BY PAUL MILLS
Always Be Humble…humility goes a long way
The teenaged cashier saw a guitar pick mixed in with the coins as I was paying for groceries at Smiths and asked me if I was a musician. I said yes, hoping that would be the end of it. But then he asked how I liked Vegas, what instrument I play, what kind of music, etc.
Not wanting to go into my life’s musical history while I was paying for a gallon of milk, ramen noodles, a 12 pack, kool-aid drink mix and a Nestle Crunch bar (impulse item), I politely said “I like it and I play around town from time to time”. He then told me that HE was a SINGER and had been playing music in Vegas for awhile. He continued by saying he DOESN’T have a band but he sings Karaoke quite a bit and is on the verge of a record deal. I smiled and politely said “that’s cool, congratulations”.
Meanwhile, there were people behind me who were probably in a hurry, and didn’t seem to be interested in this exchange. He continued waxing philosophic about the music industry while boasting about his vocal ability. As he fumbled in the cash drawer, he continued telling me that he was close to securing a recording contract. I smiled and said “that’s great” (thinking to myself, “you never know, it could happen”)
Although I was in a hurry and the people behind me in line also appeared to be in a hurry, I continued listening while reaching for the change that he somehow WAS NOT seeming to produce from the register. He was too busy talking and telling me to ”hang in there” and “keep practicing,”etc. Then he said something that almost made me roll my eyes (but I didn’t)… With an air of smugness, he said,(direct quote) “you gotta pay your dues like I’ve done and it could pay off for you also”.
Any other time, I would have said “yep, you’re right, good luck to you,” But his youthful smugness, LOUD, boastful, unsolicited and uninformed advice along with the growing impatience of those in line behind me got on my last nerve. He pushed my “are you serious?” button when he FINALLY handed me my change and said, “man, if you ever need any advice, let me know.” If you pay your dues and get some experience onstage, you might end up in a band and make a little money…I might even be looking for a band soon.”
Before I could stop myself, I sharply replied “I’ve been paying my dues LONGER THAN YOU’VE BEEN ALIVE…and I’ve been performing for over 40 years!…But I’ll be sure to let you know if I need any advice on almost getting a record deal!”
I walked into a pouring rain thinking how unusual it was that I reacted like that. I normally have more patience in those situations. I was rude and I was ashamed at my behavior. Then, while trying to open the door to my car, the Nestle crunch bar flew out of the bag and landed in a puddle of water. I stepped on it while trying to pick it up, and dropped the 12 pack, sending cans rolling all over the parking lot—-I dropped my keys while chasing down the rolling cans and it took me awhile to find them on the rain-soaked parking lot.
When I finally got in the van, I was soaked…the groceries I bought were even more soaked and were all torn open. Was this my karma for being rude? I wasn’t sure, but I thought in the future, I will certainly be more patient and supportive of those who are just starting out in this crazy business of making music. It was then that I realized…I forgot to get toilet paper!