Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

(I’ll be performing my new show, “Every Job I’ve Ever Had,” at the Wheeler this Thursday, Dec. 9. It’s a comedy, with pictures, and it’s about – you guessed it – every job I’ve ever had. Here’s a story of a somewhat typical day on one such job.)

I used to work as an A/V Guy. You know what I miss most about the job? Getting paid to lick batteries.

The way to test a 9-volt battery (that’s the rectangular one) in the field is to stick your tongue to those two metal prongs. The more tingly, the stronger the battery. And sure, I’ve licked a few batteries since leaving the A/V profession, but battery licking just isn’t the same if you’re not getting paid.

I do not, however, miss the walkie talkie. More professional A/V Folks refer to them as “radios,” but they’ll always be “walkie talkies” to me. I’ve had a love affair with the walkie talkie since I was a kid, going as far back as the string-between-the-tin-cans model. Every Christmas or birthday I’d ask for the latest model walkie talkie. Loved ’em.

But not anymore.

Not since that one day …

A group of radiologists are having a conference, and my job is to film certain parts of it. There’s a lot going on during each presentation, what with the lights, projectors, audio and video and so on, and it takes three A/V Guys to keep it under control. Our inter-A/V Guy communication solution is radios (ahem … walkie talkies) with headsets. Headsets with both transmitters and receivers. Big awkward things that slip over your head and thrust a mic in front of your mouth. Think Time-Life operators standing by to adjust your audio level. Think Garth Brooks with a roll of duct tape.

The first meeting of the week is well under way before I realize that I’ve forgotten to put my radio on. About an hour into the meeting there’s a break in the action, so I seize the opportunity to get wired.

I run upstairs to where the radios are resting on their chargers (learn from my mistake – do NOT try sticking your tongue to one of these), grab one, stick it on my belt, power it up, slip a headset apparatus on my noggin and plug it into the radio, then take a quick restroom break before returning to the meeting.


Since everyone else is busy in the meeting room, I have the bathroom to myself. This means that I have no concern for how much noise I make. Not to get too graphic, but the previous night was tamale night. Afterward I approach the sink and wash my hands, chatting freely to myself the entire time. I do this when I know that I’m alone. I blow my nose; a long, hard deep blow, because I know I won’t get such a chance once I return to the meeting. My reflection reveals a poppy seed in my teeth – bagel for breakfast. I try to suck it out, but it’s in deep, so I have to swish and spit a few times to dislodge it. I even gargle a bit, just because I like the sound of it. I flatten an unruly eyebrow while humming “Baby Elephant Walk,” then head back downstairs to the meeting.

As I take my seat next to the camera, my A/V boss reaches over and flicks a switch on the radio on my belt. Then he whispers into his own microphone, “OK, everyone, I’ve fixed it. We’re back on.”

Huh? Fixed what?

“When you first plug in the headsets on these radios,” he explains, “they automatically lock into the transmit mode. You have to push this button to reset it.”

Ah, interesting. Did he say “lock in TRANSMIT mode?” That means …

Yes, friends, that’s exactly what that means. My mind replays the soundtrack of the past two minutes of my life. And you can do the same, just jump back up to where it says, “START” and reread, aloud, because everything that happened after that moment was being broadcast to, if not the world, at least a handful of A/V people and assorted conference staff. You know, everyone I’ll be spending the next week working with.

Curse you, tamale night!

Oh the deep, deep humiliation. After the morning meeting is finished I have no choice but to retreat to the break room to lick my wounds.

And the occasional battery.

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