I don't know how else to tell you this...
Give it to me straight.
There's been a terrible accident.
Oh no! What happened??
We tried our best, but in the end, we couldn't save...
Yes...I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but there's been a...catastrophic accident. A freak event--in all the cases I've done, I've never seen anything like it.
You might think the above exchange was one that I had with a patient. But although I was involved in the conversation, I was not the one giving the bad news.
Your bass, he told me, is dead.
My bass? My acoustic bass?? How could this have happened??
Well, it seems that I had brought two of my basses into a local guitar shop to be worked on. Both had problems, and this place is pretty well known amongst guitarists as the best place in town to have your axes fixed. I'd actually been there several times, many years ago.
The acoustic bass, as you may or may not recall, had a pickup problem. The bottom 2 strings would lose amplification a few songs into a gig, making the bass fairly unusable.
Still, I've been bringing it to more gigs recently, so I decided to see if I could get the pickup fixed. I brought it in, and they seemed pretty sure they could fix it. In the mean time, I asked them to do a "setup" as well, which means straightening the neck and fixing the frets and whatever else needs to be done to get it playing like new.
About a week went by and I heard nothing from them. Finally I called.
"Hi, I'd like to know if my basses are ready?" I told them my name.
Silence. Then, "Hold on a minute."
A new person got on the phone, and began the conversation above.
"What do you mean, it's 'dead'?" I asked.
"Like I said, this has never happened before, but I was adjusting the metal rod that straightens the neck, and it...snapped. It just snapped. I'm sorry. There was nothing I could do."
It was such a strange conversation. It really sounded like a doctor calling a patient about a "therapeutic misadventure" as we like to call these things. I've had to call patients to inform them of a bad outcome in the past, but thankfully, not very often. But this, about a guitar, was just too weird.
To his credit, he immediately took ownership of the problem and told me he wanted to replace the bass. He offered me a Hohner Acoustic bass that was for sale in the store.
Now, I was not that familiar with Hohner. I wasn't sure if Hohner was like a knockoff of Hofner, which made the Beatle Bass. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, I figured, I gotta pick up the Fender Bass (which thankfully was unharmed), so I'd check out the Hohner.
So I drove down there after work and took a look at the thing. It felt like the kind of used guitar you'd expect to get in a shop like this. Lovingly set up, not betraying its age.
While playing this thing I committed a Medical Faux Pas. See, I had just come from my third hospital, and while I remembered to take off my lab coat and leave it in the car, I had forgotten about the stethoscope around my neck.
Apparently somebody noticed it and came up to me.
"Are you Dr. S?" he asked.
"You used to be my mother's doctor." He told me the name. I remembered her fondly. As I recalled, she had left the practice a few years back because she wanted a clinic and a hospital closer to her side of town.
"Oh sure, I remember your mom! How is she?"
Probably I should have said something. Or at least stopped playing the bass, which I was doing the whole time we were talking. But I was a little stunned, so I just kept doing what I was doing with my mouth hanging open a little.
"Er" I eventually said. "Uh. Sorry to hear that. What happened?"
He told me about her brain aneurysm which had suddenly burst. I said something about it being better to go quickly like that than to suffer. I threw in the story of my Father's death for good measure.
We sized each other up, and after that, it seemed we were even. He smiled at me and thanked me for the care I had given his mother, and complimented me on my playing.
I went back to the counter and told them I'd accept the Hohner in trade. Actually it's not a bad outcome. To fix the Washburn would have cost a lot of money, no doubt.
Still, I'm a little sad about the old bass. And about the guy's mother.
If you'd like to hear what the old acoustic bass sounded like, listen to the bass on Sevivon, or watch this clip from 2002: