The microphone is always live


There’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to working with a microphone… always believe the mic is live.

The concept is designed to help avoid embarrassment. No one wants to say something they don’t want to have heard via mass distribution, only to find it broadcast live or recorded and played forever. So if you approach the microphone in front of you as if it is on, and always treat it that way, the end result should become that you’ll avoid potential dangers that could be caused by a casual approach to your surroundings.

For instance, let’s say you just moved to a new place. Brand new state. You are hundreds of miles away from where you used to live, haven’t really established any reliable contacts, and you need to get your car registered and inspected.

The first place you go to ends up being bad. I mean frustratingly bad. For whatever reason, you leave with a comically bad experience you are going to be sharing with family and friends and co-workers and more for decades.

The next morning, you and your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate head out for breakfast. You stop in a small place that you enjoyed months ago when in the area scouting things out and house hunting ahead of the move. (Great home fries. The home fries got you hooked. You knew you had to return.) During the morning conversation, the subject comes up. Then the waitress arrives to refill your coffee…

“Hey, maybe you’d know.”

“What’s that?”

“We’re pretty new around here. Are there any good service stations around for car repairs?”

“What do you need done?”

“Okay, so get this. Yesterday I stopped at this shop over on Main Street next to the convenience store. I needed to get the car inspected, and the owner comes out and says fill-in-the-incompetence. Couldn’t believe it.”

Is it your fault your waitress is married to the owner of the service station? What are the odds?

For those of you that have ever tasted your own foot, you’re probably nodding while thinking those odds are better than most might think. Happens, especially in small towns, all the time.

So how about a real situation instead of that created example?

A few days ago, Terry and I needed to exchange some information with someone. The reason for the call is unimportant. What does matter:

(1) The person didn’t answer, so Terry left a voice mail.

(2) The person seemingly made the return call while driving.

(3) The person used a speakerphone or hands-free option.

(4) Terry had been unable to answer, so the return call turned into leaving a voice mail for Terry. The voice mail wasn’t closed immediately after saying goodbye because the phone didn’t end the call… like the person thought.

(5) Of course… the voice mail we received wrapped up with a short tirade (swears included) about how people bother this person with useless phone calls.

Now… sure… when viewing the whole thing in a big picture way, it’s kind of hysterical. Still, as you can imagine, we were none too thrilled by the message and have even listened to it a couple of times. We have yet to decide how (and, even if) we are going to tell the person what happened. Suffice to say we won’t be trusting the person with a lot, offering up referrals, or acting generously with our contributions.

One of the funny things is that there are plenty of examples where people have been caught and tripped up by microphones that transmitted every word… even the casual, just between you and me ones. Like the breakfast setting from a few moments ago, it doesn’t even need to be a microphone. More than enough examples exist that you would think that most people would learn a valuable lesson about surroundings. Figuratively (and literally)…

Regardless of the situation… regardless of any warning signs… treat the microphone as if it is on. Don’t believe the sign on the wall. Don’t believe the little red light. Don’t even look down at the switches and knobs and more and get tripped up because it’s flipped to off or the volume appears set at zero or whatever.

Learn to behave accordingly, at all times, and you will avoid a lot of potentially embarrassing and difficult situations.

We’ve all seen problems created by combinations of stupidity, ignorance, and any other mix of factors…

People click “reply to all” on an e-mail.

People don’t recognize their audience.

People forget cell phones come with cameras.

We live in a world where people arrive for their court appearances drunk… call 911 because their fast food order wasn’t prepared correctly… hear Ronald Reagan outlaw the Soviet Union… and more.

Perhaps worst of all, when these crazy things happen, quite often there is a pause as they consider their defense. Why? Because it couldn’t possibly be their fault or that they are responsible for what they did.

When you are planning to do something that seems dumb… dumb enough that someone could get hurt… and one of your friends pulls out a camera to record the moment… that should all come together in a blinding realization that the results are going wind up on YouTube, and not because they were successful.

And yet… even then… I don’t know if some of those tremendously entertaining moments fall to levels of genius we see in people that could have avoided specific mishaps. Again… learn to behave accordingly.

The microphone is always live.


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