Monday, 13 June 2016

The Piccolo Problem

The piccolo problem is not, as you might expect, a problem for piccolo players. It is a problem for players of large instruments such as the cello, the double bass and the sousaphone. When they are lugging their instruments up stairs, say, or on and off public transport, complete strangers will stop them and say: "I bet you wish you played the piccolo." Douglas Adams was the first to point out that nobody works out that this is exactly what everybody else says. So the encumbered musician will hear this every working day for the rest of his or her life.

There is a related problem for recently married bartenders. Upon meeting me for the first time post-nuptials, every regular says the same thing: "So, how's married life treating you?" 

I know that it's a friendly way of asking how I am and showing that they have remembered a small fact about my personal life. Two essentials to British smalltalk covered in a single simple interrogative. Problem is that I serve hundreds of pints a week and once worked out that I know about two hundred regulars and what they usually drink. I can be answering this question a dozen times a day. If I don't answer it with sufficient enthusiasm, people look askance and think something terrible must have happened on the honeymoon.

Another problem is that half the people expect you to answer that married life is not very different from life prior to marriage and the other half expect to you to say that married life is totally different. I have to guess which group the person falls into so I can give them the answer that they are expecting. If I guess wrong I have to change my answer to the exact opposite to save their embarrassment. This whole process is so confusing, I have even considered just answering their question truthfully!

Just to clarify, married life is treating me very well as you can see from the amount of weight I have gained and productivity I have lost. The honeymoon was amazing (see selfie below) and married life is both very different and very similar to unmarried life - it depends who's asking. I play the mandolin (badly), so the piccolo problem has never really been a problem for me. I hope that covers everything.      

Practising selfies by the walls of the Old Town in Tallinn 

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