The Soak Must Go On

The nice thing about fire department parades is that, if they're called on account of rain after everyone in the band has shown up to play, we still get paid. And so, under a grayish white sky amid dripping leaves on Saturday afternoon, we all awaited news on a corner in a small Long Island neighborhood that we could pack up our instruments and go back home.

A few years back, with that particular band, we sat in our cars as it poured for a good half hour before they finally called it off. With other bands in the past, I've actually played parades in the rain, once or twice in March when it was still chilly out. And on one frightening occasion amid lightning, I was very much aware of my metal horn and wondering if brass was a good conductor of electricity. There's some knowledge I prefer to obtain academically rather than firsthand.

It seemed like we'd be lucky on Saturday. Despite the fact that, within the last 2 or 3 weeks, there have been maybe 2 or 3 days where it didn't rain, I've been lucky with my music. Last week, while it poured on the North shore, the South shore stayed dry for the duration of a parade. And it hasn't rained at all on days on which I've had gigs with my Italian bands, which would either be canceled or moved indoors in instances of inclement weather.

At least I didn't have to worry about my father, who was prepared with an umbrella, jacket, and spare keys if he needed to seek shelter in my car. While he continued to take an extended break from marching, the rest of us had little protection from the elements outside a short sleeved blue fireman's shirt and brimmed hat. The parade began promptly at 6 PM, just as the drizzle turned in to droplets. And our division, the last to step out, began marching just as sheets of rain fell from the sky.

I learned an interesting thing being in the rain, that while it may be startling and uncomfortable at first, once your clothes are soaked you can't get wetter. After a while, the drops are a minor annoyance, and two miles later we were still playing at full capacity, maintaining rigid military formation and step. And, as my luck would always have it, the rain tapered off again.

In waving the females, elderly, and people with wooden instruments on to our firetruck ahead of me, I ended up not having a seat. I handed my music book up to the band leader and set about the long walk back, all the while wondering what I'd do if the rain returned. My father doesn't carry a cell phone, and the buttons are too small for his fingers to operate anyway. I kind of knew the area from having worked a few miles away for seven years, so a few side streets made the walk back to my car a little shorter. Even so, most of the musicians had left already, save for one trombone player who rolled down his window when he saw me walking by and asked, “Did we lose you?” I explained that there had been no room on the truck and it was fine, and as I rounded the corner I saw my dad standing on the next block waiting for me. Like pretty much everyone else around here, I'm sick of the rain. Hopefully, I won't get sick from it....


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