Last week I dropped my nice custom Glyph ukulele while busking at Pike Place Market. I tweeted about it, but haven't gotten around to telling the whole story.
I had just finished my 11:15am set and was trying to clear off the spot so the next performer could get set up and wailing. When I'm not using the full-blown busking kit -- with its fancy, raised tip bucket, CD display and assorted signage -- I have a sign that just fits into a ukulele case. That's it pictured to the left. In the pic it's resting on the National reso uke's case -- indeed, it was made by tracing around the National -- but it also fits fine into the Glyph's case. I had taken the sign and mashed it, face down, onto the money, to protect the ukulele from being scratched up by the coins I'd gotten. I then put the uke into the case and closed it, but didn't zip it up nor did I wrap the little velcro strap around the neck of the uke. I set it on a nearby garbage can so I could grab the little Ohana sopranino, my jacket, chair, bag, etc.
Now, before you even ask, no, I wasn't worried about somebody coming along and bumping the garbage can in such a fashion as to send the ukulele plummeting to the ground. The garbage can sits up on a little island, completely enclosed in a very heavy cast-iron cage. You'd have to run into it hard enough to do yourself a damage in order to make the can wobble. That's neither here nor there though, as someone bumping it was not the cause of the uke crashing to the ground.
On the street side of the little island the trash can rests on is a large inverted U shape made of the same tubing as your industrial strength handrails for stairs and such. It's there to keep cars from driving up into the North Arcade of the market. It's done it's job at least once that I know of. Several years ago a vehicle came down the hill and crashed into it. That bent the thing about 15° or so, contributing to the "perfect storm" of factors leading up to the crash. Because of the bend, the top of the garbage can usually rests up against the curved part of the U shape, instead of having the several inches clearance it had before being run into.
I'd gotten everything off the space and picked up the case from the garbage can, intending on turning around and setting it on the little camp chair I use for busking. I could then take the uke out, set it somewhere safe (or have a fellow busker hold it) whilst I pulled out the cash. I've done this sort of thing countless times. I knew it wasn't sealed, so I grabbed it, one-handed, top and bottom, in order to keep in closed while I got it situated on the chair.
As I turned, the shoulder strap on the ukulele case wedged itself into the tiny space between the heavy iron cage and the inverted U. I didn't notice and kept turning, right until the point that the slack was taken up and the uke case was torn from my hand.
This spilled sign, money, tuner and yes, ukulele, to the ground below.
I've had the ukulele since November 18, 2003 and while it has had great swathes of the finish rubbed off the neck, it has survived with relatively little else in the "dings and damage dept." Sure, I've turned with it in my hand and bumped chairs, tables, etc. but never anything that left much of a mark.
This is because I'm careful with it and generally think through what could happen if I set it down in a particular place before I put it there. I know I won't be able to replace it with anything even comparable in the foreseeable future, and I just love the ukulele.
But it simply never crossed my mind that the strap could get caught between the garbage can and the U-shaped pole. Nor did I suspect it could get looped over the pole. I've had the strap do that on other objects (luckily, while the case was sealed) but I was lifting the case high enough to avoid that, something that's drilled into my lizard brain from those earlier incidents.
I guess the moral of the story is I need to switch from "careful" to "paranoid" about such things. Sometimes, if you're not paying really close attention, the universe will reach out and bite you in the butt. Or, in my case, the headstock. The only damage was tiny chips being taken out of the back of all three points on the headstock. You can see the Glyph's headstock in its earlier, undamaged days in the pic to the right. (Click it or the other pic in this post for a popup with a larger version). It's sitting with the sopranino, both of which go with me when I'm carrying the stripped down busking kit.
Any of you ever had a similar situation? Tell us in the comments. Doesn't even have to be your prized ukulele.
Oh... and get a little paranoid.