I flew home to Vancouver for a visit earlier this week. No, I wasn’t insane enough to catch the flight while en femme
, although I thought that if it had been possible, it would have been fun. Anyway, to everyone who suggested that I changed from boy to girl in the lavatory during
the flight (you know who you are), you’re all crazy.
That’s not why I wrote this though…
While I was lining up at the check-in counter at Westjet, (I forgot to bring my confirmation number, and apparently they don’t let you self-check-in using your credit card at Pearson Airport anymore.) I saw a metal frame that shows the maximum dimensions allowed as a carry-on luggage.
As usual, I was flying with my violin, and I’ve known for years that my violin case was far larger than the maximum allowable size. Luckily, the girl at the counter only casually asked if it was a violin, and then asked me if I wanted it as a carry-on. That was it. But back in the days when Jetsgo, Skyservice, Harmony, AirTransat, Westjet, Canjet and Air Canada all operated regular flights between Vancouver and Toronto, everyone–quite literally too: from the check-in counter to security to the cabin crew–would harass me about the size of my violin case. “It’s too big, you’ll have to check it in…” that sort of things. I would always get it into the cabin eventually, but not without some (1) clever logic, (2) begging, (3) threatening words, or (4) any combination of (1) (2) and (3). And that was just my travelling with my backup French violin. I would have been way too scared to bring my expensive 200-year-old Italian instrument on board. Although I haven’t been asked to check in my violin for quite some time, it always worries me that the cabin crew is entitled to flatly refuse to let me board the flight with my violin.
But perhaps the days of having to worry about damages my violin during a flight is over.
No, there isn’t any new technology in the horizon for an ultra-safe violin case. My high-tech foam case is still difficult to beat. Rather, the new technology is how the violin is built in the first place. Or more precisely, the material used: carbon fibre. Behold, the Luis and Clark violin, from Boston, USA! (Okay, look at the picture now.) I had the chance to try out a demonstration model in Toronto recently, and was very very impressed by it. It was easy to play on, it sounded really robust (great for chamber music and gigs), and it was made of carbon fibre! It’s almost indestructable! How cool is that! Anyway, I’m little over a year away from completing my PhD, and I’m supposed to have a nice job after I graduate. When that happens, the first thing I’ll do is buy me one of these. Right now it costs only $4900 USD. While it’s nothing to sneeze on, it’s still cheaper than my backup violin, and it’s much nicer.
My dream: take the carbon fibre violin, a carbon fibre bow, put them both inside a carbon fibre case, and toss all of them inside the plane the next time I fly to Hong Kong for a recital. (Now I’m only missing the violin, the bow, the case, and a reason to do a recital in HK.)
But seasoned musicians will know that travelling with a violin on the subway is infinitely more stressful than on a flight. You always have to keep an eye on the shady characters, the drunk guys about to topple over your violin case, the absent-minded university students, the careless kids, the oblivious teenagers etc etc….and if you’re a chick, the over zealous flirts who want to use the violin as an excuse to start a conversation. At the end, every interaction can draw attention to my expensive instrument, and any attention is a bad idea. Having a less expensive (okay, relatively less expensive) violin that can take the bruises and bumps without needing any maintenance is definitely a plus when I travel on the subway with my instrument violin at least 3 days every week.
There is one more thing I can do with a carbon fibre violin.
When another drunk moron on the subway asks me, “Hey, sweetie pie, is that like, a machine gun, or like, a rocket launcher, like, inside that case?” I can open it up, take out my violin, beat him silly with it, (of course, I’d beat him up in style, and without wrinkling my skirt!) and go home and practice a Bach sonata.