'Is That a Vacuum Cleaner?': A CASE of Mistaken Identity

September 5, 2011 at 07:38 PM ·

I had some time to kill  today before meeting a friend to play through a Beethoven Sonata, a little "Spring" on a late Summer afternoon.

I'm at a little Asian spot in DC with my new BAM Hightech Slim "Orangey"  case next to me, the orangey is actually more of a tomato red (or Ferrari red if you're a car fanatic like my brother). Just as I'm about to inhale another crunchy avacado roll a voice out of nowhere asks "Is that a vacuum cleaner?" I don't respond and look straight ahead not sure why I was offended I mean it was a legitimate question right? I guess since there was no "Excuse me sir" or "Do you mind me asking?" it was just a full on interupt my crunchy sushi with a wack question moment. To make the situation more awkward I then reach into my pocket and pull out my headphones, maybe Eugene Drucker and company can save me from the crazy man I think to myself.

Yes, I know I could have just said "Yes it's a Dyson!" or threatened him with a splintery chopstick. Tell him it was a violin? Noooo that would have been too mature!

I've heard it all, Machine Gun, Tennis Rackets, Sax, Keyboard, the list goes on. What has your violin (or viola) case been mistaken for?


Replies (41)

September 5, 2011 at 09:35 PM ·

Recently I joined a ukulele group, on the day I joined I took my violin because I did'nt have a uke, it has four strings like a uke and I can strum chords. Well, I saw an other member carrying a violin case, and I said to her....'oh, I see you brought your fiddle as well'......oh duh.

September 5, 2011 at 10:32 PM ·

In the person's defense: Miele vacuum cleaners come in all sorts of shiny bright colors.    The person was probably so surprised that they just blurted it out without thinking.  I have to admit I've been guilty of such things.  (But at least I guessed right in those instances.)  Once I brought my violin to a dog show because I was combining the trip with a visit to my luthier and didn't want to leave it in my car in a county fair parking lot.  The dog owner I was with seemed kind of insulted that I had combined trips like that.

September 5, 2011 at 10:37 PM ·

Mines only mistaken for an appliance when its out of the case and Im playing it  :)

September 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM ·

Francesca-I just googled images of the Miele they do come in similar colors as the BAM cases without the nozzle attachment thingy I guess it could look similar to my case. Lol The next time someone asks "Is that a vacuum cleaner?" I'll say "Yes, it's a Miele!"


September 6, 2011 at 12:38 AM ·

Maurice, my son has the same case in the orange, yellow, and green stripes Bam came out with a few years ago.  I had it with me one day and stopped in the grocery store.  A man shopping stopped me and commented, "Gorgeous case.  What's in it?"  That shape doesn't read "violin."

September 6, 2011 at 12:43 AM ·

Many, many, many years ago, when I was in college, I had several co-op jobs in different cities. When people would ask me where I'm from, I'd say Chicago, and they'd take one look at my little violin case in hand, and they would actually take a step back, fearful I suppose that I had a machine gun in there. Seems made up, but it's true.

September 6, 2011 at 01:18 AM ·

Sander-I was about to board a flight back from the midwest years ago when I still used my old bobeblock case and some jerk goes "watcha got in there a bomb?"  Oh he thought it was the funniest thing but he actually ended up being pulled aside and getting searched!  


September 6, 2011 at 01:37 AM ·

Lisa-It's funny how we look at our cases and they appear perfectly normal to us lol I mean doesn't everyone get Shar catalogs in the mail? For a time violin shaped cases were out of vogue but I think the BAM Hightech shaped case looks very hip and modern and some of the Musafia dart cases are beautiful. Everything is fashion now I guess even violin accessories.


September 6, 2011 at 10:58 AM ·

In the good ol' days, before 9/11 and TSA, I was once asked what was in my violin case at JFK. I responded with a Jack Benny quote, "Itsa machine gun". (Anyone remember the scene with JB at the White House? The guard replies, "oh good, I was afraid it was your violin.").

This attempt at humor however was not appreciated and so I got lectured rather in depth on the subject of joking with people in customs.


September 6, 2011 at 11:47 AM ·

 Forget Musafia, Gewa and all those others. Who will invent the Justin case ??

September 6, 2011 at 12:21 PM ·

I have one of the original BAM cases for my viola which looks like an over-sized violin case.  Many people ask me if I am going back-packing or hiking.

---Ann Marie

September 6, 2011 at 12:35 PM ·

I have a bow case to store a couple of spare bows and also to take bows to and from the re-hairer. It is in fact a recognizable billiard cue case, thereby telling the whole world that I once had a mis-spent youth (which still continues).
The case was actually sold to me by my bow re-hairer (an eminent bow-maker) who said he could see no justification for charging his customers 4 or 5 times the price for a bespoke bow case, and so he got in a stock of the cue cases. A billiard cue case comfortably takes up to 4 bows.  

