The top of a French horn collided with my head as I climbed aboard a shuttle bus in Aspen.
“Sorry,” said the teenage girl hidden beneath her big brass instrument.
I had just arrived in Colorado for a conference on medical problems of musicians and dancers. The opening session was scheduled to begin at eight. Aspen’s annual music festival was wrapping up, so the pretty alpine town was filled with talented young students, elite teachers, and a renowned musician or two.
Through the bus’s open windows I gazed at Rocky Mountains ignited by the rising sun and took a deep contented breath of clean, crisp air, reveling in my escape from New York’s hazy, hot, and humid.
The following four days were filled with lectures and discussion, provocative ideas, and camaraderie among medical professionals, dance and music teachers, seasoned performing artists, and a smattering of students. After the concluding session, I stood waiting once again at the bus stop to head back to my hotel. A musician with a large cello was waiting too.
“Oh m’gosh,” he suddenly exclaimed, “… completely forgot …”
I turned to look at him.
“Please — could you watch my cello while I make a phone call?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. He dashed inside.
Ten minutes passed, then 20. Where is this guy? I fumed.
Two buses came and went. An hour passed. Is he still inside? Did he get lost? I grumbled with mounting irritation. By now I was the only one left standing at the bus stop. Better go and look for him, I thought. But what if he comes back … finds his cello gone? It was getting late; I had no more time to waste.
The cello was unwieldy, almost four feet high; I wrapped my arms around it and went inside. The conference hall was empty except for one lone workman stacking chairs.
“Did you see anyone come in … ?” I began, trying to recall descriptive details of the cellist: “… short, slim man, wearing a baseball cap … black hair, I think it was, sticking out.”
“Nope,” said the custodian. “Everyone cleared out when the conference finished.”
“He left his cello outside with me and disappeared. Is there anyone else I can ask … someone in the office?”
“Nope — they’re all gone for the summer. Vacation time.”
I unzipped the fiberglass case, searching for some sort of ID. The custodian took a closer look at the cello.
“That’s some fine instrument there,” he said with admiration approaching awe. Neither case nor cello yielded any kind of clue.