A Dilemma that Could be Beat
I have long been content with my life. Those words, and that sentiment sound weak, but they are still true. I have won for myself much more than my teenage self could have even imagined, and he had quite an imagination.
I have a well-paying, respectable job in an office with pictures of my wife and three kids and one dog on my desk. My wife, Katy has always been supportive, even in the early financially insecure days. My kids are just great, I draw joy from their everyday presence.
And yet…When I was a teenager, my greatest (actually my only) ambition was to be a rock and roll star. But the hard reality of being a member of just another rarely and poorly-paid garage band, and loads of unwanted but still helpful practical advice from my parents made me switch to the ‘straight life’ I have lived ever since I was 18. As it turns out, I may have quit the band too soon. Four years later they ‘made it’ big. They have two hits (both songs we played while I was still in the band), and go on regular tours around the world every year.
This leads to my dilemma. They came to our town a week ago, to much local excitement, especially mine. The night before their gig, I received a phone call, “Hey man, it’s Frank…the bass player in your old band. Are you doing anything tomorrow night? Our drummer is very sick and can’t play with us, and we need a drummer for tomorrow. We don’t want to be no shows in our homecoming gig. We won’t play anything that you don’t know. What do you think man? You’d be doing us a great favour.”
Of course I almost literally jumped at the chance. I still have my old drum kit and play sometimes on the weekends, accompanying a tape of our old songs. I told Frank that, also that I was game to play.
Everyone in my family was excited when I told them about what I was going to do. They had never seen or heard me play up on a stage with a band. That includes my wife. I met her when we were both at college. They received complimentary tickets, and I could see and hear them cheering me and the band on to greater heights during the gig. My soul was soaring the whole night. I didn’t land until I got back home.
A Dilemma Presents Itself
A week later, on a Friday, joy turned into dilemma. I received another call, early in the evening: “Hey man, it’s Frank. The boys want to say that we had a great time last week with you on the drums. That was our best gig in a long time. You’ve still got it man.” I could hear sounds of agreement coming from the other members of the band.
“Here’s the thing, our drummer quit. He can’t play anymore. We were thinking that you might want to go on tour with us over the next two months, maybe longer… (the last two words hung in the air like the last chord at the end of set.) We really would appreciate it.” More sounds of agreement were heard over the phone.
“What do you say man? Will you think about it?”
There was silence at both ends of the call for a while. Then I said, “I’ve got a regular job, a wife, kids, and a dog…I’ll have to talk to my boss, my wife and my kids.”
“Understood, man. When do you think you can give us an answer? The sooner the better. We need these gigs. They pay well. And it would take a long while for another drummer to learn all our songs, and play them with feeling like you do. No one could be a better choice than you. You’re the best, man..”
How do you answer a question that could enable a teenage dream to come true, but would also turn your life right around, seriously disturbing the smooth waters of your settled life?
“Give me two days man. That’s all that I can say right now.”
“Cool. Two days is fine with us.”
I didn’t say anything about the offer throughout the evening. Katy and I just sat and watched an old movie on the television. I didn’t talk much, and what I did say was meaningless chat about the movie. I then went to bed early, telling Katy that it had been a hard day at work. She only smiled and touched me on the shoulder.
That night I had swings of both choice and mood, responsibilities fought with dreams. I finally decided that we would have to have a family meeting. We had held these before concerning the that the kids, soon to become teenagers, had to make choices. They had been open to what Katy and I said, and we listened to them as well, tempering the statements of judgement that parents often find easy to make.
I got up early, even though I hadn’t slept much. I don’t usually see this part of a Saturday morning. But I had something to say, and a big decision to make. When Katy came down the stairs and saw me and my nearly empty coffee cup, she wore a question on her face. Without even saying ‘hi’, I said “Katy, we’ve got to have a family meeting
“Okay, I’ll go get the kids right now.”
When they came down the stairs, I could see that they knew something important was going to take place. There was none of their usual joking around, and they all wore serious expressions on their faces. When I told them what Frank had said to me, the words “maybe longer” again hung in the air.
Our eldest son Ray was the first to speak. “That would be a great ‘gig’, as you would call it. But what about us? We would miss you. And what about your job?” Our other son, Leo, never one to use a lot of words, just said, “Yeah dad.”
Katy, then said, “Jeff, I know you would love to do it. But your job is a steady reliable one. Music is a lot more dodgy. We do depend on a reliable income. Working as a dog-walker doesn’t pay me much. And I don’t want to imagine being without you for long periods of time.”
I could see where this was going. And I had to admit to myself, that dreams can be clouds that can keep you from seeing the light clearly. I was about to say that I would have to say ‘no’ to the band, when our daughter, Lila spoke up. She is the thinker in the family
“Dad, you have often said to us that seeing situations as ‘either…or’ can often be wrong. What was it that philosopher with the long name beginning with K…I interrupted her with the word “Kierkegaard”…called it, the ‘tyranny of the binary’?”
“What about this dad? You’ve been to Zoom meetings. There are new Zoom cameras now that can project their images on a large screen”…Lila was the family computer whiz. “ Why don’t we get one of those and you can perform for the band on a screen, instead of physically in person?”
Not wanting to be outdone by my daughter, I declared, 'What about the time delay over long distances?' I may not be well-informed on computer technology, but I know a bit about the musical sort.
"Oh dad", she said, with the appropriate facial expression, 'There's a new wave technology that minimizes that delay now to practically nothing."
Leo then interrupted this exchange of views, saying, “Hands up everyone who votes for Zoom drumming.” Everyone, including me, shot up their hand.
Lila turned on the main family computer in the kitchen, and showed me what she meant. It looked like it would work. But could I convince the band members?
I called Frank. Before he had a chance to speak, Lila gave him the website he needed to see. She instructed him regarding what to look for. He was silent for a while, so I told him about the technology that minimized the sound delay. His quick response to that was, “Think of the publicity, man. And maybe we can get the manufacturer to fund us. We would be the first to do this. It could make us famous.”
After we hung up, he called the others and explained what was being offered. They agreed that it would be a great publicity stunt, plus they would have the drummer they wanted.. I could live the dream, be a good husband and father, and keep my steady job. The dilemma could be beat.