September 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM ·

That particular airport experience happened before 9/11 as well a year or so after the Lockerbie bombing.



September 6, 2011 at 01:06 PM ·

Ann Marie-Sounds like you have one of the Trekker series cases does it have an external bow case and a really plush tan interior? I've seen those they look like really good cases but yeah they're kinda huge.



September 6, 2011 at 02:34 PM ·

David-The Justin? -Maybe for a 3/4 or 1/2 sized violin ;c)

How 'bout the Kim?- Talk about a shaped case!

Or the Brad-A good looking case but not so reliable and it may get stolen!


September 6, 2011 at 02:39 PM ·

Lol David I totally misread your pun I thought you were referring to a certain pint sized pop star!

"Justin case"  Ha ha haaaaaaaaaa


September 6, 2011 at 02:55 PM ·

Maurice they're huge AND kinda difficult to maneuver due to they way they are shaped.  I lug my viola all the time on the subway systems of New York, and if the train is crowded, it can be challenging to squeeze in amongst the riders.  On a good note though, the door to an Amtrak train (heading to New York) closed  completely on my case and my instrument was totally unharmed.  So was the case, for that matter.

As for me - I think I was well into the first stages of cardiac arrest.  Until I saw that everything was ok.

---Ann Marie

September 6, 2011 at 02:56 PM ·

I wonder if Mr. Musafia has ever wanted to design a "Civil Case"? Ok I'll stop now before this gets out of hand! :c)     

Cold Case? Case Study? Space Case?....



September 6, 2011 at 03:05 PM ·

It just got out of hand....

Don't laugh at the "Justin Case." It's the latest thing (it's the "in case"). The violin case for small size fiddles is the Brief Case. Then we have:
- the steel-reinforced violin case (the Hard Case)
- the violin case you can take with you in the worst winter weather (the Cold Case)
- the violin case for angry violinists (the Crank Case)
- the violin case for 2nd violinists (the Lower Case)
- the violin case for 1st violinists (the Upper Case)
- the violin case that can hold snacks (the Nut Case)
- the violin case you can rest your head on when on the plane (the Pillow Case)
- the fancy violin case you can proudly display to your friends (the Show Case)
- the violin case that is your stepping stone to a higher level of playing (the Stair Case)
- and the violin case that can hold your clothes for the concert (the Suit Case)
So, which one of these will be your next case?
Oh, I forgot - the violin case that holds 2 violins (the Case Case)

September 6, 2011 at 03:12 PM ·

I had an ex- friend who was a Saxophone player. I suspected him of stealing my violin straight out of its case at a gig one night. So, I took my case to court. The judge fiddled in his chambers for a while, then returned to the courtroom and convicted me of public indecency. My case contained too much Sax and Violins, he said...


September 6, 2011 at 03:16 PM ·

My next case? For me it will definitely have to be a Special Case, but I'll judge them each on a Case by Case basis.


September 6, 2011 at 03:17 PM ·

David you needed more evidence to support your case-M

September 6, 2011 at 03:18 PM ·

I think you've put your finger on it. You know, if you scroll down this discussion, I think a couple of people need to be taken down a peg or two for giving mute testimony at the tail end of the discussion and failing to bridge the gap.
So there!!!

September 6, 2011 at 03:28 PM ·

Ann Marie-I hope you could have wiggled out of the straps if it came to that or were you pretty much pinned?     -M

September 6, 2011 at 03:33 PM ·

Sander-It's an Open and Shut Case for me!   -M

September 6, 2011 at 03:55 PM ·

You folks are great! :-)

September 6, 2011 at 04:00 PM ·

Dmitri- do you make anything in wicker?  Obviously, the basket case.

This whole thread has turned into a worst case scenario, don't you think?

September 6, 2011 at 05:56 PM ·

How about an Alaskan violin case?  A cold case!

September 6, 2011 at 06:30 PM ·

Maurice - if you are referring to when my case had the Amtrak door close on it, the case was on my back, so I was attached to it.

There was a lady in front of me with a seeing eye-dog climbing from the platform onto the train.  The dog went up the steps but once it got into the space between the cars, it stopped.  I think it was confused.  So the lady attached to the seeing eye-dog stopped in front of me, and in the next split second I hear a 'whoosh' and suddenly I'm sucked backwards and pinned like a bug on a cork board between the doors of the train.

I was completely unharmed and completely away from the doors.  However, my viola and case were jammed tight in the door as the train began to lurch forward.   Lucky for me a conductor saw me in the next split second and stopped the train.  Like I said, I had already (silently, mind you) entered the first phase of coronary failure at that point.  I de-stressed once I opened my case and saw that both case and instrument were fine.

---Ann Marie

September 6, 2011 at 06:47 PM ·

Ann Marie-Yeah I was asking about the Amtrak experience I'm glad it worked out for the viola and especially glad it worked out for you!


