I have been to the Bristol bus terminal enough times now to have lost count. Not a huge number of times, but more than four or five. On this particular occasion, I’ve come over from visiting one sister in Leicester and am waiting for my other sister to pick me up and take me to her home in Weston-super-Mare.
As often happens in my family, someone is late. My bus was on time.
The terminal is crowded, and all the seats in the area are taken. Except one.
There is an old upright piano in this bus station, painted over in flowers, with a bench, which I assume means that folks must play it from time to time. Oh well, it will be a disappointment for all those expecting a show, but I’m tired, so I sit down on the bench, and I do not play.
It’s a beat up little wooden seat more than a full bench, and not very comfortable at all, but it’s a seat, and the bus I’ve been on had seats not much more uncomfortable. I close my eyes, it was a long ride.
“Excuse me, sir.”
I open my eyes. It’s a kid, maybe ten, cherubic, very British looking rounded face with red cheeks. He’s wearing some kind of a school uniform.
“Would you mind letting me sit down, I need to practice.”
Practice your manners? leaps to mind, but I’m not stupid or impolite, most of the time, so I know he means he needs to practice the piano.
I say, “You mean you need to practice the piano?”
“You come here to practice piano?” when I say “here,” I point emphatically at the ground with my index finger.
“Yes, sir, every day after school.”
I don’t want to say, “You mean you don’t have a piano at home?” That would be impolite, probably viewed as very unmannerly, ugly American type stuff and all.
I say, hopefully, “Do you think we could share the bench?”
“Oh no, I’m sorry, sir. I need the whole bench, if it’s all right?”
Yup, polite kid.
I stand up, wondering yet again where my sister might be.
This little keyboarder better be damn good, I think. I lean against the wall next to the piano as he begins.
He is good. I wish I were that good when I was ten.
An older woman drops a coin on top the piano. Without missing a beat, the kid nods a thank you to her. A few more people drop coins. This kid needs a tip jar. I bet his folks don’t have to pay for his lessons.
I spot my sister coming down the aisle, her head pivoting as she scans the crowd for me. I wave, we nod to each other.
“This kid is really good,” my sister says. “I’ll give him something. You give him something too.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” I say, “I already gave him something.”