I am not a radio. Just had to get that off my chest.
Last week, I spent a disheartening and bizarre hour as a volunteer pianist, at a senior facility I’ve visited monthly for a year and a half.
A group of about 20 elderly men and women, sitting in comfy sofas and chairs around the piano, looked up with interest when I arrived. Seeing the good-sized crowd lifted my spirits. But soon I realized that most of those gathered were part of the “early lunch” group. They weren’t waiting for music. They were waiting for the doors of the nearby dining room to open, so they could file in and eat.
I selected “I Only Have Eyes for You” from my sheet music bag and got started. A few bars in, a maintenance man powered up his circular saw in the open balcony above the piano. He was cutting lengths of baseboard trim—in short, successive screeches—and carried on with his project throughout my performance.
Adding to the cacophony, a woman from housekeeping decided it was a good time to vacuum the facility’s entry way, lobby, and eventually the area where my listeners sat. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d asked me to lift my feet from the pedals so she could clean under the piano.
And then there was the dog. I’ve noticed a dog in this place before, a cute, small breed I don’t know the name of. He usually noses around my music bag and wanders off. This day, he took a running leap onto the lap of a resident, and dropped a rubber ball in a “let’s play” gesture. The man was only too happy to oblige. He started an energetic game, throwing the ball across the room—in my direction—for the dog to retrieve. I struggled to maintain my concentration at the piano, one eye monitoring the surrounding chaos. The ball whizzed by my head a couple of times. The next pitch hit me.
If looks could kill, I would have been arrested.
I realize my volunteer efforts don’t make me the most important person in the room. Still, I am not a radio.
Copyright © 2014 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.