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Excerpted from Uh-Oh by Robert Fulghum. Copyright 1991 by Robert Fulghum. Excerpted by permission of Villard Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I am a visitor in a high school science class, and the teacher is using me to demonstrate to his class that adults don't know everything."

Robert Fulghum, Uh-Oh , Part 3

"Hum a little something for me."


"So I can tell you what key your head is in."

"I don't understand."

"Your head is a sound chamber, and every sound chamber resonates to certain notes better than others because of the shape and size and construction of the chamber."

I am a visitor in a high school science class, and the teacher is using me to demonstrate to his class that adults don't know everything. All his students already know what their key is and how and why. I don't. So he sends me off to do some personal research in a small, empty room. To hum and haw until I sound a note I really like--one that makes my head vibrate a little--in a comfortable and pleasing way. Easy. It's like standing in the shower singing, with my clothes on and the water off.

When the note felt right, I reported back to the classroom, where the science wizard put me in front of a microphone and said, "Hum for me." I hummed. The oscilloscope reflected the wave structure of my voice.

"B-flat," he announced. "Fulghum, you have a head that's tuned in the key of B-flat major-which is a sixty-cycle tone with natural overtones of D and F, forming the triadic complex of the chord."

Later I learned that trumpets and clarinets are also B-flat instruments, which means a lot of good jazz is in B-flat. Fanfares and marching-band music are often written in B-flat, which makes it the key of parades and spectacles. At the racetrack, the trumpet call announcing each race is in B-flat. "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the "Marseillaise" are in the same key. And the "William Tell Overture" should be.

And my refrigerator hums in B-flat major.

The electric motor of the refrigerator gives off a sixty-cycle B-flat hum, as do all motors that run on 120-volt AC current. The washing machine, dryer, electric heater, blender, hair dryer, coffeepot, an the rest are B-flat appliances. What's more, even when no motors are running, there is a sixty-cycle leak of energy from all the wall sockets in the house. My house is immersed in B-flat, which may explain why a man with a B-flat head like me really feels at home there. And also may explain why I feel so good near the refrigerator. I am in harmony with it. Now I know why I sometimes sing the national anthem when I invade the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

Refrigerators. On a very local scale, a refrigerator is the center of the universe. On the inside is food essential to life, and on the outside of the door is a summary of the life events of the household. Grocery lists, report cards, gems of wisdom, cartoons, family schedules, urgent bills, reminders, instructions, complaints, photographs, postcards, lost and found items, and commands. When the word GARBAGE appears there, somebody had better move it and soon.

The door of the refrigerator is a chronicle of current events not found on TV or in the daily newspaper.

An important art gallery is often found here as well. Postcards of paintings from museums. Scribbles from a child's long, rainy afternoon with a box of crayons. A collection of drawings, collages, and paintings that come home from school in a steady stream. All stuck to the front of the family fridge.

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