24 Dec audience of one
Have you ever wondered if the universe might be schooling you, but you didn’t care because the circumstances were totally worth it? On one unremarkable workday, I parked my car and psyched myself up for the day ahead, not unhappy to be going to work, but not entirely happy about it either.
After slinging my overstuffed backpack over my shoulder, I began the short walk through the parking garage. And I pondered the hours ahead of me, the meetings and minutiae that would fill the day.
While lost in my own thoughts, I vaguely heard a soprano voice behind me. Mozart maybe, I thought, but not really having the slightest clue. As staccato notes bounced off the concrete walls, I realized it was a live human voice. An actual person. Singing in the parking garage.
For a few minutes, I enjoyed the private concert, shaking my head at this odd but very good fortune. The notes felt like a balm to my already over-caffeinated brain. I slowed my gait, listening intently and hoping to connect at the entrance with the mysterious owner of this voice.
When we reached the door, I turned my head to see a petite Asian woman dressed in casual arty clothes.
“Your voice is stunning,” I said in awe.
She replied with an easy smile and a glint in her eyes, “The acoustics in here are perfect.”
Her pitch was perfect.
As we went in separate directions, I wondered if she really worked there. And would she still be there if I turned around? The question sounded delicious, like hearing a crisp soprano fill the cold structure of a parking garage. Not wanting to break the spell, I resisted the urge to turn around.
My day had barely started, yet I knew nothing I did would make it any better. I knew, however, that I could quickly make it worse. And the melody played in mind along with an insistent nudge: Don’t blow it.
Don’t blow it indeed.
What could I possibly put on another PowerPoint slide that could match this magic? And what was I to learn from this lucky encounter? I couldn’t say.
What I can say is that following this interlude, I felt so much better for days. And re-telling the story brings the same feelings of peace and possibility. I’m still a lucky bystander.
Nevertheless, I could easily blow the story in the re-telling, attaching glib meaning to the moment. ‘Sing for the joy of singing‘ sounds more annoying than inspiring, albeit less annoying than ‘sing as though no one is listening.’ Even as I write that I can hear fingernails slowly scraping a chalkboard.
No, this singer seemed completely comfortable that I’d overheard her. This was not a woman afraid of audiences. But neither was she seeking one.
She was tuned in enough to appreciate the acoustics of an unlikely venue. And she was willing to be heard. Or not.
The best voices, it seems, can have humble stories. And mundane spaces can have perfect acoustics. The question is are we willing to be that humble even if our performances have an audience of none – or just one? Can we risk being that free?
These are the questions I’ve begun asking myself. They don’t have easy answers. Hopefully, it’s enough to be asking them.
In the meantime, I’ll share this musical memory. And I’ll relish what I suspect we all hope is true: sometimes we’re sent moments of magic, which on the surface have nothing to do with us yet make us feel like anything is possible.
Apparently, even at work.