Before leaving for Second Christmas in Buffalo, I had a last day of work. It was at a Wal-Mart, which is usually a great thing, and it was closer to my parents’ house, where I was going afterward, than Philadelphia.

Everything was going fine for the first two and a half hours. Before my second show, I noticed that the paging system wasn’t working for my last announcement, but it was no big deal; I got an audience anyway, and I was sure that the problem would be solved by the time I was ready to make another announcement. 

Not so. About forty five minutes later, the system was still down. I thought maybe it was just the phone I was using, so I went to four other phones and tried it, with no positive results. I called my manager as I got in the long, long line for customer service to ask if they could help me and left him a message explaining what was going on. When I finally got up to customer service, they didn’t service me very well.

ME: Do you know if your paging system is having any problems?
EMPLOYEE: Paging system?
ME: Like your overhead announcements?
EMPLOYEE: Oh. Hm… I don’t know. Lindsey, do you know if there’s anything wrong with the paging system?
LINDSEY: Uh… paging system? No…
EMPLOYEE: I think it’s working.
ME: That’d be awesome if it were. Do you mind if I try it?
EMPLOYEE: Sure. But, uh, I don’t know the code or anything.
ME: It’s okay, I know it. 
(I try it. No dice.)
EMPLOYEE: I’ll call our manager. Maybe she knows.
(She calls the manager. I wait for awhile. The manager comes, asks me a question, then wanders off and doesn’t come back, so I returned to my booth.)

I knew that I was wasting time when I could be making money or at least working on solving the problem. Sometimes, if the paging system is broken or it’s not helping or the store managers request we not make overhead announcements, we use a personal PA system. I hate using it because we have to walk the indoor perimeter of the store, but I preferred doing that over not making any money that day. So I took out the amp and reached inside the bag for the mic… and there wasn’t one. This meant the PA system wasn’t usable. 

Almost as soon as I made this discovery, my manager called back. I explained the situation to him and he told me to go to the nearest Radio Shack, buy a mic, and use that. So I did. I found a pretty good-looking hands-free mic, and the employee who helped me told me it would definitely work with the amp. I brought the mic back to Wal-Mart, plugged in the amp and the headphones and… nothing. I tried a different configuration and- yes!- sound came out of the amp, but it didn’t happen when I talked into the mic part of the headset. It happened when I spoke into the earpiece. Though this obviously wasn’t ideal, I tried to figure out how to make it work, but I couldn’t. So I brought the whole unit back to Radio Shack.

Two employees helped me and when I explained what was going on, the guy employee said, “That can’t be true.” He tried it. It was. The girl got me a new one from the shelf and we tried that. Same result. They were perplexed. They worked really hard to figure out what the problem was, which turned out to be that the amp is too old to be hooked up to fancy things. In the end, they found me a lapel mic that worked, so I bought that and went back to Wal-Mart.

The lapel mic worked for me, sort of. Since I didn’t have lapels or a collar of any kind, the mic couldn’t get close enough to my face to pick up any sound, so I had to hold it up to my mouth to speak into it. This meant I couldn’t use it in the show, where I need two hands. Luckily, I’m loud. The mic also didn’t have a wind screen (the black mesh cover on microphones), so if I breathed at all while it was on, it sounded like a gust of wind was sweeping through the store. 

I made do for the rest of the day, but with all the problems and driving back and forth, I had lost about four shows. Taking that into account, my numbers weren’t too bad, but if I never have another day like that, it’ll be too soon.


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