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  • Milton Horne

Tuner Pranks, 2018


Afraid of snakes!

In reviewing the most unforgettable tuning moments over the past year, one stands out above all others. It was a prank, I guess; intended for the next piano technician who might dismantle the case and work on the piano’s action.


In fact, if I had only tuned the piano, I would never have been the victim of this near double heart-attack inducing event. But no, I had to pull the action out to re-glue a white-keytop. I proceeded expertly to loosen the screws in order to remove the fall board and cheek blocks, instructing the customer knowledgeably about each step in the upcoming process (I thought to myself, satisfied ). She was standing just behind me, arms folded, politely listening and watching over my shoulder.


Memory is hazy but because of my proximity to the piano, I saw the snake before she did and so my scream preceded hers by a second, maybe two. The timing made it unlikely that it was her immediate sight of the beast coiled just on top of the treble keys behind the fall board that caused her to screech. Instead, it was possibly my instinctive and sudden blind, athletic backward-leap off of the piano bench. Fall-board and cheek-blocks flying out of my hands I let out a double-barreled yowl as I crashed into her folded arms. Still more probably it was as we were tumbling down awkwardly together, my head landing in her lap, that she saw the serpent and cut loose a scream herself.


When we both realized what had happened, and there was that momentary awkwardness of finding ourselves on the floor in a mash-up, my years of embarrassment-training in England came forward and I uttered something silly like, “so sorry,” “not to worry,” or “carry on, then.” I found the previous technician’s business card used as a shim under the cheek block. Lucky for him he’s out the area now. I have not yet found a place that sells such a life-like fake garter snake. But I’m on the hunt. Any suggestions?

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