Principles in a Time of Covid

Principles in a Time of Covid

The field technician plans what can be planned. Selects and brings the tools that can be brought. Then fields what happens in real time with what is available.

Well really, the shop technician, designer, manufacturer, mover, and salesperson all must do the same. And this has been a year to confirm these constraints and demonstrate what it takes to work within them.

For me recently, I planned a monthly series of blog articles on weighoff. Surely, with the more time and less distractions of being Covid-closeted, this should be doable. I started in summer. Parts 1, 2, and 3 went through the stages to publication, no problem. For parts 4 and 5, I wanted fresh photos that include the use of my new Weighoff Kit and I had three jobs in the pipeline to receive weighoffs.

But we’re on Covid time. The first job resolved without need of weighoff and went out the door with no photo op. Months then went by and the other two jobs still aren’t ready for weighoff. What to say of this, other than that my clients are patiently waiting? It’s a story of silver linings and things to be thankful for, but first let me insert a little variation on my hobby horse principle, verticality.

Both grand and upright actions are designed with an array of vertical exchanges from finger through key and whippen to hammer and string. Planes of motion lined up vertically combine benefits of improved clearance with economy of space, simplicity of delivery with maximization of power, and subtlety of touch with speed of performance. The vertical planes employ gravity for stability, repeatability, and control. As with a dancer or a martial artist, the internal potential of a piano action blossoms from tapping and mastering the ever-present pull of gravity.

For me, fine-tuning verticality in a regulation is a metaphor for trying to do the right thing. It lives in a universe of other forces, of course, and how to integrate them or choose between them is part of what we do. We do not worry perfection with an hour left for concert prep, but we do touch up a part that’s unfavorably rubbing its neighbor. How do we know our priorities well enough so that we come through situations unscathed by guilt or remorse for the limits of a success or the extent of a failure? Clearly, personal life pressures influence this algorithm. And I think, for me, the 2020 challenge to adapt and survive has been a beneficial catalyst.

Part of my accounting for the recent delays involves an on-the-fly rebalancing of priorities based on a family emergency. My daughter has a job that she now does from home and a husband with a job also done from home, a toddler busy growing teeth, a just-pre-Covid-minted mortgage that needs both jobs to meet, not enough sleep, and ongoing daycare letdowns that have called me the 4-hour drive down repeatedly as backup. For the better part of two months, now, I have been 5-10 days there, a few days home, and then back again. Meanwhile, my son retreated from New York City last March to stay with me, a bonus also for my cat who is caught in the middle.

I am somehow well-prepared for these challenges, which I attribute, at least partially, to my real-life training as a self-employed piano technician. I know the pressures of mortgage and toddler and deadlines. The need to maintain a cheerful calm no matter what. The priority of customer, family, and whomever else needs help, all at the same time, while completing the work that brings the check.

I now travel with my guitar and a practice of Tai Chi to maintain the strengths and flexibilities needed for this new aspect of my work, a natural extension of the verticality mandate – stay on your feet. My toddler grandson puts this extensively to the test (along with much sitting on the floor and all contortions in between) and promotes another important principle: patience.

Hours and hours with a toddler, allowing the focus to be his point of view, has slowed my world briefly to a Tai Chi-like slo-mo. Normal life would have given me occasional weekends and mostly in a setting that would include parents. No. This has been one-on-one, full-attention time, with grandson as guru. The 19-month-old works at everything he does. Inhales new words daily. Understands most if not all of what I say. And may or may not agree to cooperate. We know so much about each other now. And I know my daughter and son-in-law so much better than I otherwise would. A bonding experience!

And when I go back to my independent life, I get to know my son better and better. I know ins and outs of the challenges of his business and the solutions he comes up with. We cook for each other. Clean up for each other. Make time for each other. And not in the abbreviated way that would have happened in any other year…

I lost my wife to ALS two years ago and after 45 years together, I miss her so much. But thank goodness she didn’t have to go through this in her ever-worsening condition. And on the other hand, I get to perform the stations of both father and mother, grandfather and grandmother. And I’m forced to have some much-needed time “off”. Such silver linings!!

But also, I know enough as technician-warrior, caregiver, and widower to recognize what a terrible time this has been for many. I am grateful for the silver linings of 2020 but hope for more widely-shared benefits in 2021.

Take care and be safe.

5 comments

John Dorr

Well written. Inspiring attitude. Thanks for sharing.

John Dorr
David Brown

Thank you for sharing this difficult situation. You are to be admired.

David Brown
Nathan Cook

Thanks Chris!

Nathan Cook
Alan Eder

Dear Chris, Beautiful blog, man! Alan

Alan Eder
Claude Harding

Thanks for sharing a view into your situation. Good thoughts and perspective. Stay well.

Claude Harding

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