Yesterday when I walked into the office where I'm assigned for the remainder of my internal medicine rotation, there was an ebony black baby grand piano sitting in the lobby. It had been delivered after I left work on Friday. The lobby of the office where I'm temporarily stationed is only a temporary home for the piano. The doctors in the internal medicine practice housed in the office donated it to the hospital foundation. The piano's permanent home will be on the fifth floor of the building. The entire floor is an open space for entertaining, fundraising, and so forth.
Since the doctors of this practice paid for the piano, they feel that they may do whatever they damn well please with it. The piano will be needed for a major function to be held on December 16, which is, I think, on a Friday. I would not be surprised in the least to learn that I'm expected to play this new piano at the function on December 16, but of course no one has bothered to mention this to me, much less to ask if I'm available on that night. I could be wrong, anyway. Perhaps John Tesh is showing up that night to play the ubiquitous background muzak-style cocktail party sonic equivalent to gibberish. I may be crazy to think the people in charge would want my services as this supposedly important event.
I'm doing very well if I can accurately come up with the day of the week for December 16. (There are autistic savants who, upon being given an arbitrary date such as, for the sake of argument, July19, 1969, and can instantaneously come up with the corresponding day of the week. It so happens that I can tell you in that particular case that it would have been a Saturday because it was sandwiched between two other notable dates in history, which were the Chappaquiddick incident, which happened on Friday, July 18 of that year, and Apollo 11's landing on the moon, which happened on Sunday, July 20 of the same year. As far as having any savant-like calendar skills, though, I don't.) Right now I'm living sort of a day-to-day, hand-to-mouth existence. I know that today is Tuesday, November 22 [53rd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy] only because my computer right in front of me says so. I can't tell you what day of the week Christmas falls on this year. I don't know what day of the week my birthday, which will happen relatively soon, falls on, either. I would have to count to tell you how many days it is until my birthday. OK. I'll count it. It's ten days until my 22nd birthday. I do at least know which birthday it is. So if we extrapolate the data, one week after my Birthday, which ten days from now would have to be on a Friday, the next Friday would be the 9th, and the one following that would be the 16th.
So at this shindig [I absolutely abhor the word shindig, by the way, and am using it with the most sarcasm my fingers can muster in this font] I may or may not be expected to provide background piano music. There is another undergrad piano major in my cohort but, at the risk of sounding unkind, and I really don't like to be critical or catty in regard to the skills of another musician as I believe we as musicians should generally stick together and to be more complimentary and less competitive toward each other, the other piano major plays piano as though he is using a sledgehammer instead of his fingers to strike the keys and as though his wrists are weighted down with lead. There's nothing subtle in his style, and the usual chit-chat that takes places at cocktail parties will leave the attendees hoarse by the ed of the evening. That, however , is not my problem.
In any event, a piano, after being moved, needs to be tuned, but ot immediately thereafter. It needs a small amount of time to settle before any tuning job attempted can be expected to hold. The bigger the piano, the more time needed, but the higher the quality of the piano, the less time needed. This piano -- a baby grand -- is large as baby grands go. It's an Essex, which is a Chinese-manufactured Steinway, which, in the grand scheme of piano rankings, would have it as a much better-than-average piano. Those two factors of size and quality somewhat cancel each other out. A tuner came in after hours last night to tune the piano. A slightly longer wait would have been optimal, but for the intents and purposes of the piano at its present location, three days is probably a perfectly acceptable interval between moving. If Martha Arkerich, Vladimar Ashkenazy, or anyone of their calibre were to play it, the piano alone wouldn't be sufficient, much less the tuning job possible three days after it had been move to a location.
No one of their calibre will be playing it today. The piano will, instead, be played by yours truly. I've been told to bring enough music to play ll morning. I will not bring music because my style of fulfilling such an assignment doesn't involve reading notes off a page. i often use printed music when I accompany out of request for the person i'm accompanying, but if I'm soloing for something formal, I have the music memorized. If I'm playing for something less formal, I play by ear. Books or sheets of music would be more trouble than they would be worth to play elevator music for four hours.
I asked the receptionist to print up a sign inviting patients to make requests if they so desired. Most requests I can probably accommodate. If i know what a song sounds like all the way through, I can play it. If someone asks for "Melancholy Baby," "As Time goes By," "Come Sail Away," "A Thousand Years," "Bohemian Rhapsody," or "Pachelbel Canon," I should be able to play those songs. If someone asks for "Coal Miner's Daughter," I cannot accommodate the request. It's not merely Alexis being a high-brow snob who refuses to tarnish her fingers with the likes of the music of Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, or Loretta Lynn. It's just that I haven't heard enough of the country standards to play them. If I had a book of country standards, I would bring it. i do not, however, own such a volume, and I didn't find out until yesterday that I would be expected to play the piano all morning today. By the time I escaped the office, local music stores would have been closed for business. I'm counting on our clientele to be too sophisticated to make such requests.
I've been told to pack so that as soon as the office closes for lunch break, I may be on my merry way to hitch a ride on a charter plane with my friend Tim back to the city in which our parents reside.
I could be resentful that I am being deprived of the opportunity to learn more of the ins and outs of internal medicine, or I could be grateful that the doctors who assigned me to this task are essentially giving me the morning off, and are, additionally, allowing me to leave for vacation earlier than they had to let me leave. I choose to be grateful.
The piano will remain in the internal medicine office lobby for a week following the Thanksgiving break. I'll probably be asked to play Christmas music at least once during the remaining time that the piano sits in the lobby. It will then be moved to the fifth floor and given adequate time to settle before its official tuning, so that it will sound nice for whomever plays it for the shindig on December 16.
I'm glad the fourth-year medical students are off on vacation already and will not be present to wander by and make sarcastic comments just loudly enough to be heard by me about how nice it is that someone can play the piano so that she doesn't have to do any actual work. I'm capable of ignoring them, but it's even better not to have to listen to their comments, period.