Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Piano Ghost

Yesterday I had a minor surgical procedure to remove a benign lipoma from my neck. They grow quite commonly in my family and I have had a number of them removed over the years. 

(a photo of my wound is shown below)

But this is a story which takes place before my surgery. I woke on Friday at 4:00 am in preparation for being picked up by my housekeeper at 5:30 am to arrive at Evanston Hospital by 6:00 am. I am fortunate to have had Halina to take care of me for close to 40 years! She not only keeps my condo in shape but is there for me when I am ill or need special help.

When we arrived at the hospital, Halina dropped me off at the front door (COVID-19 style) and I entered the front entrance by myself and headed to the registration desk. There, mask in place, I was asked by the only other person in the lobby, mask in place as well, a number of questions about my COVID-19 experiences: no travel outside of Illinois, lack of temperature, lack of illness, lack of contact with others, etc.

The call I received from my doctor's team the day before surgery instructed me to then head towards the piano after I registered and take Elevator "B" to the third floor where I would see signs directing me to the Ambulatory Out-Patient Surgery Center. 

The piano was located in the lobby of a beautifully designed area which I guess was to make you feel good about being in a hospital. It soared two stories to the surrounding second-floor balcony and third-floor ceiling above that. The lobby was populated with luxurious, comfortable seating (socially distanced.) The lighting was soft and supposedly inviting, there was water bubbling out of a fountain on the wall into a stone basin surrounded by plants.

The lobby was NOT populated with people at that time of the morning and besides the person who welcomed me at the registration desk who did the COVID-19 interrogation (with a smile behind her mask, I could tell from the lilt in her voice,) I was all alone. All alone in this magnificent open air space with a black, baby grand piano ... with a black, baby grand piano which was playing itself. 

My first thought was not "How beautiful", or "How welcoming", or "What lovely music", but rather "Oh my, a piano playing itself,  there must be a ghost whom I cannot see playing it?" It actually was quite an eerie sight in a hospital which while it has as it's nature the saving of lives, most likely has also taken a number of them.

More eerie was the way the black, baby grand piano was playing itself ... without emotion, without feeling. Like someone had begun a metronome and instructed the piano to follow the timing EXACTLY as defined by the timekeeping machine. And the metronome was just a bit too slow for the music selected. It sounded like a young child who is accomplished at playing but who is too young to understand the emotions or feelings that must line any piece of music well played.

The piano was playing classical music, banging out one piece after another as it echoed through the soaring, empty lobby. After taking Elevator "B" to the Ambulatory Out Patient Surgery Center, its notes continued to reach me on the third floor with a drive and force that showed no feeling or emotion but rather commanding a strict adherence to a tempo set by a machine who only cared to make sure the piano kept up.

There I was the only one waiting, being a little too early even for the clerk to be behind her desk to sign me into the center. As I sat there, waiting for the hospital personnel to arrive, I tried to imagine what the Piano Ghost looked like. Male? Female? Young? Old? White? Black? Brown? or maybe, being a ghost, a shifting collection of all the above listed.

The experience did not cheer me up, did not make me feel welcome and/or comfortable, but did in some ways entertain me with its silly, inappropriate, metronomic, empty strands of Beethoven, Chopin, and others!

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