Friday, November 8, 2013

Piano Lessons From the Church Lady

I had a big presentation at work the other day. Months of research and analysis has been poured into this presentation. It was being reviewed by a panel of 15 of internal customers, a few teammates and my boss. As a result, I was feeling a little bound up.

Or was that from all the cheese I had been eating lately?

The meeting was scheduled for 2 1/2 hours. There were lots of pages to review, charts, diagrams and a few TPS reports to cover. Standard stuff really, and unless you're a railroad foamer, quite boring.

The feeling I had in my gut before the presentation was not unlike the feeling I used to have as a kid before a piano recital.

Back in the day, my elder brother Matt and I took lessons from a neighborhood piano teacher named Mrs. Eiter. Long before there ever was one, Mrs Eiter looked and acted a lot like Dana Carvey's SNL church lady character.

Like the church lady, my piano teacher was an angry woman.She'd probably have smacked me with a ruler for insubordination if she could've gotten away with it. Instead, she chose passive aggression, and plied it thickly.

"Welllllllll, I see we haven't practiced much this past week, have we hmmm? Too much dodge ball to learn your scales, huh? Or has the swimming gotten your fingers too waterlogged to practice your minor triads, hmm? Hmm?!?"

The metronome tick-tock, tick-tock punctuated the silence.

"Why do you come here week after week? Do you not enjoy playing the piano?"

Tick-tock, tick tock....

Mrs Eiter shook her head and sighed deeply.

 "Alrightyyyyy then, let's take it from the top."

This went on for weeks, for months. Years. I hated every minute of it. And recitals? OMG, they were absolutely the worst.

But at the end of one such recital, Mrs Eiter gathered everyone around the punch bowl to announce rather abruptly that she was retiring from teaching piano, effective immediately. Gasps and murmurs filled the room while I scanned for my brother Matt. When I found him, the look of jubilation on his face validated everything I was feeling. It was as if we had just been paroled from life sentences for crimes we didn't commit.

He could hardly wait to get outside to high-five me.

And with that, we were done with piano lessons, recitals and the church lady piano teacher.


The apprehension before my presentation this week reminded me of the feelings I'd have before one of Mrs Eiter's piano recitals.

This time, I dealt with the stress by kitting up for a solo bike ride an hour before the meeting. The sun's rays took the edge off the otherwise brisk wind. As my drive train and bike's tires harmonized melodically down the tarmac, I took the moment to lose myself in the vibrant reds, glorious yellows and tangy oranges of the Autumn foliage. In a word, the ride was fantastic.

I was refreshed when the meeting started. The meeting itself wasn't so bad after all.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.


  1. How blissful was that ride? You know that movie “City of Angels?” No? Well, there’s this part where Nick Cage decides to stop being an angel because he’s in love with Meg Ryan. Also, we learn that Peter Falk used to be an angel, but decided to give up immortality to become an actor or something. Oh wait, that was in the first movie about angels who hang out at the library.
    Anyway – there’s this part where Meg Ryan is so happy that she’s in love with Nick Coppola that she decides to take a bike ride while Sarah McLachlan sings “In the arms of an Angel.”
    Get it? ‘cause Nick Cage used to be an angel and he still is one as far as Meg Ryan is concerned. A brooding, depressing angel that gives her so much joy, she can cruise down hills on her bike, eyes closed, hugging herself. Well, as long as there are no semi trucks in the area.
    Doh! So now H.I. McDunnough is stuck on earth and his girlfriend is dead. But damn, that was one refreshing ride before the semi-truck.
    Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, so I was fired up for my big presentation. Everything was in order. I made my introduction , got the projector all ready and everything and began.
    The calming effect from the Sarah McLachlan ride was evident in my confident demeanor as I gracefully flipped through slide after slide. Everything was absolutely wonderful. Sarah McLachlan was moving on to the next song on the CD. Then it happened.
    At the far end of the table was someone I hadn’t noticed before. I had glanced in his direction and had a wave of unease, but because of my lovely bike ride, was able to suppress my feeling of dread.
    That’s when I saw it and understood. The stranger lifted a small metronome from his brief case and set it to 70. That was the setting Mrs. Eiter had always used.
    “Please Barry, proceed,” urged Mrs. Eiter’s son as that infernal tick-tock stole away my resolve. I could feel my pits dampening. My tie could not loosen enough. I couldn’t breathe. I hit the intercom to call for security, but no words came.
    “But how? I thought you were dead …” I finally gasped.
    “Now isn’t that special!” Mrs. Eiter’s son mocked.

  2. The City of Angels tie-in was hilarious.

    And alternate-universe Barry? Poor chap, I'm quite sure he's suffering from Mrs Eiter's legacy as you've accurately captured it.

    Nicely done.