I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I do some damn good karaoke.
Not that I’d ever do it in front of you. I won’t even sing in front of my husband. Or my family. Or my best friends.
I will occasionally bust out the old karaoke skills in front of my cat, but I usually stop after a few seconds once he starts looking at me like I’m a total moron.
So the problem with having some mad skills in karaoke is that no one believes you’re telling the truth unless you’re willing to throw down. And I have stage fright far too severe to overcome just to prove a silly point these days.
But I can do it, I promise. You’ll just never see it. It’s like seeing a double rainbow or a ghost—it’s so rare that once it’s over, you’re not sure if you saw it or just dreamt or maybe imagined it happened.
Part of the reason for my excellent karaoke prowess is that I have a prodigious memory of songs, both current and not-so-current.
I developed this skill through many, many years of car rides throughout my childhood and a father who was dedicated to passing along his knowledge of useless information.
From the age of five to the age of 16, my dad picked me up twice a week and drove me to his house across town, then drove me back home when our time together was up. That’s four car rides, or 120 hours per week, 6,240 hours per year, a grand total of 68,640 hours over 11 years, traffic jams not included. And most of that time was spent on music quizzes.
No matter that I was a kid and the song in question was five years older than I was, minimum—my dad and I are both great aficionados of '80s New Wave, although English Punk and Classic Rock also made appearances—if I didn’t know the song title, band name and artist’s hometown within the first five bars of the piece, I wasn’t fast enough.
Side note—you know that song, 99 Luftballoons, by Nena? The one in German? It was my favorite song at the age of 8, and I knew all the words, despite the fact that I knew not another word of German.
Aside from my knowledge of song lyrics, I’ve always had a penchant for belting out songs when no one is around. I think that’s because at some time in the early '90s, my mom brought home a karaoke machine. And then taught me how to use it.
It was a lethal combination. During summer breaks when I had nothing to do, I would play with that machine all day. This was back when the machine would only play cassette tapes, so I got very good at pressing play and record at exactly the same time on the double tape deck—one for the song, one for a blank tape. I’d record myself so that I could rewind the tape and critique my own performance. Unfortunately, some of these tapes still exist somewhere in the bowels of my mom’s house. (Trust me, if I ever find them, I'll run them over with my car.)
And in fact, at my dad’s house where I had no karaoke machine, I found a good spot with plenty of echo to continue with my obsession. Coincidentally right next to a window—occasionally an open window.
This wasn’t a phase—during summer breaks from college I was still doing this. How my neighbors must have hated me.
In college, my practice venues were severely limited, mainly due to the fact that you are never alone in a dorm. So my Broadway spotlight fantasies moved exclusively to the car—where they have stayed ever since.
But if someday you’re driving next to me on the highway, you might get a glimpse of this rare phenomenon—me practicing my karaoke in the privacy of my vehicle going 80 miles an hour.
Just don’t wave at me, or I might die of embarrassment.