Oh, man. I was just on the phone with a customer service representative who had to put me on hold to get some information for me. A version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” came on that I had never heard. Not the usual on-hold music, it was an acapella cover with a fantastic singer singing the Gladys Knight part (there was no one singing the Pips’ backup) and I quickly realized that I was listening to someone actually singing on the phone, it wasn’t piped-in music.
When she came back I asked if that was her singing. There was a long pause and she said, “I put you on hold,” but she obviously didn’t, and she was singing to herself while she was looking up the info.
Her: “I’m so sorry. I really thought I put you on hold. I’m not supposed to sing at work.”
Me: “Oh My God, you have a fabulous voice. That was thrilling.”
Her: “What? Are you kidding?” (She starts laughing.)
Me: “No, you should be singing. I want a copy of your version of Midnight Train to Georgia.”
She starts laughing hysterically.
Her: “You know that song? My mother played that for me when I was a kid. She loved that song.”
(Ah, I realize I’m probably her mother’s age. Midnight Train to Georgia came was out in the mid-’70s, when I was in high school.)
Her: “I can’t believe this. My boyfriend says I should try out for ‘The Voice’ but I’m too busy with work. That’s all I ever wanted to do, anyway. Sing. Umm, okay, I have your information. I don’t want to get in trouble.”
She didn’t want to get in trouble for singing. When I was a kid my mother had to go to up to my school for a meeting, more than once, because I was singing in class (to myself) and the teacher said it was disruptive. But I had a mother who wouldn’t let anyone shush me. My mother never told me to stop singing, even in school. Instead, she took me to voice lessons.
Me: “I don’t care about the info, I can get it later. Could you sing Midnight Train to Georgia one more time?”
Her: (laughing) “Oh My God.”
And then she sang the entire Midnight Train to Georgia and I’ll tell you right now that if she goes on The Voice or any of those other you’ve-got-talent shows she’ll move to the top because she’s incredible. A husky, soulful voice with perfect pitch (even without music) and an emotional connection to what leaving LA means to go home to Georgia because the guy she loves didn’t make it in the big city. “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.” All heart. All talent.
I told her I love her voice, I urged her to find a way to audition for that show, and we talked briefly about how short the window is and that the dream is the dream and then my signal died and I lost her. I didn’t even get her name.
Don’t let anyone tell you to stop singing, to stop doing anything that brings you bliss. There’s one window in your one life to do it. Find a way, if you possibly can. Chase the dream.
So I dedicate today to the singer at customer service whose name I didn’t get, and who thought she put me on hold but didn’t, and who ended up being the gift in my day.