OK, here goes:
Joe and I had to go to a particular store in a particular mall nearby today. There was something we wanted to pick up for a gift. We arrived, rode the elevator up to the second floor and I pushed out. We headed the way the map told us to go and soon saw the store ahead of us. It was faint at first but I was sure that I was hearing violin music being played. It didn’t sound like a recording, it sounded live. A few feet further ahead I was able to look through glass barriers that allowed those on the second floor to look down through open space, to the first floor.
Standing alone of the stage was a young woman who was playing her violin with unfeigned passion. The music was stunning. Joe, the classical music buff, was able to identify everything she played, I just thought it was pretty and soothing and sometimes oddly compelling. I looked up from the music and saw people rushing around, families with kids, husbands and wives, teens out with friends. They all made their own kind of noise. It didn’t take away from the music. It was like this pure sound was pushing aside the quiet din and making space for itself.
Suddenly I got teary. I thought of the woman who’d checked me into the Marriott hotel in Bridgewater, New Jersey only a few days before. The lobby had been quiet but the bar was busy and there was a lot of noise, and laughter, and one slightly hot debate. Joe stood next to me as I checked in and then suddenly another sound cut through the din, just like this music had, it was the sound of respect. The clerk spoke to me about my room, she talked to me about the services of the hotel, right there with Joe beside me, standing, at her height, and she was looking down at me, it’s just that she wasn’t looking down on me.
Respect, unexpected, has a beautiful sound.
There on the second floor of the mall, we listened to this young woman play. It was as if the music conjured up this image in my mind to combat the push to the store with people staring and pointing at me as I pushed, hard, towards my destination. That stuff became just noise. That stuff just didn’t matter because it wasn’t, like the music was, beautiful. It was just there. It was just noise.
When the clerk finished checking me in I thanked her and told her exactly what she had done that I found so refreshing, she treated me as a valued customer. Me. In my body, in my chair, I’m used to noise. Lots of noise. But her tone and her manner cut through all that and reminded me of what respect sounds like in my ear.