The ultimate tool |

The ultimate tool

Barry Smith

I never really set out to be an A/V Guy.

In retrospect I feel like I stepped in a trap – like an A/V Guy Hotel (“geeks check in, but they don’t check out”) – I strolled in to grab the bait (roll of duct tape), then noticed that the floor was really sticky, and the harder I struggled the more stuck I became. The next thing I knew someone was giving me money to set the clocks on VCRs, lick 9-volt batteries and duct tape things to each other.

I used to be an A/V Guy all the time, now I just do it on special occasions. And you know what keeps me coming back? The tools.

The world of Audio Visual isn’t necessarily a tool-intensive one, but really any tool use is an improvement over my usual life. I’ve considered constructing a special tool belt to use while writing this column – something made of rugged leather with pouches and hooks and loops to hold a thesaurus, pencil, stapler, matches. I’ve considered it, but thankfully have yet to go through with it. Which is good – what if someone saw me wearing it?

So, when the red A/V Guy phone rings, that means time to strap on the leatherman. And, when I’m really feeling studly, a small flashlight with a belt clip. Because I know that when it comes to impressing the ladies, there’s nothing quite like a small flashlight with a belt clip.

There is nothing like the thrill of being in an Audio Visual situation and having someone announce their need for pliers, a knife, a screwdriver or a flashlight. When this happens, I announce proudly, and perhaps a little louder than is necessary, that I have all of those, right here, on my belt. Because I’m a man.

At a recent A/V assignment in Las Vegas, I was doing my usual thing – wandering around hoping someone would ask to use my flashlight – when I saw it. The Taper Downer. The ultimate A/V Guy tool.

A big part of being an A/V Guy involves taping down all the cables that end up being strewn about whatever area I’m occupying (what separates the A/V Guy from the rest of the populace is the fact that we call them “cables” instead of “wires.”) Since there will usually be non-A/V people moving about this cable-littered room, it is necessary to secure the area. This is done by duct-taping said cables to the floor. Because no one could EVER stumble on a cable taped to a floor.

The way cables are taped to the floor is just as you might imagine, should you take the time to imagine it. An A/V Guy, armed with a roll of duct tape, gets on his hands and knees like a pathetic animal and crawls the length of the cable, unfurling tape as he goes and painstakingly affixing it to the carpet. It’s not my favorite part of the job.

So, when I saw “The Taper Downer,” I became giddy with geek-lust.

The Taper Downer probably has an official trademarked product name, but I don’t know it. It’s a device that allows one to tape cables to the floor without the crawling-on-your-knees part.

It’s essentially one of those packing tape dispenser guns with a long handle on it – the ultimate why-didn’t-I-think-of-that device – the Taper Downer loomed before me like the holy grail of geekdom. I bombarded its owner with questions: Where did you get that? Where can I get one? Does it come in black? Can I try it? Do you want to borrow my flashlight?

My degree of delight was surprising. How embarrassing to get so excited about a duct-taper. How revealing that I would be so filled with childlike wonder at the prospect of a new A/V device. How telling that I actually had my picture taken with the device. How pathetic that … well, all of the above.

Before the Taper Downer incident I always felt like I was just pretending to be an A/V Guy, like it was just a little part-time gig. But now, well … wanna see my leatherman?

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at