'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
MILLION-DOLLAR BUILDINGS, 10-CENT SOUND SYSTEMS
We live in a remarkable, high-tech world. Just think of some of the amazing technological advances these days:
Yes, this is truly a remarkable age. But one aspect of modern life seems to be lagging far behind the technological revolution: public address sound systems. I can’t count the number of times I’ve attended an event in a brand new, state-of-the-art building, and when the main speaker steps to the microphone to address the crowd, he sounds like Mumbles McGee talking from the bottom of the well he just fell into after 17 vodka and tonics.
If we have the technology to send astronauts’ luggage to Pittsburgh and transform Michael Jackson into Betty Friedan, it seems reasonable to expect that we should be able to create a PA system that doesn’t make every speaker sound like Charlie Brown’s classroom teacher: “Wah wuh, wah wuh wah.”
Many facilities now use those fancy cordless microphones. The microphone itself is about the size of a raisin, and a small clip attaches it to the speaker’s shirt. A little wire connects the microphone to a transmitter, which is the size and shape of a deck of cards and is usually attached to the speaker’s belt.
With this system the speaker is able to walk around the room with his hands free, and every word he says is clearly heard by the audience—except when he walks too far from the base unit and the signal suddenly cuts out. And except when he forgets to press the “on” button on the transmitter. And except when the batteries are weak. And except when he moves his arm and accidentally brushes against the microphone, which produces a sound exactly like an F-5 tornado in the center of the room, except a lot louder.
The only time these cordless microphone systems are guaranteed to work perfectly is when the speaker sits back down in his chair, forgets that the microphone is still “hot,” and murmurs to the person sitting next to him, “What a pain in the butt. I can’t believe I agreed to speak to this group of losers.”
These comments are always announced throughout the room with crystal clarity. And these comments always cause the audience to become, just like the microphone, “hot.”
With the huge sums of money being spent these days to build auditoriums, conference centers, churches, and banquet facilities, you would think that some of the money would be used to install an acceptable sound system. In many places it appears the sound system was an afterthought, pieced together with spare parts from Thomas Edison’s junk drawer.
I have only one more thing to say on this subject: “Wah wuh, wah wuh wah.”
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