Blow the dust out.

One of my daily “check out this hip thing” emails raved about the album “Volume 1” by She & Him, with the “she” being Zooey Deschanel. I happened to love her voice when she sang in the shower for Elf, so I navigate over to iTunes to hear a sample. I put the headphones on and start checking out the tracks.

Interesting, not sure I love it quite yet. Very offbeat production values. I quickly check a couple tracks and they’re all similar. Maybe it’ll grow on me, I thought, so I click the magic button and my amex is debited and tracks start to download. I start the first song and get working.

Hmm, not liking it so far. Nope, second track has the same garbled vocals. Third, fourth, fifth track. They all sound like she’s underwater. It’s shite.

I start wondering, are the files corrupted? This could be an error. I inspect the file information, verify it’s the right size, format, etc. Everything checks out. I wonder if the download was screwed up by the 16gb file I was moving back to the network. Yeah, that could be it!

Then I start thinking, the reviews said “lo-fi”. I go back to iTunes and scan the entire review page looking for a single person who gave it less than five stars. Can’t find one. Everyone loves this thing. Maybe it’s just too artsy for me. Shit, I just wasted $9.99 through impulsive clicking. Damn you, buying finger! Music off. Commence sulking.

I start working again, converting a video file to the format preferred by the client. I check the audio to make sure it came through. Hmm, sounds like garbage. Did I screw up one of the many settings when converting? I crank up the volume to get a better idea of what’s wrong. I see the volume indicator going up, but I don’t hear the “pop-pop-pop” from the mac. Ahhhhh….light bulb! I’m such a dumbass. The headphone plug is pulled out of the jack by about 1/16th of an inch.

Back in the days when I did the miserable job of tech support, one fable we learned was “blow the dust out”. Rather than letting the mind run wild with worst case scenarios of technical disaster, start with the basics. Is the damn thing plugged in? And don’t ask the customer if it’s unplugged, because it can often cause 1.) offense when you ask it and b.) embarrassment when they realize it is. Instead, ask them to unplug the keyboard/mouse/monitor and blow on the connector, because sometimes “dust can accumulate and interfere with the connection”. If it is unplugged, you’ll then hear them quickly excuse the problem – “That was it! Bye!” – and get on their way. So, remember to blow the dust out.

And, in case you’re wondering, the She & Him album is excellent…once you have the headphones plugged in correctly.


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