Sammy Bananas plays a beautiful old saxophone. But it’s not in very good shape. It’s a wonder he can play it all, really, let alone as proficiently as he does.*
*Ornette Coleman, one of my favorite musicians, played a plastic saxophone with a gigantic reed. People said nasty things about his tone**, but really it’s a wonder he could make any sound on that horn. Sam is something like that.
**They were wrong. His tone is phenomenal.
He and I both needed to buy stands for our various woodwind instruments, so we decided to take a little ride down to Rayburn Music. Sam brought his horn to see what it would take to get it playable. I mean playable for a normal human being, not a superman such as himself. He could already play the thing, but it couldn’t hurt to give it some love.
We walked into the store and Sam pointed to the older man who was working on somebody’s sax. He explained that the guy had already worked on the instrument years ago. We waited for the right moment and then Sam reintroduced himself…
“Remember me? You worked on my horn years ago?”
The man had a thick Italian accent: “Yes! Yes! Let’s have a look. When do you need this for? You have school coming up soon?”
“No, sir. I haven’t been in school in a few years now. My band is going on tour soon and I wanted to see if I could get the horn playing better before we do that.”
He opened the saxophone case and took out the florescent light that fits inside the horn. When all of the keys are depressed no light should escape. Sam’s horn looked a fancy lighting fixture in a Middle Eastern restaurant.
“Oh no! This is no good. You can’t play this. How you gonna go to school like that?”
The repair man look disgusted as he repeated, “How you gonna go to school like that?”
Sam tried to explain again that there was no school, but it was to no avail. And it was true, there was no way he could go to school like that.
Whether we’ve discussed it officially or not, that question has grown beyond this specific scenario and can now apply to any situation where something is clearly sub par. For instance, if my car broke down twice a week, smelled bad and generally should be junked, you could ask me, “How you gonna go to school like that?”
If I needed to do a job interview in which I had to present some kind of action plan, but had nothing prepared, not even the vaguest notion as to what I would talk about, let alone a completed paper with relevant steps, the interviewer could ask, “How you gonna go to school like that?”
I would have a few more examples ready, but I think you could have asked me this question a few minutes ago before I started this post.