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MMD > Archives > March 1998 > 1998.03.29 > 15Prev  Next

Embarrassing Piano Stories - In the Asylum
By Bruce Clark

Several years ago, I had a contract to tune several pianos contained in
a large State mental institution.  Within the mile-long complex were
pianos of every kind imaginable.  Pianos ranged from terrible to very
good.  I even discovered a former Duo-Art (Weber Grand), gutted in the
name of progress.

The first day I went to tune, I did not know what to expect.  The noise
from the patients was distracting.  Much of their behavior was such
that I could not tune the piano on some of the wards.  To remedy that,
I took along a piano dolly, and had some strong attendants assist me to
lift the piano on the dolly, and move the piano into an outside hallway
where it was quieter and I could concentrate on getting the piano in
tune.  Then, I would move it back.

All went well, until one day, the piano did not get placed squarely on
the dolly.  The piano had been moved to a quiet reception room.  I left
the room for some reason, and suddenly I heard a tremendous bang, the
shook the entire building!  The piano tipped off the dolly, and fell
flat on the floor!  Fortunately it was carpeted, and no damage was done
to the piano.  I maintained it for several years after the incident,
and all was well.

One day I was sent to tune a piano on a ward that was supposedly quiet,
and was told there would be no need to move the piano out in the hall.
Patients were wandering around, but kept clear of me and seemed to be
rather docile.  When I finished tuning, I went to leave, but found the
ward door locked, and no attendants in sight!  No telephone, and no way
to get out.

Everyone had gone to lunch, and left the patients unattended (against
regulations) and I had to spend an extra hour among the patients until
the nurses and attendants returned from their lunch break.  During that
extra hour, I was "entertained" by patients performing rather odd and
strange activities.  I was not amused!  The attendants returned and
thought it was rather humorous.  After that, I requested a key of my
own, and felt more comfortable while working there.

In one piano, I found thousands of pills, which some clever patient
decided not to take.  Apparently he would pretend to take them, then
place them in the piano, when no one was looking.

In examining the pianos, I found that some of the very old pianos had
been rebuilt.  The workmanship was excellent.  The director of the
hospital told me that on a few occasions they had patients who were
*piano technicians*!   As part of their therapy, they were allowed to
rebuild pianos if they chose to do so.

I wonder if this means piano technicians could become "borderline
cases" for getting into this profession?  Watch out!!

Bruce Clark

(Message sent Sun 29 Mar 1998, 15:11:23 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Asylum, Embarrassing, Piano, Stories

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