Recently, as you probably read, I was traveling for work. It started off badly, with icy snowy road conditions for my 1.5 hour drive to the airport. I finally arrived, only to learn that terminal 1 airport parking was FULL, which has never happened to me before in all my travels.
The guys in fluorescent yellow vests and orange traffic directing batons handed me a piece of paper with instructions for how to get to the smaller terminal two, which meant backtracking several miles.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one in that predicament, so I followed a black minivan all the way there. I parked and unloaded my backpack, suitcase and violin. I had no idea how to get back to terminal one from where I was, but the lady I met at the elevator did know, so I followed her down a floor and through a skyway and across the terminal and down an escalator to a tunnel, where a light rail train would be there to pick us up in six minutes.
“Ukulele?” a senior woman, who was riding the moving walkway with me as I struggled to keep up with Lady Who Knew Where She Was Going asked.
“Violin,” I replied, silently willing them to move over so I could pass but not mean enough to ask them to.
“Professionally?” the husband asked.
“No, just for fun,” I said, and then we reached the end of the moving walkway and they stepped aside to let me ahead of them for the next one.
They caught up to me during the six minute wait for the train. I was checking the time and calculating the probability that I might miss my flight.
“I was thinking about what you said,” the woman began, “about how you play for fun, and I think that’s the best way to do it.”
I boarded the train with all my stuff and checked the map, if I missed my stop, I’d end up at Mall of America, but thankfully, the other terminal was the first stop.
Crisis averted, I stepped off the train and took an elevator, and an escalator to get to the tram, which would take me to ticketing. (TICK TOCK TICK TOCK)
My coworker was visibly relieved when I finally arrived at the gate. I boarded the plane knowing I had no idea whatsoever how to get back to my car.
I put my violin in the overhead compartment and sat down in my aisle seat next to a gentleman who was looking at his phone.
“Ukulele?” he asked.
“Violin,” I said.
His phone rang, giving me time to unpack- book, water, snacks- my usual plane trio.
He talked until the flight attendant asked him to hang up- and by then I was reading my book.
“You always read books that correlate to what you’re doing?” he asked.
My book was called “The Flight Attendant”.
I laughed and said “no” and stuck my nose back into my book.
“Do you play professionally?”
(Inner sigh) “No. I’ve been playing about a year now.”
“I have two twin boys, nine, they play cello and violin.”
I nodded and went back to my book.
“You know in France, they play their instruments on the trains so maybe you could play for us.”
“Maybe if we were in France,” I said.
For the rest of the flight I read my book and he watched something on his phone.
When I exited the plane there were three coworkers waiting for me.
“You brought your violin?” the VP asked.
“Yes, my instructor knows when I don’t practice!”
I managed to squeak in two practices in three days.
On the last morning, with all my luggage, I headed down to breakfast and ran into another coworker.
“Ukulele?” he asked.
“Violin,” I said, sliding it under my chair and running to get a plate of food and a cup of coffee.
“I never got into music too much,” he said when I returned, “my parents made me play piano and guitar, but I didn’t stick with either of them.”
I chewed on my bacon and told him the story about how it was on my bucket list and I always wished I played but that I probably never would have done it without my husbands additional encouragement.
“Well, good for you,” he said.
We knew that afternoon, after we had arrived and turned in our rental car, but before we went through security, that our flight would be delayed two hours. There’s not much to the Richmond airport, so we plunked down in some couches outside security to wait a while.
“Ukulele?” a man on the couch next to us asked.
“Violin,” I said.
He didn’t have any additional comment which was amazing.
Our flight got delayed again, which is when my coworker triple dog dared me to bust out my violin in the rotunda and see if anyone would donate money.
I considered it, if only for the memory, but my better sense won out and I declined.
We finally trudged through security.
“Ukulele?” the TSA agent asked.
“Violin,” I said, setting it on the conveyor.
“Round here we call that a fiddle,” he said.
I plunked my shoes in a bin.
“It’s also a fiddle,” I said.
“I know,” he answered, “I’m just saying round here we call it a fiddle.”
“Ok, it’s my fiddle.”
“Do you know Devil Went Down to Georgia?”
“Aww, that’s too bad.”
(Because otherwise I could hold up security and play it for a bunch of angry travelers?)
“I know Country Roads,” I offered.
“Oh, that’s a good one, too,” he said, and several people in line agreed.
For the first time in at least five trips I didn’t get flagged for extra security checks. (Apparently that only happens when you DON’T have any extra time)
I stopped to say hello to some of my coworkers, also on my flight, who were killing time at the pub.
“We decided,” one of them said, “that next time we have planning you can play your violin and everyone can sing their objectives.”
“No way,” I answered.
“That can be your objective,” another one said, “and every two weeks you can demo it for us until the final demo.”
“UM, I HAVE TO GO,” I said.
“Devil Went Down To Georgia?” another coworker asked.
(Is that the only fiddle song people know?)
“I’m not good enough for that yet,” I said, “gotta go, someone’s watching my stuff.”
I saw them all again when I boarded the plane.
“Are you going to play for us?” one of them sitting in first class asked.
“No one wants to hear that,” I said.
Some guy two rows back that was not a coworker said, “I’d like to hear that!”
“I wouldn’t,” another of my coworkers said.
“See?!” I said, “thanks for saving me Christine.”
I made my way to the back of the plane which is my favorite spot. The man I flew out with was sitting in front of me.
“OH it’s you!” he exclaimed, turning to a coworker, “she rode with me on the way out, she was a good seat mate. Also, she’s a violinist.”
I do believe that is the first time anyone has ever called me a violinist. I kind of liked it.
“Are you going to play for us?” his coworker asked.
“Nope.” I said.
Luckily, the subject was changed to trying to recruit my seat mate this time, an eighteen year old boy who was on his way home from six months of job training in the Army, to work for them, and the rest of the flight was uneventful.
It turned out that many of my coworkers were also parked in terminal two, and they even knew how to get back there!
The flight attendant from our plane joined us to wait for the train.
“Ukulele?” she asked.
“Violin,” I answered.
“I used to play violin,” she said, “but after high school I needed the money so I sold it. I’ve always kind of regretted it.”
“It’s not too late to get another one,” I said, “this is a rental.”
The train showed up in a whoosh and then it was just me and my ukulele, er, violin, and the long snowy drive back home.