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Supported By
“A Café where Rock is Difficult.”

Maintenance Blitz In Niagara Falls: Showing Up Is Half The Battle, But Being In The Right Country Helps…

A tale of arriving on the jobsite right on time to do system maintenance, gaining entrance to the venue and beginning to perform the assigned tasks, and slowly realizing that something is quite wrong... (An audio version of this article is also available for download.)

Back in the mid-zeros (2000s), I was mainly making my living as an audio repair tech and doing frequency coordination gigs when they came along. I had workshop space in the back of a local sound company where I repaired equipment for them as well as my other clients.

The sound company also had a maintenance contract with the company that supported a chain of popular restaurants, and I was occasionally called in to do some of the more advanced service work for these on site. This included repairing and adjusting the BSS Soundweb processors that were used in all of the installations, including the two locations in Toronto. I can’t directly name the restaurant chain, but if you Google Translate it into a bunch of different languages, and then translate that back into English, you might end up with something like “A Café where Rock is Difficult.” (Nuff said…)

Somewhere along the line, a maintenance protocol was introduced by the company in Florida that we worked for on the restaurant file. This included a long list of items to check, such as all components in all loudspeakers and a really long list of things to clean, especially displays and other TV monitors.

One day, the vice president of my host company came to me and said that they’d been booked to do one of these maintenance blitzes at the Niagara Falls location, and asked if I was available to go in at the same time and do some higher-level stuff. I don’t recall the exact tasks but there was something that involved the Soundweb installation (which required getting the swb. file from headquarters in advance) and something electrical, like changing a plug or a fan in an equipment rack.

I said, “Sure” and we set a date.

Early Start

Now the VP, who we will call “Veepy,” was a young fellow, and his crew were also young guys, so it was decided on their end that the most effective way for them to be all present and accounted for at the restaurant at 7 am on the appointed day, was for them to travel to Niagara Falls the night before and have a Casino Night. As for me, I had to get up at 5 am and drive out on the day-of.

Having done that, I met up with the team just before 7 am and we proceeded to make our way into the restaurant. This was a bit weird right from the get-go as the venue was in a mall concourse, just off the main drag, and when we got there, the sliding glass doors that opened on to the concourse were open about a foot.

We let ourselves in, expecting to meet someone from the restaurant management, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we could see through the swinging doors that the kitchen staff were hard at work preparing their 5,000 pounds of French fries for the day – the front door having presumably been left open so they could enter.

In any case, the protocol for the maintenance blitz was that you had to call HQ in Florida the minute you were on the premises and get them to start the clock. Veepy did the honors: “We’re in, at 7:02!” This kind of felt like we were Brad Pitt and crew in Oceans One Million (or whatever the last installment was…) And with that, the guys fanned out and started furiously cleaning every display in sight.

This left Veepy and me free to search for the tech room/equipment racks so I could get started on the work that I’d been hired for. We searched the bar area, where we’d entered. No luck. Then the adjacent dining area, still no luck. Finally, we found a mezzanine area overlooking the dining room. This consisted of an open-plan office and included two seven-foot equipment racks holding all the AV gear. Bingo!

Except…the equipment didn’t match what we we’d been told to expect, and there was a laser-engraved panel at the top of each rack proudly proclaiming that the equipment had been installed by the company that I had managed in the 90s, who wasn’t the installer at any of the other locations. One particular sign that something wasn’t quite right – the DSP units were not BSS Soundweb but something else entirely.

Accidental Tourist

At that point, Veepy got back on the phone to HQ to try and find out what the heck was going on. This left me with absolutely nothing to do but play tourist, so I wandered over to the one window in the office to see what I could see. This window happened to be a tall, narrow one, about a foot wide, so it didn’t exactly offer a panoramic view of the falls, but I could see them if I looked in that direction.

So, I looked to my right, which was up river towards the falls, and watched them for a few minutes. I had seen them many times before, but they’re still always worth a look. From there, I let my gaze drift down the Niagara Gorge, marveling at all the water moving through it while idly searching for any sign of the tourist boats. Too early for the boats.

From there, my eye drifted down to the Rainbow Bridge, where I noticed the day’s traffic beginning to build up as folks waited to get through Customs into the US. Looking up from there to the American side of the river, I couldn’t help noticing a restaurant very close to the bridge, with a 100-foot high neon guitar in the parking lot…

While I’d been rubbernecking, I’d also been half listening to Veepy’s side of the phone conversation as he tried to work out what was going on. I interrupted him: “Hey Veepy, ask them if they meant Niagara Falls, New York!”

Which, of course, they had. With that news still ringing in his ears, Veepy leapt up from the manager’s desk and ran down the stairs, yelling to his guys “Abort! Abort! STOP CLEANING!”

After that, we beat a hasty retreat, still without having seen or interacted with anyone from the restaurant’s management. To this day, I wonder if they noticed that some of their TV’s were looking particularly fine when they opened later that day.

Veepy and I conferred briefly to see if it was worth me trying to get across the river to do my assigned tasks, but we decided that it was too late in the day, and kind of iffy since I hadn’t brought my passports with me (I’m a dual citizen, born in the U.S.).

I did eventually go by myself a few weeks later: a one-man maintenance blitz, except that I just did the two tasks assigned to me and went home.

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