Pssst! Meet you at the DQ on the DL

By Mir
February 27, 2013

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.


  1. Aimee

    LOL @ flute-dealing in the DQ parking lot. I am going to email you about the piccolo :)

  2. Megan

    Hmmm. Makes me wonder what clandestine things my parents did to hook me up with that gorgeous violin that I didn’t appreciate…

  3. Nelson's Mama

    Lord, I feel your pain!

    We have a marching trumpet, a Bach concert trumpet (that came from eBay) and a mini-trumpet from Amazon.

    The practicing grates so…

  4. Pamela

    Once upon a time, my mother used to be very into miniatures (not play dollhouses, the expensive kind.) My father bought her a beautiful hand crafted silver chest out of the trunk of a car in a parking lot outside Williamsburg. The chest is about the size of an acorn, or maybe a large almond.

    At least people can see the flute from a few feet away. My dad was looking at things in little tiny plastic bags.

  5. Abbeyviolet

    I remember my upgrading flute process. Quite the ride. Oddly, I have met someone in parking lots periodically to get these special pickles and do feel a bit skeevy. The upside is a better instrument should be a huge difference and help her see progress now even after a gap in playing. I hope she loves it!

  6. Bob

    Band – for kids who are serious about music – is expensive, time consuming, and expensive. She will need lessons soon if she is serious. After a few years with this flute she will probably graduate to a better one.

    Band becomes marching band, marching band competitions, parades, symphonic band, all-state band, maybe even jazz band and/or pep band for the off-(football)-season, woodwind ensemble, etc. I bet UGA has somekind of outreach for kids in the area (to help feed their music program when kids graduate high school) and has band camps and/or maybe a “jr. orchestra”. All for kids who are serious about music.

    You have just seen the tip of the iceberg.

  7. Katherine

    This makes me appreciate that when my son’s middle school band director told him he needed a different instrument (right after we finished buying the clarinet, of course), that the school had a bass clarinet for him to use. And, now I appreciate that even more, as when the bass clarinet decided to go all weird on him 2 days before District Honor Band, we didn’t have to meet someone at DQ, but my son got to try out the school’s other bass clarinets after school that day, trying to find one that would work well for him while the local place fixed his (school) instrument.

    I hope that re-entry into school here is going well for Chickadee.

  8. Brenda

    DQs are the best place for sketchy deals to go down, because then you have what you need plus you can get ice cream.

  9. Arnebya

    It’s only shady business when you meet BEHIND the DQ. You’re welcome for that. (To the left of the dumpsters, natch.)

  10. Korinthia Klein

    I was looking forward to a post about ice cream.

    (But it’s good when you find an instrument person you trust. I try to be that with my little violin store. I love making instruments work so people can enjoy making music!)

  11. Toni

    We hav e a baby grand piano. He MUST have a baby grand as the quality is not the same as an upright said the teacher… guess who doesn’t really want to play anymore??

  12. Tracy B

    I was still waiting on the drug part…but I get it now. It’s early….I need coffee! And now, DQ…ice cream for lunch. :)

  13. StephLove

    We just bought a triangle for our middle school percussionist because he has to play one sometimes in concerts, but was not issued one for practice. It wasn’t $1K, but it was expensive for a piece of metal in a triangle shape. It came with a catalog of percussion instruments in which he’s been showing a lot of interest, so I think I know what he’s getting for his birthday in May.

    I’m glad she’s playing again. It must be cheering to hear.

  14. Lynda M O

    Clarinet for sale !~! Daughter now 27; instrument likely nearing sixty-five with less than 10 hours use. Or maybe that’s one too many zeroes…

  15. Emily in IL

    I still remember the day I got my own flute. I’m pretty sure that it’s a beginner flute, but it was MINE (not the schools that I was borrowing) and that made it wonderful. I still have it too.

    Then, in high school I was one of the piccolo players, but I had to share with the other 3 piccolo players because we only had 2. My parents found a local college that was selling some of it’s instruments and bought me a solid silver piccolo. I know she’ll remember that for ever.

  16. RuthWells


  17. RuthWells

    Wow, comment interuptus, Batman. What I was trying to say is, HOLY HOLY HOLY CRAP, I still have my high school piccolo which has not been played in eleventy-billion years, and it probably needs retooling, but would Chickie like it for Christmas? Perhaps your Flute Whisperer also murmurs to piccolos?

  18. RuthWells

    (Now I know why I’ve never gotten rid of it, despite many half-hearted attempts to do so!)

  19. JennyA

    A piccolo is just a tiny flute, right? Pipe saw, done.

    WHAT? (ducks)

  20. KristenM

    I played the flute for 7 years in school and never had any idea there were different levels of flutes. I guess I never progressed to where my band directors thought I needed anything other than what I had (which was a hand-me-down from my older sister).

  21. Crissy

    This post brought happy tears to my eyes. Because she is happy and you are happy and the flute is what’s at the forefront of your mind, not so many other things you’ve dealt with and written about (and not written about) in the last year.

