I had been looking for my soprano ukulele for days. It wasn’t in the trunk of my car. Wasn’t in the apartment. Wasn’t in my classroom. This morning I went to the storage unit and it wasn’t there either.
I drove to the ukulele store in Fremont, you know the place. The same place I had picked out the lost ukulele years ago. I told everybody my sad story; did I misplace it? Was it stolen? Did I leave it somewhere? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
The employees understood how sad I was; a lost instrument is a dread that musicians understand. Some of us are animists; we see our instruments with souls of their own. Others of us see our instruments as a place where our own souls live; losing an instrument feels a little like losing yourself. In a bad way.
I picked out another ukulele, which was just like my lost one, except that it had a cool Polynesian pattern printed on the face. It came with a cool carrying case. It felt nice in my arms and sounded right. I put it on my credit card and walked out.
I got to my car, feeling both relieved that I had a new ukulele, and also still ashamed that I had lost the original. I wondered what I’d do with my day. I decided to go to Bauhaus Coffee to grade papers. Fitting, I thought, Bauhaus is the last place I remember taking my old ukulele…
Then I wondered if Bauhaus is actually the place I lost my ukulele. I called them and they said no, nobody has found a ukulele… except, wait a second, actually yes, there’s a ukulele here. I started my car and drove there immediately, and parked in a loading zone.
My ukulele was in its soft case, on the counter behind the cashier. I had to wait for the needy people in front of me to order what might have been the first coffee drink in their lives, they had so many questions. Finally they left and the cashier handed me my ukulele. I was so happy and grateful and wanted to tell the cashier how relieved I felt, but then my enormous belly swiped a stack of biodegradable plastic water cups and they scattered all over the floor. I apologized as I picked up the cups and then left before my belly could knock over anything else.
I got back in the car and had a new problem; now I had my cherished old ukulele back, plus a very similar new ukulele with a cool Polynesian print on the face and a super cool bag. I keep them both, right?
I drove back to the ukulele store and returned the cool new ukulele and its cool new bag. I got back to the ukulele store before my ukulele store parking expired. I felt a little sheepish but the employees, all musicians themselves, felt relieved for me and were happy to make the return.
When you buy a ukulele, you should feel enthralled. You should not feel, as I did, a mix of relief and shame. Someday I may lose the ukuleles I own due to theft or natural disaster or extreme stupidity, and have to buy a new instrument just to fill the void. I’m sure I would have loved the new instrument had I kept it, but I probably would have never stopped missing the old one.
I own five ukuleles now; they serve different functions and I need them all. Two are travel ukuleles (a soprano for practice, tenor for performance), two serious instruments (one is a tenor, the other is a concert that has electronics), and then I have a cheaper, glow-in-the dark waterproof instrument that I keep in my classroom for emergencies. At this point I’m happy with my collection, and if I buy a new one it will probably be out of lust; instrument lust.
At least, I hope it will be out of lust, and not out of loss.