In-Car Pianos

Shortly before three o’clock in the morning last night,1 I was opening up the dashboard in my car, for what reason I cannot now recall. Having uncovered the innards of the vehicle’s control system, I noticed a large number of mechanical buttons or keys, which were linked to some padded hammer mechanisms whose purpose seemed to be the striking of a large number of metallic strings of diverse lengths and thicknesses.

My curiosity being piqued, I began pressing the buttons, first one, then another, first on the left side, then on the right side, then one on each side at the same time, then several in succession with each hand in various rhythms—and what should I hear, but musical tones, harmonies and melodies (some banal and others lovely), all leading me to this conclusion: not only am I a musical genius, but also, I (apparently) have an in-car piano.

Now, there are plenty of skeptical readers out there, who often send emails questioning the validity of our stories and the sanity of our reasoning. So for their sake, I decided to peruse the owner’s manual to determine if this in-car piano was actually mentioned anywhere. What I found confirmed my previous finding, that there is indeed an in-car piano. The manual had several pages of in-depth instructions on playing the piano, including a short history of western music theory, how to tell the black keys from the white keys, and how to tune the strings. It even had sheet music for Beethoven’s Für Elise.

Further, what I had not realised before reading the manual is that it is also a player piano, which can be controlled from the stereo system (in case your hands are full while driving). This is the purpose of the “AUX” button, but it also requires you to reach underneath the dashboard where there are other buttons—I’d never seen these before, because I just don’t look under my dashboard very often while I’m driving—which allow you to select the song and start the piano. So now I know why nothing ever seemed to happen when I pushed the “AUX” button in the past.

Since I was rather tired, I turned in for the night sometime around four o’clock in the morning, slept a few hours, and brushed my teeth in my sleep as usual. Upon waking, bathing, breakfasting, etc., I quickly searched the good ol’ fashioned internet, and found others discussing the player pianos, which seem to have been the idea of craftsmen who were tired of the same old assembly line work at the factory. They decided of the own volition to craft these player pianos, at first without the Company’s knowledge, thus proving their creativity and ingenuity, which craftsmen always like to do. Just how many of each model feature the player piano is uncertain, and as my circumstances show, the keys are not all that obvious from the look of the dashboard. They blend in remarkably well, to the point where you see no spaces between them until you depress one.

If you are curious, concerned, or suspicious as to whether you have a player piano in your car that was not properly advertised at the time of sale, my first suggestion would be to consult the owner’s manual. Since you probably never heeded the warning contained in the owner’s manual to read the entire owner’s manual before driving the car off the dealer’s lot, this would be a good time to read the whole thing. And if you aren’t sure where it is, it’s probably in the glove compartment—not that there are any gloves in there: that’s just what it’s called.2 If you still cannot locate the owner’s manual, or you used it as a doorstop until it became an unrecognisable lump of pulpy pages stuck together by weathering, you may want to call the manufacturer, and ask for Bob, or one of the other craftsmen in the dashboard assembly section.3

“Sudden Mania to Become Pianists created upon hearing Steinway’s Piano at the Paris Exposition,” by Amédée de Noé. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. This morning.
  2. Manufacturers stopped providing gloves sometime around 1930, but they decided not to call it the “trash compartment” for obvious reasons (and “book compartment” is too intellectual for most drivers).
  3. If you would like to impress them with some piano jokes, you can find a few here (for entertainment purposes only—The Flying News takes no responsibility for your health or safety when reading or delivering these jokes).

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