Read Old Man Scanlon


31 December 2017

I’ve arranged another move for Mom’s piano. It’s spent a quiet period with my granddaughters, who never caught the passion, and will soon sojourn with my nephew and his family. I’m gratified that we’re keeping it in the family, and also that the mover is punctual to the minute.

Most craftsmen and artisans are happy to answer a naïve bystander’s questions, and not a few are compulsive talkers with whom you enter conversation at your own peril. Tony is easy to talk to, and promises not to kill me if I stumble onto any trade secrets. I learn that a flight of stairs would have added $75 to the bill, and that heavier pianos, pushing 800 or 900 pounds, can crack floor tiles.

He uses simple muscle-powered machines, starting with an insanely robust dolly with retractable wheels that lock down after the piano is firmly strapped in. An inclined plane comprising a pair of edge-to-edge planks lets him roll the piano down the two porch steps. To ensure nothing slips, hinged steel ramps attached to each end bridge the non-trivial lip between the planks and terra firma.

I didn’t see the epiphany coming; it’s neither mechanical nor muscular. Even the ignorant and lazy will recognize skill, and it electrifies me. The move will be silky-smooth because Tony and his helper talk to each other every inch of the way. “On the ground.” “Coming to the edge.” “Over the edge.” No jerky surprises, no panicky overreactions, no screw-ups. They talk each other home.