Beware of the 88-key, silent keyboard

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

When it comes to scary things in my life, technology is near the top. I recently had another terrifying encounter. It all started innocently enough during a conversation with my neighbor. 

I told the neighbor how I was downsizing and had to abandon my beloved piano. My plan was to trade in a lightly-used guitar and amp to Kagan & Gaines and use store credit toward the purchase of a keyboard. My neighbor said I didn't need to do that because he had an extra keyboard he would give me. It was an 88-key, top-of-the-line, electronic model. 

I couldn't believe my friend's generosity and couldn't wait to get it home. On Father's Day, I plugged it in and hit the keys. Nothing. We learned it needed a special power cord, so we bought one. We powered it up but the keys kept their silence. I felt that familiar sense of exasperation, fighting with new-fangled technology that refused to work.

I was lucky to have a 23-year-old technology expert on hand and put him in charge of the project. My son spent endless hours downloading software for the keyboard. Then we needed a $50 thingamajig to store the software. I was re-living a familiar nightmare of setting up accounts, coming up with user names and inventing acceptable passwords, when all I wanted to do was play music.

My son was patient and meticulous in following the directions, while I freaked out.  We were still stalled, so we set up a session with one of the company's technology support people. Her name was Eliza and I really appreciated her can-do spirit. Whenever my son answered one of her incomprehensible questions, Eliza would say, "Cool." 

Finally, we were this-close to activating the silent keyboard. Then Eliza told us the bad news. Our computer needed two gigabytes of capacity to power the keyboard — we had only 1.86. I immediately longed for the simplicity of a keyboard you simply plugged in and played.

Kagan & Gaines had plenty of these for sale. Even their most basic model had more bells and whistles than I would ever need. I brought in the guitar and amp. I originally had visions of selling them for big bucks on eBay. I didn't know that storing them in a closet for 10 years wasn't good for their health. 

Manager Jesse Marquez examined the guitar and identified many problems that needed to be addressed. As for the amp, it had dust inside that may have done permanent damage. I could now see they weren't young and lightly-used, they were old and decrepit.

Jesse went to confer with the owner, Joe Cali. He returned and said the guitar and amp had enough value to trade them for the basic keyboard model. I couldn't wait to get it home. It had been three months since I played.

That night, I plugged in the keyboard and pushed the keys. They made piano-like noises. I was thrilled. The keyboard even had a better sound than my old piano. The headphones my neighbor gave me meant I could play late into the night without disturbing anybody. 

The moral of the story is to never underestimate the kindness of neighbors and local businesses. It also gave me an idea for a scary Halloween costume.

An 88-key, electronic keyboard that silently sneaks up on its victims and slowly drives them crazy.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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