If the writing thing ever completely dries up, I’ve decided I’m going to sell drugs. It seems like a reasonable course of action, given that a lot of people probably already think that’s what I do.
Hang on; let’s back up.
Back about a year and a half or two years ago, Chickadee’s middle school band teacher made certain to tell me at a teacher conference or a concert (you can see this is really burned in my memory with utter clarity…) that “it’s time for a new flute.” I especially love this sort of thing because it’s not like “buy a new spiral notebook” but “hello, I barely know you, but please drop $1000+ on a new instrument because your snowflake should have one.” In fairness, Chickie had been progressing by leaps and bounds, and at a certain point you just can’t get any better on a starter instrument. The band director’s heart was in the right place. But Chickie overheard this and decided she NEEEEEEDED a new flute, yes please, now please, thank you.
Also this was right after we’d paid a lot of money to get her existing flute fixed. Because of course it was. (Insert martyred sigh here.) Her dad and Otto and I talked it over, and we decided that if she really wanted a better flute, we would pool our resources and get her one for Christmas that year.
Being the bargain hunter that I am, I then set about researching instruments and retailers and certified refurbs and all of this other stuff I don’t understand at all. (Her: “But this flute won’t blah blah blah octave keyhole trill.” Me: “…”) Somehow—I don’t even remember how, now—someone hooked me up with FluteWhisperer, a lovely gentleman who works for a major woodwind outlet wayyyyyy on the other side of Atlanta.
FluteWhisperer, as you may have already gathered from his moniker, is kind of amazing. We emailed back and forth for about a month and finally in maybe October or November of 2011 he mailed me one day and said, “Okay, I have three possible flutes for her, and I’ll be near your town on this day next week. Want to meet up and let her try them?” Arrangements were made, and on that fateful day we both pulled in to the far end of the parking lot at a Dairy Queen and commenced… checking out flutes.
He would whip out one, put it together, and hand it to Chickie. “Do a couple of scales,” he’d say. She would oblige. “See if you can do the fingering for blah blah blah,” he’d say. She would do it when she could, or try when she couldn’t. We stood there in the parking lot while she tried them all and he showed her various things. (I guess the better flutes have different… feet? Is that right? The foot is different than on the starter flute, with more keys.) People who were wandering in and out of the DQ gave us funny looks, sure, but we were busy. WE WERE BUSY FLUTING. And stuff. Eventually a clear winner emerged—a solid silver flute with a beautiful tone, immaculately restored from its former life. Chickie loved it. I loved not paying full price. And he offered to fix her marching flute (broken again, just a week or so after being “repaired” by a place in town), too, at no additional charge. I wrote him an enormous check and we went our separate ways.
A week later he returned with her original flute, all fixed up. He asked how she was liking the new one. Chickie ducked her head and shyly replied that it was a lot harder to play, but she was working on it.
So that was the Christmas Of The New Flute, and the following January I noticed she was back to her old flute and asked what was up and she said the new one was too haaaaard to plaaaaay, and I probably pitched a hissy because back then that’s how I would’ve reacted to the sequence of IMUSTHAVEAFLUTE IMUSTHAVEAFLUTE IMUSTHAVEAFLUTE HEYIHATETHISFLUTE. Because WE SPENT GOOD MONEY and YOU DON’T APPRECIATE NICE THINGS and such. Because that was just before everything launched on the Suckage Trajectory that was 2012.
Then there was… everything that came next. And not a lot of flute playing, obviously. And then when it came time to pack her up to move to her dad’s house, she said her new flute was broken and she didn’t want to take it with her. She took the starter flute, and I left the other one in her closet, and within about a month she had dropped out of band up there because the band director was mean.
I don’t know if the band director was mean or not, but when we were making preparations for her to return, I told her guidance counselor to go ahead and put her in band, and I called FluteWhisperer to say “Hey, can I give you this flute to fix? I have no idea what’s wrong with it but I bet you do.” Because FluteWhisperer is used to me being dumb, he said no problem.
A few days before Chickie came home, I met him in the Dairy Queen parking lot, and people looked at us funny while I took a small black case out of my car and handed it to him, and then we both drove away.
Yesterday he called me to say he was near the Dairy Queen and the flute was all set and did I want to come get it? Indeed I did. And Chickie was not yet home from school, so I went over there on my own. He opened the case and started explaining what he’d done, and to me it mostly sounded like “I flibbertygibbeted the whozeemawhatsis and reseated the klaflurgles so that the seal would be better,” and I gave him a check and he gave me the flute and I drove home.
When I got back, Chickadee was here, and DELIGHTED to see her flute again. She took it out, put it together, and tried to do a scale. It kind of went like: DOE RAY ME FA SO SQUEAK SQUEAK GROAN.
She frowned at the flute and tried again. Same result. She tried a chromatic scale, instead, with a similar result. She began fiddling with the keys. “It’s broken,” she said.
The pressure from my rolling eyes was mighty. “IT IS NOT BROKEN, HE JUST FIXED IT,” I insisted. She fiddled some more, while I suggested that perhaps she was just out of practice, and finally she angled the flute towards me.
“See these two keys here?” she said. “When I press this one, they’re both supposed to go down. And they’re not. This one isn’t attached to the other one right. It’s not that I’m out of practice, it’s not working right.”
I called FluteWhisperer and tried to explain what Chickie had said. Not much time had passed, but I felt terrible, anyway. He drives a LOT to get to us, and between you and me, I wasn’t entirely convinced she hadn’t… just… kind of forgotten how to play. (I am a horrible person. I’m aware.)
This time I took her with me, and we headed back to Dairy Queen. By now I was ready for the police to appear, because two mysterious exchanges in the parking lot surely looks even more suspicious than just our regular one, y’know? But the angels smiled upon us, because 1) the cops never showed, and 2) Chickadee was right, there was a screw that hadn’t been properly tightened that was messing up that second key. FluteWhisperer fixed it with the multitool hanging off his keychain, apologizing profusely all the while. Then it was time to play some scales in the parking lot (as one does), and once it was determined that all was well, we parted ways. Again.
Later on, as I sat in my office, listening to Chickadee practicing in her room (directly above me), I thought that yeah, it’s kind of a lot of trouble, and there’s probably some people who now think I’m either dealing or buying, but FluteWhisperer is pretty awesome and it’s totally worth it to get things done right and for my daughter to have an instrument she enjoys. But I’ll admit that thought was immediately followed by relief that we won’t have to do the covert DQ meet-up again any time soon.
But THEN I remembered that Chickie mentioned that for Christmas NEXT year she’d really like a piccolo. Sooooo… yeah.