collision, but I'd argue it's a great site regardless. The problem with this table is it's just too damn windy. So what do we do? I propose that we initiate an unprecedented, multimillion-dollar, multi-year project to erect a state-of-the-art, glass and titanium wind shield around the table. (Pricey, yes, but still cheaper than the downtown tunnel project. And more worth the effort!) Until then, like Duchamp's snow-shovel, this is perhaps best enjoyed as a high-concept piece of installation art.
And also, if you're wondering where some of those downtown ping-pong tables went, Seattle Parks and Recreation notes that they "expect the tables in Occidental and Westlake to be back in the parks this summer," which I suppose means we should expect them too.