The power of interpretation

The other day I was filling up at a gas station in Santa Monica and I heard a voice say,

“Oh my God, where do you play ukulele?”

A woman came bounding up to me, very excited.

I said “um what?”

“Where do you play ukulele?” she repeated.

“Um, wherever you want to…?” I cautiously replied, having no idea what she was talking about.

She walked closer and squinted at the college decals on the back of my car, “oh is that from another state?”

On the back of my car are 3 stickers. Two window decals that say
ERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC (the B actually fell off)
DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY
And on the bumper a white oval that just says FOLK

“I’m not sure what you mean” I said, “you mean like clubs, open mics?”

“Like is there a place to take ukulele lessons around here”

“Oh. Sure. Um, McCabes on Pico Blvd”

“Really, they teach ukulele? I think of them as having guitars and banjos, but they have ukulele lessons?”

“Sure” I said, not really knowing anything about McCabes’ lesson line-up but knowing that they have ukuleles all over the store for sale.

What a strange experience, I thought afterwards, and how did she know I played Ukulele?

Of course she didn’t but somewhere in the combination of the spelling of Duquesne University and Music and Folk, her brain read “ukulele”. Maybe it even read “learn ukulele”. Who knows.

It reminded me of the time years ago when I heard David Bowie speak at a music conference. He talked about how he never wanted to be a “meaner” of certain things with his lyrics because the audience was capable of interpreting in much more complex ways than he could ever make up.

Who knows what we’re all picking up on that other people can’t see.

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