Who knew that being a former band geek would one day come in handy.
In this era of social distancing, those of us who spent time in marching bands know all about maintaining proper spacing.
In band, we call these spaces between people intervals. And intervals are second nature to us, just like always taking our first step with our left foot.
As a marching musician, maintaining proper spacing in precision drills is something that gets embedded in your central nervous system. In fact, 10 years in marching band (from seventh grade through college) instilled in me a sense of personal space that remains stubbornly strong.
There is a guy at work who sometimes stepped into my personal space (pre-coronavirus), and it was all I could do to keep from shoving him back. It feels creepy, like when you put matching poles of a magnet together.
In grocery stores, when people walk too close to me these days, I have been tempted to shout out: Dress right, you moron!
This, as all former band members (and military personnel) know, has nothing to do with proper attire, as the words imply. Instead, it is a command to extend your left arm parallel to the ground and snap your head to the right. It is also done in tempo and with sharp arm and head movements. Executed properly, a dress right looks like karate.
If you do this in public, people will think you are crazy, but they will get out of your way. (Either that, or spray you with mace.)
If everybody had been in the band in high school — instead of playing contact sports — we would all be in a better place today during COVID-19.
What's more, we would be better off replacing politicians with band directors.
When I was in the band, virtually the entire decade of the 1970s, band directors had all the rights and privileges of military drill sergeants. If we were out of uniform or fell out of step, it was not unusual to be blessed out in a way that would discourage you from repeating the mistake.
I witnessed some scoldings from band directors in the 1970s that would probably cause today's parents to phone 911.
In college, my band director was prone to throwing his bullhorn in fits of rage. It never happened, but I assume getting hit in the head with a bullhorn would flat knock you out.
Once this whole spacing thing gets into your head, it's hard to get out. I find myself, for no scientific reason, practicing social distancing in my Ford Fusion — especially after I leave a supermarket. If you have been pushing a grocery cart around for an hour, staying a safe distance apart, the instinct stays in your brain.
Never, until 2020, could anyone plausibly say that playing clarinet in the high school band saved them from getting sick. Now they can.
There's some poetic justice in this.
Revenge of the nerds.
Email Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.