I’ve been waiting many weeks for some items I ordered off the internet.
I must admit; some of this is my fault. In my excitement to buy my family Christmas gifts, I didn’t pay as close attention to the country from which items were being shipped. This is important.
If it’s coming from oh, Seattle, it’ll be here in a few days, even considering the No Hurry in Curry factor.
If it originates in China, count on the slow boat. I know; I have relatives in Harbin, China, and there is a six- to eight-week lag to consider when sending gifts. Once, I sent a sweater for my new nephew Jonathan; it arrived when he was 6. When I sent my sister-in-law a root beer-making kit, the stuff fermented before it arrived.
And you should have seen the letters they sent us. So many words fell to the Chinese Censorship Scissors, we couldn’t get even the gist of the correspondence. Most letters looked like the snowflakes children make at Christmas and tape to windows. I digress.
But alas, last week, a package arrived. I’d forgotten all about it. And I had mixed feelings, as I pulled it from the box at the post office.
It was an ocarina, a musical instrument a friend of mine plays so beautifully I want to be just like her. The one I’d ordered was ceramic, with a deep redwood color, a funky shape and purportedly a sound “such as concerto found in harbor L of echo,” the sales site indicated.
I was happy to receive it. But the other emotion bordered on amazement.
I couldn’t believe the package made it to the United States. For starters, it was crushed. It was wrapped in gray plastic and taped with about 4.28 million yards of a muddy-yellow tape. This made it past customs? If I tried to send something packaged like this, they wouldn’t even investigate. They’d just take me straight to prison, the first charge being “assault on … something.”
I started looking for stray wires. Powder. Anything suspicious. Finding none, I took it to work. Before I even sat down, though, three coworkers asked me to open the package elsewhere, preferably in an alley on the other side of the river. Or maybe the border. Another said packages like the one in my hand often washed up on the coast of Florida. A third suggested I call the bomb squad.
I found a razor blade and began trimming away, fearful a slight mishap could detonate the whole city block.
Inside the plastic packaging was a cardboard box, of sorts. It was more like a conglomeration of pieces of cardboard taped together with more yardage of the muddy-yellow tape. All eyes were on me and my box. One coworker left the building.
Well, it didn’t explode. And surprisingly, the ocarina inside was intact.
Oh, this will be fun, I thought, pulling the crumpled instruction booklet from the box! Another instrument to master!
I quickly flipped through the booklet. Haha! It’s written in Chinese music! It’s entirely possible the first song is Itsy Bitsy Spider; I wouldn’t know.
You tell me: The song opens with a T, with the number 1 below it. And repeat. Then two Ts with 5s below them. Then two Ts with 6s and then — ooh! Chord change: A T with a 5 below it, then a dash and a V with nothing below it. Third stanza: 1 2 3 4 5 5 6 7 1 (with a dot atop it). 2 (dot) 1 (dot) 7 6.
Some “notes” are underlined. Some have swooping left (or right) arrows above the numbers. Another had the symbol for ohm — the only thing I recognized.
I flipped to the front of the book, seeking a translation key. Yup! In Chinese!
So once again in my musical career, I’m going to have to wing it. And once again, my neighbors will cringe as I make “music” on a new instrument, bringing down property values all around me, just like I did when I was mastering violin and accordion.
I will play Concerto Found in Harbor L of Echo and wait for my remaining packages to arrive.
Just keep your eyes out for the bomb squad.