It's not just for metals anymore.

You know . . . that reddish matter formed on iron and steel and some other metals through exposure to air; red oxide of iron -- rust.

I think we all know that in "Robot Pick-up Lines" he's saying "hey, Baby" in his most alluring binary-code-robot-voice in hopes that he won't be spending another night alone in the lab. But for now let's pretend (since I'm guessing that you don't read binary code -- please leave a comment if that's an insulting assumption so I can apologize) that instead she is warning him of the dangers of going to Pike Place Market in Seattle without an umbrella, perhaps reminding him of the funny little voice the Tin Man used to squeak "oil can" when Dorothy and the Scarecrow first happened upon him stranded in a field. Because surely that creeping reddish-brown blight is the cancer of robots, and it is caused by things much less menacing than second-hand smoke or drinking from water bottles manufactured from dangerously rigid plastic.

In fact, robots must be exhausted from the vigilance required to stay in tip-top condition, free from the rust that is caused by the very air they . . . would breathe if robots breathed. It's much easier to avoid even third-hand smoke than to avoid things like air and water.

I don't worry about rust too much (although I have other skin issues sometimes) so imagine my surprise when I was asked to play the flute in church this week (it was a flute emergency at choir practice and my husband had to run home in the middle to dig my flute out from under a pile of sheet music, leaving him no time to knock off any accumulated rust before handing it to me to play in front of the choir -- which took guts, I assure you).

Imagine my surprise to find that, although my flute looked normal enough, my mouth and fingers seemed to be caked with the reddish-orange menace.

Let's just consult my handy
"New Winston Dictionary for Young People (ca. 1945)

and see what it has to say:

Aha -- right there in the 2nd number 2. Geez. Even in 1945 scientists had determined that if you stop playing the flute for 20 years your lips and fingers may become
worthless because of
(to be truthful, I must admit that I've been forced out of retirement on a number of occasions since Jr. High, but this last period of idleness seems to have been particularly rust-inducing for some reason. Rust may become more pervasive and dangerous as we age.)

They could probably even have cautioned against picking my flute up in front of the choir on the spur of the moment.

But it's a little disheartening when something that was second nature -- practically like breathing air or drinking water! -- at age 14 has gone right out the window by age 45, isn't it? I shouldn't be too surprised, I suppose. When I was at the height of my flute playing, band teachers looked something like this:

Okay, that's an exaggeration since it's Theobald Boehm, the father of the modern flute mechanism (ca. 1847) and a household name among flutists. But would you believe this?

No? Okay, also an exaggeration, I admit (since it's an image from a swell vintage flute book I have, ca. 1915 -- aren't the border designs lovely? They had stopped making flute books lovely by the time I was forced to practice.) But if you could see my 8th grade band teacher, blogger friends, I assure you you'd get a laugh. Mr. Paxman was well-meaning but incredibly square (remember that I went to jr. high in the 1970's when people said things like "square".)

For instance, he once announced at a concert that we would play "Bad Bad LeRoy Brown" with the stress on the "Roy" part (leROY - like the french might pronounce it if ROY were a french thing) when even my parents could have told him that the name was LEE-roy.

Seriously. I could have fallen right through the floor on the stage of Bryant Jr. High School the moment he said "leROY", and disappeared forever and been pretty happy about it.

But we can laugh about it now, of course. And if dear, square old Mr. Paxman looks as bad today as my flute playing sounds, I feel pretty sorry for him. We've both got a problem. At least he's probably had the good sense to retire, which is what I guess I thought I had done until the sudden choir-practice-flute-emergency.

It makes me wonder what else has picked up a little rust in my life? We know my Greek Mythology skills have, and I've already resolved to work on that. What about other wonderful works of literature I haven't had an intelligent discussion about since college?

How about old friendships?

My somewhat-limited French vocabulary?

I'm going to stay with the flute for a bit now and see if I can't whip a few pieces from my old pink "Concert and Contest Collection" into shape and give a recital to my husband and the dog. I know you'd come if you could, but . . . alas . . . that's the problem with internet friends, isn't it? They always seem to be in Australia when you want to invite them over for your recital.

I've been practicing twice a day this week and it's starting to sound almost okay again, I think.

No problem remembering how to hold it . . . although I'm going to require a little more work before I'm "in the zone". Or as this 1915 teacher puts it, "Endeavor to secure a position of perfect repose."

A position of perfect repose may require A LOT more work.

You wouldn't happen to have an oilcan handy, would you?

*As a postscript prior to publication I can now add that the choir-and-flute performance in church went pretty well -- at least I didn't actually see anyone leave the church as a result of the music. One lady said to me, "I had NO IDEA you could do that!" and I think she meant it to be complimentary. And how could she know? I've kept it pretty well hidden under this bushel with my collection of other rusty things . . . Maybe she would like to come to my recital?


Jake and Chelsea said...

you played in church without me?

thank goodness.

i'm sure it was wonderful and i am very jealous of your flute time. it always makes headaches or stomach aches go away for me. unless i'm trying to hit a high A flat...sometimes that GIVES a headache.

and i know you're going to knock "Siciliana and Giga" right out of the park!!

you know what you could do, use your new camera and take a video of your recital and post it up here for all to see!!

susan m hinckley said...

Now that is a funny idea and thanks for thinking I could figure out how to do that! And I'm happy just knowing there's another soul in the world who knows "Siciliana and Giga" is in the pink Concert and Contest Collection book.

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