September 6, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

Lisa-It could be worse someone could have brought up The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!

To kind of bring the topic a little closer to the original post (as if I had nothing to do with it going awry). I always find it funny how people change their demeanor when you tell them it's not a sax or electric keyboard but a violin. They stand taller, speak more eloquently and try to seem a bit more refined and educated.


September 6, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

Ann Marie: It's a good thing you weren't carrying a bass fiddle. But seriously, though, that is something like how that wonderful violinist, Rachel Barton-Pine, was so terribly injured several  years ago.

September 6, 2011 at 07:46 PM ·

Many years ago some kids looked at my oblong case and asked me what was inside. Deadpanned I "it's a double-bass kazoo". "Oh" was the confused response.

Another time I got on a bus - also many, many years pre 9/11 - and the driver looked at my violin case and asked jocularly the old "is that a machine gun you've got in there?" With toungue way in cheek, I looked at him like I was about to kill him and simply said "YES", with the implied "you wanna make something out of it?" he said "OK. OK"

Then once I was on a subway with just a bow case - which looks a lot like a pool cue case. A transit worker took a look and asked "are you really good with that thing?" I knew he thought it was a pool stick and said both honestly and disingenuously at the same time "yes - in fact I pretty much make my living with my skill at using this thing!"

Just a couple of years ago a more serious incident happened. It's worked out several times over the years that I've had 2 gigs in one day, with plenty of time between them but not so that it was was feasible to go home. A number of such times I've taken in a movie. Once while in the back seat of a theater in a large mall in Monmouth NJ, I was enoying a movie with my violin case next to me and a yummy (if not too healthy) fast food combo on my lap. Suddenly two ushers came up to me and asked me what was in my case. I told them it was my violin. They asked if I would open it as a woman saw me walking around with it and was afraid that it was a rifle. I said "you're kidding, right?" They said "no, we're not". I wiped my french-fried, fish-sandwiched hands as best I could and opened the case, revealing of course, my violin. They apologized and said "please enjoy the movie". The next time in the same situation that I entered that theater, I told the ticket taker "this is a violin. If you'd like to inspect it, could you please do so now, as I don't wish to be disturbed during the movie" I explained what happened the previous time. She said, "no, that's OK sir."

BTW Sander - good ones!

September 8, 2011 at 02:38 AM ·

When I first started violin lessons I used to be embarrassed carrying my violin around as I was afraid I was pretending to be able to play. (Now I know I'm terrible but I'm in love so I don't care anymore).Had this surreal conversation with a guy serving me in a pizza joint once.

Him: What's in the case?

Me: A triangle.

Him:Oh, I thought it might be a violin.

Me: Yeah, it actually is.

Him: Can you play one then?

Me: Violin? Kinda

Him: No, I meant the triangle.

Me:Um, no.

September 8, 2011 at 03:13 AM ·

Ellie-That's a funny story it would be perfect for a comic strip do you draw or know an artist?


September 9, 2011 at 01:20 AM ·

Hi Maurice- nope, I draw even worse than I play ;-) But at least I now get a giggle everytime a new person asks me what's in the case.

September 12, 2011 at 03:19 AM ·

I just have to say, you haven't heard anything until you're out in public with a brightly coloured cello hard case. ;)

September 12, 2011 at 12:55 PM ·

Ann Marie: It's a good thing you weren't carrying a bass fiddle. But seriously, though, that is something like how that wonderful violinist, Rachel Barton-Pine, was so terribly injured several  years ago.

@ Sander - I just purchased a new violin case over this past weekend, and my luthier told me the story of Rachel Barton-Pine.  How frightening!  I was advised (by the luthier) to always hold my instrument in front of me when boarding or exiting a train in future to avoid what happened to me, and what happened to Rachel.

---Ann Marie


September 12, 2011 at 03:26 PM ·

Ann Marie-When I read your story I thought of Rachel Barton-Pine too that's why I asked if you could have somehow gotten loose from the straps. Around the time of her accident It had been falsely reported that "she clung to her violin for dear life" when actually she couldn't  get free. I love my "Lil Dude" but if it came down to me or him I'd have to take two pills and call Clarion in the morning!  


September 12, 2011 at 03:31 PM ·

Heather-What color is your case and what type of comments do you get?   -M

September 12, 2011 at 06:23 PM ·

@ Maurice - Well, the difference between me and Rachel is that she got caught on the outside of the train and I was stuck on the inside.  Also, unlike Rachel, I was not able to wriggle out of the constraints.  I was jammed so tightly against the door I was barely able to breathe.  The door shut with my viola on the outside of the train and me on the inside with the straps digging into my body. 

So from now on I will be doing as my luthier advised....carrying my instrument in front of me as I get on and off. 

----Ann Marie

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