Seneca Lake, May 31, 2010
Fred came back to pick up his piano today. The low F string, broken before the piano ever arrived at our lakeside location, never recovered.
To say that Fred is bitter would be like calling a bee sting a warm and fuzzy feeling. Fred had contempt and a temper like no one I've ever met. He became an inspiration for my meditations at the water's edge. Am I as angry as he? Do I react to people with such hostility? What steps must I take in my youth to avoid old age as he experiences it?
Fred said strings never break on pianos, at least not on the new ones. He said this as frequently as he asked where BBS's girlfriend was. "She's not here, Fred," I said. Thrice.
His methods for moving the piano were not gentle when it was delivered though they were less abusive on retrieval. In both cases they were intolerant of the instrument. Though BBS paid for delivery and pickup, we were the-opposite-of-cajoled to assist in the lifting and moving of the piano into and out of his trailer, and into the house. All the while he criticized us for our lack of professionalism and strength.
He considered us fools, reminding us over and over again that he does this all the time, and normally has a real crew of real professionals who aren't the goofballs we are. Specifically, Fred called us "yo-yos".
I don't know if he understands what's happening around him.
I accepted his nonsense on our first encounter so that we'd end up with a piano in the house. Yesterday, when he called back to arrange for pick up I felt I had the upper hand. BBS had gone back to NYC so I had to handle this on my own. Fred left a grating voicemail in which he explained how little time he had, both for chores and to live. I called him back a few minutes after receiving it, being as pleasant as a man at country peace could.
Fred went off immediately about timliness and how much trouble it would be to pick up the piano, and how difficult it would be to schedule, and how he didn't have time to wait, and how he had to have specific times so he could get his helpers which would cost him money and might not be available unless he acted right now. "I'm telling you this isn't easy," he was saying. I cut him off.
"Fred," I said, assertively and with ever so slight a bit of scathing condescension, "I'm telling you I'll be there working all day tomorrow. You can come by whenever you like as long as you give me a hour notice beforehand."
And then Fred was nice.
We worked out details and politely ended the conversation.
He called the next day. He showed up with the skinny kid who played mallets in his high school marching band's non-marching pit, and his wife. I offered water, he asked for ice in it. He sat and chatted for 15 minutes on the couch while his wife sat across the room, on the steps. They drank their water. I made an effort to ignore most everything Fred said. I also made an effort to be nice to his wife. They went to work.
Fred cursed. Fred hollered. They finished. They went down to the lake. They came back.
Fred said to keep him in mind for next time. I said goodbye. They left.