“Do you even speak English?”
After telling the elderly gentleman that I do, he speaks even more slowly, so that I will understand.
“Here’s ten bucks. Why don’t you cool it for a while. Like stop playing. We can’t hear ourselves talking over the piano.”
I smile and nod, but continue with the job I am actually paid to do.
It takes two managers to assure the table of 6 seniors, the farthest one in the dining room from the piano, that I am playing as softly as possible for the pleasure of all the guests, that I am playing acoustically, and that the speakers next to the piano are not even turned on.
One of the managers then suggests that perhaps the table would enjoy their dining experience more if they made some music requests.
He comes back to me with the deepest exasperation.
They want The Phantom of the Opera.
So I play a 25-minute selection from the entire score.
After which, the table asks to be reseated in another part of the restaurant, perhaps in the bar area, where it will be more quiet.
One of my favorites exchanges from Phantom is when Carlotta, the reigning prima donna of the Paris Opera House hisses “your part is silent little toad,” to Christine, rising ingénue.
Carlotta looses her voice minutes after that.
I didn’t loose or even raise my voice that night, but I am learning that keeping my silence is sometimes the best act of self-preservation.