Local Lifestyle

Monday, Aug 19 2013 11:05 AM

HERB BENHAM: They may be called earbuds, but they're not my friend

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

I have seven sets of earbuds, headsets, whatever you want to call them. They have one thing in common: None work.

Two are from flights, the garden variety that airlines give you when you watch a movie or listen to music. Although passengers are not discouraged from taking them, I thought I was getting away with something.

"I'll take these earbuds home. I'll listen to music. I'll even make some calls."

The other five sets are an assortment of earbuds that Apple gives you when you buy a phone or an iPad. A couple are from friends in what is called earbud drift. It isn't like you are trying to steal them, but somehow they end up in your car, pocket or gym bag.

I try to be a good citizen. A friend told me recently that he been ticketed for talking on the phone while driving. The fine was close to $250. I don't want that, plus I'm enamored with the sound of hands-free.

The only problem with hands-free is that the earbuds are free of other things too, like being free of any sound whatsoever.

My father is 88 and if he goes mad, one of the things doctors will undoubtedly blame for sending him around the bend is his unfortunate inability to understand his half of a phone conversation.

His standard line: "Are you calling from a land line?"

No, I'm not. I'm doing my best to drive you nuts. I want to see how much you can take before I deposit you at the funny farm.

The earbuds start so promisingly. In Apple's case, the company gives you the attractive packaging, the extra plastic space adaptors in many sizes, the chic white leather bag with the drawstring in which to transport the earbuds.

This is not an electronic device. This is jewelry. I'm surprised there is not a Tiffany bracelet inside.

The first thing that happens is you lose one of the plastic earbud adaptors. It drops off in your pocket, in your car or in the dark corners of your closet.

Fortunately, there are spares. This is good, because you will need the spares because you will lose the spares. Soon, your soft white bag will be empty and then you will lose the bag itself.

Then one earbud will stop transmitting sound. No, you are not going deaf -- although you may be going deaf -- but, regardless, you will be unable to hear out of the right or left earbud.

No problem. You still have one good ear. Pretend your other ear has been torn off in a bull fight. Either that or Roberto Duran hit it so hard, it went back in your head.

Then the person with whom you are speaking will complain of wind noise. At first, you think it's the air conditioner in the car.

"Let me turn off the air conditioner," you say.

So you do. Now you are talking on the phone in Bakersfield in the summer without air conditioning. This better be important (and it never is).

"I still can't hear you," they say.

"Let me adjust the sound," you say because, fortunately, the device includes a flat volume control knob.

"That didn't help," they say.

That's when I realized I had seven sets of earbuds, no soft little white bags and none of them worked

Warranty? Ha, ha, ha. It lasts about as long as it takes to walk to your car. If they do last longer, which one goes to which one?

Might there be a lesson here? Drive the car. Turn on the air conditioning. Lose the earbuds.

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