  22. kapgaf

    No DQ in France but I do like the idea of shady flute deals being carried out in parking lots.
    Good for you for doing all you can so that Chickie can continue with the flute for now.
    As for the piccolo, wow for @RuthWells! But also “piccolo” makes me feel so oooooold because Tubby the Tuba, because Danny Kaye.
    Nonetheless, I love the sound of both flute and piccolo and just wish I played one of them – piano is great but not exactly something you can carry around with you.

  23. 12tequilas

    “Because FluteWhisperer is used to me being dumb, he said no problem.”

    I love you.

  24. CuriousCat

    LOL @ Pamela #4!!

  25. 12tequilas

    (Should have added: In a totally bloggish and noncreepy, nonstalkery way.)

  26. suburbancorrespondent

    I never told you OUR flute story. I could have sold you a nice one that a certain someone will not touch anymore. But the mean band director thing made me laugh.

  27. Celeste

    We coasted for YEARS with our Boy who plays the tuba. Because the school charges us a nominal annual fee, and we only had to buy the mouthpiece. They gave us one to keep at home for practice, and he had one that he shared with another kid for school. (This school has 4 bands, so kids in different bands can share a school-owned instrument.) Cost me almost nothing, and it was GREAT.

    BUT NOW…. I am wishing we had a Tuba Whisperer. Because Boy’s going off to college in the fall to MAJOR in music ed and he needs a tuba that’s all his own. Good thing he doesn’t think he needs a CAR, because they cost about the same. Not only are tubas expensive, they’re hard to come by to “try before you buy.”

    Mir, I have to sympathize though… the Girl-child is always pushing me to buy her (insert random item here). And then deciding it’s not that interesting after she gets it. Or whatever. I often have this sense that I’m being played, which is sometimes right, and sometimes not, and it drives me nuts.

  28. Melody

    I am so glad that she is home. She could be asking for tattoos or extra piercings…or is she asking for those too? :-) Gosh, I’m glad she’s home.

  29. Chuck

    I can just see the manager getting all suspicious and sneaking up behind you and then…you all whip out flutes. Glad things are going well musically at your place!

  30. Christine

    My parents bought a standard poodle puppy that way–multiple rendezvous in a Kmart parking lot! From observation, I think the standard band flute progression is starter flute, really expensive flute, piccolo and then… I quit/go to college and quit.

  31. Patty

    Tubby the Tuba!
    I used to listen to that record over and over. (Yes, I said record.)

    My son plays the electric bass in two (!) different bands. My dad bought him the bass and his amp. He now informs me that his amp is not powerful enough for when they play for audiences and that he needs a new one. Bass amps are maybe 10 times more expensive than guitar amps. Plus I have no idea how to comparison shop because I don’t know what he needs…

  32. Brigitte

    Hmmm . . I was with my dad when we got our first VCR, back when they were newfangled and expensive . . from two dudes by the dumpsters behind the local Caldor. Shh! Don’t tell mom! I’m still sworn to secrecy!

  33. Flesher

    Fifty-two years of life and I have never slipped behind he dumpsters in a questionable parking lot to buy anything. Hello bucket list.

  34. Lindsay

    When I was in college, there was a student who played the bagpipes on campus each evening at sundown as I did my homework at the coffee shop across the street. It was lovely.

    But now I’m wondering what his mother must have gone through in the DQ parking lot…

  35. The Tart

    Ha! I played marimba in high school and INSISTED that my parents help me buy a used marimba. This marimba… First, the guy who sold it to me drove it from NJ to OH, delivered it, and set it up for me all while I was at school for the day. From NJ to OH! Just to sell a $5000 instrument! I later moved it down to SC, and when I moved yet further south for graduate school, where we would be living in apartments for years that seem like decades, I had to sell it. So what did I do? Craigslist, followed up a long drive from southern SC to just inside to NC border, where we met up with a stranger in a McDonald’s? Wendy’s? parking lot just off the highway. The keys were all wrapped up in blankets to prevent scratches, so who knows what people thought we were doing in that fast food parking lot!

  36. Ann

    Sadly, it’s my husband who collects instruments. I just have my sad little starter flute that I got at Value Village for $80 and is more than enough for my skill.

    Derek has a violin, several electronic keyboards and a big ass white starter baby grand, that someday I’ll have to replace with a lovely, shiny black real baby grand that will cost multiple thousands of dollars and probably take up even more of my living room.

    Also, I love piccolos.

  37. Amy-Go

    You are not a horrible person, I am. I actively discourage my children from taking up an instrument. (Ok, I let Jack try the trumpet for a year. I think he practiced twice. It sounded like a moose farting through butter). I’m too cheap and I find the “but I don’t waaaaaaaannnnnnt to practice!” too annoying to live with. So my kids will be deprived of that particular educational enrichment. ;-)

  38. Daisy

    Could be worse – she could play tuba.

  39. jadine

    My oldest son learned flute, and it was pretty to hear when he practice. My youngest plays tuba and trombone. The learning stages have been a little challenging on my ear drums, for sure. Don’t know if a tuba/trombone Whisperer would be helpful or if we should consider, say,… adding knitting, to our repertoire :)

  40. Katie in MA

    Happysigh. The whole world seems back in tune now that I have posts like this one back in the mix. :-) (At some point I should probably stop welcoming Chickie back. Next post. I swear.)

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