Open letter to the baggage handlers at airports who destroy and damage precious musical instruments including my own:
I don't have a child, I decided between motherhood and a life nurturing musical children. I know some people manage to do both beautifully, but with my ADHD and history of anxiety and depression I knew I had to choose. I decided between financial security and throwing my whole energy into making and assisting in the creation of music to hopefully touch and inspire the humans around me as they confront the harshness of day to day life. To challenge and uplift, to strive for something beautiful. I decided to become a professional musician. I face every day the cheapening of my art through the digital revolution that pays insulting amounts to creators but I keep on doing it because it's who I am.
I guess you reason you are not being paid enough to care about my precious tools of trade when they come into your care, but surely you aren't being paid as little as me? I've studied and continue to study. My work never stops yet I get paid less and less.
I try to snatch a few hours sleep in strange places on couches or thin mattresses on office floors. A couple of nights ago I slept in a hard bed without sheets and I awoke to a cockroach crawling across my face. There is very little glamour in my lifestyle and even less financial reward.
I would like you to know how hard I worked in my mid twenties with my clever, sensitive band-mates. We played long hours, to noisy drunken folk in crappy Sydney Irish bars for peanuts. Having to placate crowds with far too many versions of Brown Eyed Girl and Dirty Old Town with kindest smiles and the most charisma we could muster. Scrimping and saving for a modest deposit until I could make a tentative request to a master luthier 'Could I pay off the nearly $10,000 over 6 months?', and joyfully receiving his acquiescence.
I would like you to step inside me and share the joy of birth, visiting my bass as the belly is being carved out, luscious curls of blonde timber oozing out from Neville's chisel. Watching the perfection of the scroll emerge from an ordinary block of wood under his masterful gaze. It's the closest I'll ever get to the buzz of hearing an ultra-sound heart beat for the first time.
And then... if there was any way I could force you to step inside my body yesterday afternoon I would have. I would like for you to have felt my pulse race as my road case was unceremoniously dumped on the tiles with the hinges busted open drunkenly like broken limbs, rivets pulled clean out, aluminium edges buckled, the raw edges of sheared fibreglass clearly obvious and a puncture wound on the top. No explanation. No apology. Obviously mishandled.
Your hands could shake like mine as I ruffle through my backpack for clippers to cut through the cable ties threaded through the only two catches still holding on, the only things keeping the hard outside road-case together. I would like you to feel the bile rise in my throat as I feel around the neck of my still zipped-up soft case and realise that inside the scroll of my beloved bass is dangling loose from the neck, decapitated. You could then collapse on the tiled floor with me and hug yourself, unable to contain the wracking sobs, now totally oblivious of the crowded airport surrounding you.
Did you actually feel anything at all as you witnessed the violence that caused this damage? Was it just another day in the office? Did you laugh? High five?
Mostly answer me this: What will it take for you to value our precious tools of trade and treat them with the care and respect they deserve? Do we need to pressure your employers to pay you more? Get them to put better systems in place so your job quality can improve? I know it's not all of you, but do you actively resist the work culture that makes these incidents heart-breakingly common? Three such incidents amongst good friends in about that many months.
How do we make it stop? Do we need to stop bringing our art to remote places just to protect ourselves? We pack our instruments carefully, buy expensive road cases which we are constantly putting money into maintaining after they leave airports perennially battered.
What more can we do?
Please think of us next time you hum to your favourite song on the radio.
Yours in a world of pain right now,