It’s not a bad gig: I take my tuba to the entryway of the local Hy-vee grocery store and play Christmas psalms, hymns and spiritual songs – as well as wassailing song, winter songs, and goofy songs from beloved animated specials as part of the fundraising for the Salvation Army here in Newton / Jasper county, Iowa. It's warm (well, warm-ish. At least until the door mechanism gets busted and the door sticks in the open position...)
I play my horn because 1) I get tired of the bell very quickly and 2) it’s an easy way to interact with people without having to be extremely interactive. (I’m an introverted person and by this point in the holiday season, a season that lasts from Thanksgiving till New Year’s Eve, I’m pretty well exhausted and don’t have the energy for a lot of human interaction. Playing the Christmas songs for folks is easier than talking – and it seems to be appreciated. Little kids especially love seeing the tuba and hearing the music.
But sometimes … sometimes…
This afternoon a gentleman stopped to listen as I played. I finished one song, and took a moment to acknowledge him and to empty the water that condensed inside the horn. He asked how long I’d been playing and how long I’ve lived here. Then his eyebrows darted down and he asked in a heavy voice, “When’s the end times coming?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “I’ve got no word on that…” I quietly started looking for another song to play.
“Things are getting bad,” he said, “the blacks and the drugs.” Then he left.
I played Go Tell It on the Mountain.
Sometime later an elderly woman sat down on the bench beside me. She was accompanied by her adult son. “What song’s he playing?” She asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said, then turned my music stand around (while I was playing!) so he could read the title: “A Virgin Unspotted,” he read to her. “I don’t know that one.”
Another guy asked if I could play Foggy Mountain Breakdown. “Not without my banjo,” I said. I don’t have a banjo…
It’s not a bad gig, but sometimes… sometimes…