I carry around 28 lbs.: the two bagpipes go together in a straight, soft case so they can be checked in by small planes that take me to the middle of nowhere. In that same case, there are basic tools for the instruments: a couple of practice chanters in other keys, and the amulets I’ve gathered along the way. On my right arm goes the travel bag that is always at the ready and has all the things I may need in any corner of the world: ibuprofen, cologne, a multicolor pen, ginseng, a couple of rosaries, notebooks, a laptop and an array of infusions to ease any ailment.
I take a cab to the airport. One of my shoulders aches a little, and I don’t want to take any risks before the concert. The cab driver is from Kurdistan. He is chatty and there is a traffic jam, so I try—for the next hour and a half—to learn all I can about his culture since I can’t read in the car (I get dizzy), and I don’t feel OK asking him not to speak.
I get to the airport. I try to camouflage the weight and the size of my bagpipes to avoid arguing with the flight attendant. I get to check in, find my seat, and sleep a couple of hours. I land at the destination, and there I go, carrying all that weight, to find another taxi.
The flight that was to take me directly to the city where I was to play was canceled, and I land in another place. I hire a taxicab so I can get to my destination. I am tired, my back hurts, and I plan to sleep while I ride. The cab driver is from Jordan. He is chatty and we have a two-hour journey ahead of us, so I try to learn as much as I can from the conversation, about his culture and his life: he was 37 years old, a cab driver by night and a laborer by day, father to five children, a Muslim in the middle of the United States.
I am also 37 years old and, suddenly, I feel incredibly selfish about my small grievances of fatigue.