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Archive for October, 2004

A Story of Goodwill

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

About three or four times a week I visit a Goodwill store on my way home from work. I have had good luck there in the past with clothes, most notably my new kick-ass windbreaker, as well as a few okay records.

I was at Goodwill yesterday and made my through the aisles, first hitting up the record section, and after finding nothing but Christmas records and various titles by Herb Alpert, I moved on to the electronics section. Sitting on shelving next to some Nintendo joysticks, including the Nintendo Gun (great for Duck Hunt), was a portable record player, the stereo kind with speakers that fold out. A man, who resembled someone who may have roadied for ELO back in the day was closely inspecting it. He looked at me and glared, scowling through his brown mustache.

He left, and I made a thorough inspection. Everything looked good and the needle was intact. I was going to plug it in, but decided to grab a record to test the needle and speaker. I noticed that the powerstrip was not plugged into the wall.

I went and pulled a record without even looking at what is was and went back to the record player. Mr. Roadie was a couple feet away from it, enchanted by his reflection on a waffle iron. I took out the record, which happened to be The Muppet’s Christmas album. Mr. Roadie looked at me and said “Ya gonna try to get that to work? I’d like to see how it is… I was thinkin’ bout getting it”. Mr. Roadie must have felt some entitlement to this record player, as he had seen it before me. I said, “Yeah, I am going to check it out”.

I took the record player off of the shelf and plugged it into the power strip, the power strip that was not plugged into the wall. I put the record on the platter and fidgeted with the controls. I put the needle on the record and let out a loud sigh.

“What’s wrong with the thing?” Mr. Roadie asked, filling my personal space full of a bouquet of cigarettes, Slim Jims and coffee. “Hmmm, I don’t know…..” “Is it the drive belt???” He asked. “Well you know it could be a number of things. These record players didn’t use belts, but had an idler wheel that spun the platter”. I then went on to explain the various ways that idler wheels could be broken, and stressed the point of how hard it was to find parts. He looked at the record player and spun the platter with his finger. “Could be the motor…” I said, adding “Whatever it is this thing has issues, and there is no way I would pay $40.00 for it”.

Mr. Roadie then walked off in disappointment. When he was out of sight I plugged the power strip in. The platter spun, and Fozzy Bear’s voice was coming from the speaker singing “On the first day of Christmas”. My joy was soon crushed when the tone arm lifted off of the record and went back to its stand. I tried again and again, but was only able to hear about 10 seconds of the album.

Something wasn’t working right and I thought that I could figure out the problem. I felt as if I possessed some innate knowledge on the workings of old phonographs. I took the platter off of the record player and looked at the gears and wheels that accomplished spinning the platter. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but when an apprehensive, blue vested Goodwill employee came by I assured her that I was just making sure that everything was in working order.

After forty-five minutes I was able to get it to play a record without rejecting. I really don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden the Muppets singing Christmas classics filled the store with joy. I was filled with joy.

There was no way I was going to pay forty bucks for this record player. I brought it up to the counter, and started telling the teenage boy, that “I was thinking about buying this record player…..but…”. I then went on to tell him why this record player was a piece of junk, explaining him the tone arm problem, as well as making up stuff about the needle and drive motor. I told him that I thought it was worth $20.00. He told me he had no authority to change pricing, that management had the power of pricing. He did say tin a hushed tone that all blue tag items would be on sale Friday 1/2 off.

I may be back…Oh did I mention that I already have two other portable record players that do not function in my ever cramped room?