Anyone else play in the high school band, probably as 3rd or 4th chair something? It was a bit like being the kid in right field in baseball, you could play well enough to get by, but really, you knew this wasn’t where your career was headed. The kids in 1st chair were the ones who practiced twice as much as they needed to (and twenty times more than you did – do the math) because they were going to go to march in the Rose Parade and meet John Davidson and go on to a career as a professional musician. (Hi, Cathy!)
But if you got interested enough, or if you wanted to impress that cute girl who just moved up to 2nd chair clarinet (or the guy who just moved up to 2nd chair trombone, I’m not here to judge) and you started to practice, then you could try to move up. You could challenge the 2nd chair french horn! It’s like “racing for pinks” in a way, a head to head audition with the music teacher to see who got the higher chair, the harder music, and the infinitesimally larger amount of glory and admiration.
With that in mind…
Coming home very late from the CAF hangar tonight (a different story) I was coming up the Canejo Grade on the 101 Freeway. It’s about four miles long, a 7% grade, four lanes, usually with the right two lanes clogged with very, very slow semis, and the left two lanes clogged by people with either no gas pedal or no engine to handle that kind of a climb. In between dart the folks with big engines and little patience.
Tonight it was late and traffic was light so I was in my new little Honda Fit zooming up the hill light a fighter pilot climbing toward the moon. I was in the #1 (fast) lane, pretty much all alone, when I came up behind another car going much slower, considerably less than the 65 mph speed limit. I cut over into the #2 lane and zipped right on by, my little four-cylinder engine screaming (well, okay, buzzing) along at about 4,000 RPM.
The car I was passing was a brand new Corvette. The one that’s gorgeous and can do about 120 mph in third gear, and goes from zero to “holy shit!” in about five seconds. And I was screaming (buzzing) past him like he was standing still!
Isn’t that the same as a 3rd chair French horn (my Fit) challenging and stomping on a 1st chair (the Corvette) and taking the better seat away? Does that mean that he has to take my car and I get to take his, since we’re obviously each better suited to the other vehicle? Are we back to the “trading pinks” analogy, but this time in real life on the Canejo Grade?
A guy can fantasize, can’t he?
Evidence suggests that the guy in the Corvette was going so slow because he was distracted, texting or something on his phone. Shortly after I went by him he seemed to have realized what had happened and the last I saw of him he was heading over the top of the hill at speeds my Fit couldn’t hit if you pushed it off a cliff.
But for a moment there, I and my little four-cylinder glorified roller skate were the kings of the Canejo Grade!!