“…then I won’t be moving the piano for you.” My words were calm, but inside I was seething. This was a new situation for me. In twenty-some years of moving pianos, I had never had a customer refuse to let me do it my way. This rude lady was pretentious enough to imply that I had no idea what I was doing, and was refusing to allow me to take the necessary steps to protect the instrument as it was moved. I picked up the piano dolly and indicated to my crew that they should retrieve the skid board lying on the floor, and headed for the door.
I will readily admit that I frequently have a much too high opinion of my knowledge and abilities. This has been demonstrated all too clearly time after time, as events have undone my best efforts. This time, I knew I was right and I wasn’t backing down. My friend, Eric, had engaged my services to move the medium-size grand piano, which was in the living room of the little duplex. Evidently, the owner was in a situation where she needed to move quickly and would not be able to take the piano with her. Eric had offered to “sit” the piano for the duration of the time she was in this situation, so we were to disassemble the piano and transport it to his home. I had arranged to hire two other men and we gathered our equipment and headed out the twenty miles north to this location. We had some time and effort involved already, and I was going to have to pay the help, whether the piano was moved or not. I was not a happy camper!
We had ridden together and enjoyed the company, joking with each other as we rode. Just before we arrived at our destination, Eric had warned us that the lady could be “difficult”. Evidently, she had a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. I was not worried. I’ve always figured that I could get along with just about anyone and have been able to mollify most of the adversarial customers who have passed my way over the years. This would be no different. As we backed up to the front door, we heard piano music wafting from the open windows. It’s not uncommon at all for us to find owners saying a last goodbye to their musical companion as we arrive, which is exactly what was going on here. She left the bench to allow us entrance and we moved our equipment in efficiently and quickly. This would take no time at all…
As we always do with a grand, I closed the lid and took a pair of pliers around to the back and used them to remove the first L-shaped hinge pin. The lady shrieked, “What do you think you’re doing to my piano?” It was a first for me, but I explained that we needed to remove the lid before the legs were also taken off and the piano set on edge for the move. “That piano has been moved six times since I’ve owned it and not one of the movers has ever removed the lid! I won’t have it!” she snapped. I had to think about that one for a moment. It is definitely possible to move the piano with the lid on, but it is a risk, both to the movers and to the piano. When the piano is on the skid board, the hinge side of the lid is downward and the heavy wooden piece naturally tends to fall open, unless it is strapped first. Even with the strap, the danger of damage to the piano is constant, since the lip of the top hangs over the edge. If not placed on the skid board just right, it will put all the weight of the five or six hundred pound instrument on the place where the hinges are attached.
I insisted, “We have to remove the lid to move the piano safely.” The lady, obviously thinking me ignorant, dug her heels in. “You’re certainly not saying that those other movers did it wrong, are you? They were professionals.” Her last statement showed what she thought of me and my rag-tag lot, but I wouldn’t be cowed. At that point, I determined to eat my losses and go home, much to the consternation of Eric, and evidently, also the piano owner. As I raised the lid back up to prop it as we found it, she said, “But why won’t you move it? They all did it that way.” Just at that moment, my eye was caught by a flash of white color in the cherry finish of the piano, right by the hinges. I looked more closely, seeing a very serious crack in the side of the piano. Looking back at the other hinge, there was matching damage there. “Yes ma’am, they did it that way and that’s the reason your piano is broken already.” I must admit, my tone was probably a bit jubilant, because instead of just my word, we now had proof. I explained a little more fully what had happened in one of the earlier moves and she was contrite as she listened. “Go ahead and take it off. I see your point,” she acquiesced.
The piano was moved without further problems and we left with both parties satisfied. A few years later, after a couple more moves (with the lid off!), I sold that piano for her and she was grateful and congenial. Her earlier acrimony stemmed from distrust, both of an unknown piano mover and a change from the norm. As far as she knew, the norm was the way it should be and there was no reason to change her original assessment of the hick and his motley crew.
I said earlier that my too high opinion of myself is in evidence frequently. In reality, it is pretty constant. You would think that seeing life lessons such as this one in the making would forestall the same errors in my life. You would be mistaken. I wisely stroke my chin and say, “You see what happens when you think you know it all?” Then the next time the opportunity arises, I’m sure I know it all and almost invariably make a fool of myself. Sometimes, good advice is just that; good advice, regardless of our opinion of the counselor.
How’s your objectivity? Somehow, even after all these years, the worst sentence in the English language remains in popular use. “We’ve never done it that way before.” What does it take for us to realize that an error repeated over time remains an error? Even if we don’t see evidence of damage, it doesn’t mean that the damage hasn’t occurred.
Change is not always bad. But, I think I’m going to have to work on this open mind thing. I don’t quite have a handle on it yet.
“Without advice, plans go wrong; but with many advisors, they succeed.”
“Some men are just as firmly convinced of what they think as others of what they know.”
(Aristotle~Greek philosopher~384 BC-322 BC)