by Lucille Rains
The Piano Sale
It was a very peculiar piano sale. The woman saw my ad for an old Krakauer grand and called me. She asked me to play it over the phone, so I did.
“I’ll take it.”
I was astounded. “Shouldn’t you come and look at the piano?”
“No, that’s alright. The picture was good enough.”
“How do you know I’m playing that piano?”
“Well, are you playing the piano in the picture?”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Is there anything wrong with the piano?”
“No, but . . .”
“It’s customary for the buyer to look at the piano and test all the keys for herself and look it over.”
“Do all the keys work?”
“Yes.” I then played every single key, whether or not she wanted to hear it, to show her that they all worked. That seemed to be enough for her.
Looking for a Mover
The next day, the lady called again. “I’ve been calling movers, and it’s awfully expensive. I’m only 40 minutes away from you. There are no stairs there and no stairs here, and they want $650.”
I gagged. “That’s ridiculous! Do you want me to try to get a price on this end? I’m sure I can get it moved for you for $350.”
“No, that’s all right. I’ll get somebody from here.” This headstrong lady was determined to find somebody even cheaper than what I could get it for.
“Well, don’t forget to make sure they know how to move a piano and that they’re insured.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”
She Finds Movers
The next day, she called and said, “I found movers and they’re available today. Will you be home?”
“Are they piano movers?”
“No, but they know how to move a piano. They’ll be there in an hour. I’ll send the cash for the piano with the movers.”
“Fine. Make sure they have insurance.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
The Piano Move
I was stunned to see such a run-down truck backing up to my door. Anyone who owned such a rusty, paint-peeling truck undoubtedly lived in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere. Were they movers, or were they escaped prisoners come to rob the house?
A man jumped out of the cab, ran to the back of the truck, and unlocked and opened the door. Three men jumped out and stood in the light a few minutes, until their eyes could adjust. The driver, the owner of this business, never stepped out of the truck, but just sent his four guys in to get the piano. He didn’t even leave the truck to give me the cash the woman had sent, but had his top guy hand me the envelope at my door.
The top guy was the oldest of this motley crew, and the only one who knew a few words in English.
“Do you have moving blankets?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, professional,” he said. That turned out to be his stock answer to whatever I asked him. I stopped asking.
The moving blankets were ratty, with large holes and all sorts of weird stains on them. They matched the truck.
The four men moved the piano away from the wall, then circled it with quizzical expressions on their faces, all the while muttering to each other. I felt like announcing, “This is a piano: a baby grand piano.” They wouldn’t have understood.
After they’d huddled and worked out the plays, they removed the piano’s rear leg and lowered the back to the floor. This put the full weight of the piano on the pedals. I held my head and looked away. It was like watching an execution.
They then lined up a dolly next to the piano, spread one of the ratty blankets over it, lifted the piano, and put it on its side on the dolly. Now the weight of the whole piano was on the lid, which was wider than the case. The lid, like the pedals, was never meant to support the piano’s full weight. This time my head spun all the way around. It was hopeless.
The head guy turned to me. “You Russian?”
I was too busy worrying and holding my head to even acknowledge such a far-fetched question. I think maybe he was trying to show me that he knew a few words in English, and these were the ones he knew.
With the piano now on its side, they removed the other two legs and the pedals while struggling to keep the piano from falling over.
Now they had to figure out a way to keep the blanket up, because it was just lying puddled on the floor around the piano. They pulled out tape that resembled what you might see at a crime scene. I found this strangely appropriate — in my mind, it was a crime scene. While three guys held the piano up, the fourth guy walked around and around the piano, using up a full roll of tape. When one roll of tape ran out, they opened a fresh one, and continued walking ’round and ’round, taping until the blanket was locked in place around the piano. They alternated guys, so that each would have an opportunity to walk and tape.
Then they put another ratty moving blanket over the top of the piano, and the next guy walked ’round and ’round taping that. I don’t know how many rolls of tape they used, but the piano was so completely covered that I said, “I don’t think it’ll escape now.” It looked like a misshapen mummy, or something that had been in a terrible accident.
The four of them, huffing and puffing, miraculously got the piano out the door and down to the truck, managing to catch it every time it started to fall. They had no ramps — it took all four of them to lift it into the dilapidated truck. It was such a hard job that they all had to rest and have a smoke before taking off. Good thing they did — it gave them time to remember that they’d left the legs and pedals in the house.
Then the head worker locked the other three in the dark with the piano, got in the cab with the owner, and off they went.
Moving a piano is really simple for professional movers with the right equipment. They’ve got it down to a science. Two experienced piano movers can get a baby grand out in 15 to 20 minutes. They’re in and out, and their truck has a lift to get the piano from the ground up to the level of the truck bed. These four guys took an hour and 15 minutes to get the piano out of my house and into the truck, then had to rest their hernias another 15 minutes.
I have no idea how they unwrapped the mummy at the other end, or whether they put the legs and pedals on right. I never heard from the woman again. All I know is that after her movers left, I had to rest, too.
Lucille Rains was a jazz pianist and bassist in New York City until she became breadwinner of her household and left New York for the suburbs. She had been tuning her own piano right along, so it was inevitable that she would go into tuning to support her family. She happened to write a letter to the editor of the local newpaper that got the attention of the mayor, and she became the mayor’s ghostwriter. The local editor also invited her to write a column. This unexpectedly launched a second career for her, in the writing field. At present, Lucille Rains divides her time between tuning and writing. She can be reached at email@example.com.