Piano Tuners

C was the first one we had; long hair, skinny, talkative. He was recommended: graduated from a reputable program, experienced, skilled. He is a pianist himself. I had to call him three times to make the first appointment. He must be popular.

He never arrived on time. The reasons were always legitimate and long. He lugged in his tool box, shirt half-tucked in, boots with mud. But he was all serious when he worked. He asked me to refrain from making noise, such as typing, using water, walking around the house. Water running through pipes, he said, would make it hard for him to hear the pitch. Then, he banged on the keys for hours and hours for the money of one tuning. I stayed in the farthest room to work on my laptop and  felt guilty when I really must use the bathroom. I always scheduled the appointments when the kids were not home to minimize the noise. But he always dragged it till the school was over. Every time after he left I said to the kids we had to find another person. They begged me not to, because C always ended his job by playing a piece he composed that used all 88 keys. The kids sat on the steps so not to make the floor squeak, waiting for him to play the grand finale. For that I endured him for two years. I did it with bloody hands when he did not return my fourth call for another appointment.

J succeeded him. He was the opposite of C – He always came punctually to the minute. He smiled a lot and did not talk much. When he spoke I could not hear with my ears trained for C. J, too, boing-boinged longer than we paid for. He was a bit of a nervous type. He went around the piano eying for space. Then he carefully spread the cover, the damper, the screws, his tools etc. He did not play a finale. Instead, his last 10 minutes were without exception a frantic rush, because he was always almost late for a performance that night. He sang in a choir. 

In Taiwan, we have a young man who looks like he is 19. He never shows up on time. When he enters, he smiles timidly and speaks barely audibly. Yesterday, our appointment was from 3-4. After 30 minutes of waiting, I called his boss. What he said made me realize that tuners and customers have a different sense of time. For me, an appointment for 3-4 means, he arrives at 3 and leaves at 4. For him, it means he shows up between 3-4 and works until he needs to move on. If the boss thinks so, his staff would behave accordingly. The tuner came at 4:15. I am attempted to make the same cut-throat decision. But I know what the kids will say: This person is so kind. He does a good job. In addition, he said he is tuning fewer and fewer pianos because the younger generation in Taiwan is having fewer kids. Fewer kids play pianos, fewer pianos to tune.

I am sure this guy are C and J disguised in another body. They followed us all the way to Taipei!


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