Where I’m from, Fourth Grade is the school year to look forward to, as it marks one’s ability to enter the town’s music program. Perhaps I was a little more excited about this than my classmates. After several failed attempts at sports, it was my final chance to join a team, the orchestra team. I might not have been the fastest runner or the strongest swimmer, but I had the largest instrument.
I signed up to play the double bass.
The double bass is an excellent conversation starter, particularly in elevators. It turns out it’s difficult to remain silent while sharing a small, enclosed space with a girl who may, at any moment, be swallowed by a musical monster on a large wheel. The most popular comment inspired by the sight of my beast and me is, “Wow! That thing is bigger than you are!” My tried-and-true response to this is “Yea…I really should have gone with the violin.” Another possible response, which I admit I use less often than I’d like, is “No, it isn’t.” I prefer this because it results in great confusion. Clearly my bass is larger than I am, and when I refute this obvious fact, the comments seem to stop because I appear curiously out of touch with my spatial reality. There are times when strangers like to switch things up and catch me off guard. A prime example being the twenty-something guy who offered, “Have fun with your trombone.”
I can fit in the case. Yes, I’ve tried. It makes a great Halloween costume when stuck in a rut. I can also fit in my bass locker, which means that as long as I have a locker, I will never be homeless.
Although I’ve been playing the bass for about eleven years, it wasn’t until this past January that I gave in to the bass wheel. It took an NYU security guard to convince me to make the switch. This man, who reminds me of Detective Stabler on Law & Order SVU, and for all I know might be a head with no body (for three years I’ve only seen him behind a desk), took it upon himself to yell “STILL?? NO WHEEL??” every time he let me pass through the special exit gate.
Since adopting the wheel into my life, I’ve noticed a curious absence, following orchestra rehearsals, of the feeling that my arms are broken. Also, the number of strangers who laugh at me struggling on the street is noticeably lower. The downside is that my—previously—intimidating arm muscles are becoming less impressive by the day.