Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Switching Classes: A Twin's Tale

Being a twin brings about a lot of questions from people. The most famous questions being, "Hey, you're a twin? Did you ever switch classes?" For the longest time our answers were always a disappointing no. My twin brother Devin always wanted to switch classes, but being the shy and timid child that I was, I would always decline. I knew if I got caught, I would feel absolutely embarrassed. But finally, after many years of shameless begging and pleading from him and our friends, I relented and traded places our junior year.

Devin was our school's stand out bass player, and our high school band teacher loved him. At this point in the year he was in an orchestra class and really didn't enjoy it. Bowing a few notes on an old stand up bass in the early hours of the morning didn't really enthrall him quite like flying through bass riffs off of The Red Hot Chili Peppers' songs on his baby blue electric. Devin wanted a break from this mundane morning experience, so he came up with the "brilliant" idea of switching classes. Constantly I'd tell him no, as I had never played the stand up bass before in my entire life. But push came to shove, and I finally relented. I'm ashamed to say it, but I really gave in to peer pressure.

As my brother looked forward to that moment with glee, I looked downward with dread. I was absolutely terrified to go to his orchestra class that morning. The night before I couldn't even sleep. I kept waking up every hour, looking at the clock and counting down the time until 8:10 rolled around: the start of his class. Finally, when the alarm went off and I had to get up for seminary, a sickening feeling in my stomach began to rise. I knew as soon as I got out of bed and put my feet on the floor, the time would soon come where I would have to try and avoid detection and hide the fact that I was a complete bass playing fraud. For one of the few times in my life, I really didn't want seminary to end. It's those moments where you wish time could go slower, and better yet even go still. But of course when we least want it to time seems to speed up twice its rate, so before you know it your slammed right into the situation that you have been trying to avoid. I felt like King Louis facing the guillotine.

I showed up to class about five minutes early, clumsily fumbling around the room as I gathered my things together. Trying to act calm and confident on the outside, inside I was a stressed out wreck. I absolutely did not want to get caught, as I knew that I would have to get a complete tongue lashing in front of the whole class of students, while my brother would get it hours later in the social comfort of privacy (the band teacher was a feisty individual).

Soon 8:10 came, the teacher raised her baton, and the moment I had been dreading for the last few days finally dawned upon me. Trying to control myself, I decided to just make up notes. I told myself, how hard can it be? I just push on a string here, do a little bowing there. It shouldn't be too hard. You see, Devin was the ONLY bass player in the orchestra. I had no one else to rely on to drown me out, so I had to make this work. So I decided to play, making up notes as I rubbed the bow against the thick, low sounding strings. Hoping to at least make some semblance of a musical note, I realized in horror that not only was I not making anything close to a sound that should emanate from a bass, but the sounds I was producing were reminiscent of a screeching dying cat. I quickly realized that there is absolutely no way I can keep this up, as eventually I will most definitely get caught. So instead I decided to not produce any sounds whatsoever, and played instead what one would call the air bass. It's harder than you think to move the bow back and forth in a convincing manner over the strings without having the bow actually touch anything (I showed great skills in dexterity and balance that day). To my great relief and surprise, this actually worked! As the time clicked away, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I actually realized that I was going to successfully pull this off. That is until the teacher stopped the class and decided we all needed to play our individual parts as sections...

Well, unluckily for me, I was my section. Me, and no one else. All of my hope of success quickly evaporated like rain under the desert sun. Now I was filled with complete fear. The sick feeling I had in my stomach grew about ten times its size. I looked around at my friends across the room, and their looks of fear as they all mouthed the words, "You are SO dead..." did not give me much confidence. Trying to think of anything that would help me stop producing a sound that not even a mother could love, and produce a sound of musical beauty, I realized that my friends were right: I was dead. I was soon to be caught, and there was no way out of it.

Section by section, the teacher went around the room. The ten minutes that lapsed as she did this seemed like ten hours. Until finally, FINALLY, the teacher stopped, raised her baton in front of the whole class and started a new piece of orchestra music. Never, in my short little high school life, had this orchestra sounded more beautiful. I was completely overtaken with relief!

Now, you can probably understand the emotional roller coaster that I was going through in the last hour, as I went from going down a steep slope of complete nervousness, to a high rise of hope, through a couple loops of extreme terror, to only end up at utter relief. I felt like I was going on a great ride. But if you know roller coasters, you will know that some like to have little surprises, or tricks rolled up their sleeves in order to add a little extra "umph" to the whole experience. And this coaster was that type; the type that had a startling surprise ending of a complete downward free fall.

About 5 seconds into our song the teacher abruptly stops everything, looks over at me, and with a bright smile on her face (and might I add both hands enthusiastically extended in my direction), she happily exclaims, "I can't believe I almost forgot about our favorite bass player!" I couldn't believe it. I felt like a sneaky little robber who stole all of the cash from the high end bank, successfully outran the cops with daring wit and cleverness, only to come home and see a policemen patiently waiting for him in his living room, twiddling his thumbs.

Accepting my fate, and with complete shame, I picked up my bow, laid it against the strings of the bass, and played a most terrible sounding tune. Seeing the bright smiling face of the teacher turn into a dark angry frown certainly didn't make me feel good. After about two or three unsuccessful attempts, I finally gave up and made up some silly excuse. I quietly mumbled, with downcast eyes, that I forgot my sheet music and had no idea what I was playing. With a very serious and stern tone my teacher said, "Class, I should be very mad at him, but I'm not going to be." She then looked straight ahead, stuck her nose in the air, and in very tense and jagged movements continued to conduct the music.

As my teacher brooded for the rest of class (she did a poor job hiding how upset she was), my friends and I couldn't help but smile to each other that I actually didn't get caught. Yes, my brother looked like a total slacker, but at least she didn't know it was me. Well, when my twin found out what happened he immediately told her the situation. Expecting her to laugh along at the joke, she instead hit us both on the tops of our heads with music folders, told us it wasn't very funny, and never spoke of it again.

It was totally worth it.