We've got trouble, my friends. Trouble, right here in Hillmomba. Let me tell you what I mean. We've got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight songs at a concert. With a capital 'C', and it rhymes with 'G', and that stands for geezer. All night long our Newmentia youth be fritterin'. Fritterin' away their suppertime, homework time, bedtime, too. On a Thursday night, and that's trouble!
Okay. Maybe I got a little carried away with The Music Man. I think you'll see why.
The Pony had his first band concert of the year. It's part of a celebration for veterans. I knew there would be a dinner, then a performance by our band and choir, and a canned-music slide show tribute to local veterans. The dinner always starts at 5:00, and the concert at 7:00. We're out of there before 8:00, everybody thankful and teary-eyed and patriotic. Until this year. Far be it from Mrs. Hillbilly Mom to wag her sharp tongue over such an uplifting event. However...
The Pony was required to arrive at 6:30. We provided a ten-minute cushion, just in case the best-laid plans of Pony and parents went awry. Imagine our surprise when we pulled onto the upper parking lot and found it as jam-packed as graduation night. The Pony pranced in ahead of us. Farmer H and I could hardly breach the cafeteria front, as a plethora of veterans and spouses clogged the venue. Normally, they have fed and fled, leaving the cafeteria nearly empty except for stragglers or vets with a really good appetite. And...these captive ex-servicepeople were playing bingo. I saw right away that Farmer H and I would not be able to grab a purple plastic chair to put behind the bleacher rail. I figured we would wait until the feeding/bingo frenzy was done, and then snag two seats still warm from the freedom-fighters' well-fed butts.
Imagine my surprise when we walked into the gym and saw ten or fifteen purple plastic chairs already set up behind the bleacher rail. The man in charge greeted me, and offered a cerulean blue program, which I had already liberated from a black music stand by the door. "Did somebody bring in these chairs? Are they saved?" He replied that they were for the veterans. Judging from the turnout, I'd say they were just about 145 chairs short.
I complained to Farmer H that I did not want to descend the shaky bleacher stairs, with only the wobbly hollow metal pop-in handrails with four-foot gaps between them. However, the lower rows of bleachers on the gym floor, that could be reached by the concrete stairs, were marked off with taped paper signs for the band. Oh, the insanity! I spied an empty short bleacher, four rows down from the top, on the opposite corner from where the band was set up. An opal miner in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, rappelling to his cliff-face mine with a frayed rope, where one person per week is killed toppling off the four-inch path, was safer than Mrs. Hillbilly Mom braving the unstable pull-out-bleacher stairs.
So we sat down, on a row in front of my old English teacher, and proceeded to become boxed in over the next 40 minutes. Was it not bad enough that Mrs. HM was surrounded by coughers, sharp knees, loud-talkers, and straight-backed knee-room inhibitors? No. There were also folks leaning directly over her from the rail by the cafeteria entrance to the gym. Leaners who breathed their virusy breath to settle down upon Mrs. HM's head like a fine mist in a boreal forest. AND, she had to share her program with Old English and Farmer H, for programs had they none.
And then the direness of my situation was compounded. Right there on the program was a list of four songs by our choir, four songs by our band, and FOUR SONGS FROM A COMMUNITY BAND! No. That has never happened before. It couldn't be. Why would a third act be added to the program? I call shenanigans. Well, I tried to call shenanigans. But Old English told me, "Oh, it'll be over in no time." She would not have lasted 10 minutes as an employee of Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network.
The Newmentia choir went first, for 15 minutes. They were excellent, as always. The Newmentia band was second. Again, a right proper 15-minute performance, not to be sneezed at. Then came the cavalcade of veterans, a 20-minute slideshow. And it began. The community band took 10 minutes to weed out and add in chairs to their liking. We sat. They played 5 minutes of warm-up scales in an artsy-fartsy fashion. And slammed into their first selection, which lasted 8 minutes. Their director stepped forward to tell of a vaction he had taken to Gettysburg with his son. How they had walked the fields. Kind of a little history lesson that was totally lost on this history simpleton. The veterans, none of whom were at Gettysburg, began to shift in their seats. "Every time I sit on these bleachers, they get harder," said one of the three in front of me. Another yawned. The community band launched into their next number, a 10-minute snoozer that supposedly sounded like the beginning/middle/end of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Let the record show that our crowd was quite polite. No cell phones went off. No babies cried. No kids talked. The choir sat on their reserved purple plastic chairs, faced the community band, and feigned interest. Though they did shift numerous times in their purple plastic chairs. It was as if we had abandoned all hope, we who entered there.
I felt somewhat comatose. Like that kid in Ferris Bueller who fell asleep on his desk, with a puddle of drool on his desktop. The audience around me eagerly watched the progress of a toddler who was carried out to the bathroom, and then returned. I was trapped like a rat in a maze, without even the hope of hidden cheese. How I longed to escape, like that choir girl had done right after their performance, slipping off her heeled black shoes, hiking up her robe tails, and barefooting it up the far concrete steps under cover of the acoustic shell. I felt sorry for the veterans, who had been lured in with the promise of dinner, and were then forced to sit two hours for bingo, herded into the gym to fight for festival seating, left on the hard, hard bleachers after being stuffed with bacon and onions, and tricked into waiting past their honoring to hear a community band.
The best part of my evening occurred just then. We heard a clicking sound. Up behind us. On the mezzanine where the purple plastic chairs had been set to receive veterans. We craned our necks, but saw nothing. The clicking stopped. A flash of motion up to the right caught my attention. CUS WAS WHEELING A STACK OF PURPLE PLASTIC CHAIRS TOWARD THE CAFETERIA ON HER DOLLY! Dear Sweet Gummi Mary! Time to go! Cus was ready to clean up. Darn the community band and full speed ahead! The clicking started again. Cus was stacking more purple plastic chairs. Until the Supreme Commander of Hillmomba Schools climbed those wobbly steps to tell her to cease and desist with doing her job while we were all trapped like cheeseless rats.
Then it started. When the little conductor stepped out for another speech, this one about his merry band of oldsters and youngsters who tooted the light fantastic, folks leaned forward. They were not demonstrating attentiveness. Once the LC turned back to jab his baton at his community band, they shot up the steps like Olympic sprinters out of the blocks. Like rats off a sinking ship. Like thieves carrying soda out of a convenience store. A good third of the audience made a getaway. We envied them their spryness.
After two more songs, for a total of 40 minutes for their performance, the community band retired to rest on their laurels. I turned to call Old English a liar.
Here's the deal. It seemed like the community band came to show up our very own students. Of course they had a big sound. They had a wider variety of instruments. And people who had been playing for 50 years, not three. And they took up way more time than our kids were allotted. That is akin to a person leaving longwinded self-serving comments on other people's blogs. Oops! I do that. Never mind. This was not at all like that.
The point is that people came to hear their kids perform, and honor the veterans. Not listen to a community band. Even Old English agreed.