One-armed bandit steals four hours of engineer's busy day

How many pub owners does it take to change a light bulb?

Slot machine by https://www.flickr.com/photos/kubina/ cc 2.0 attribution sharealike https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our weekly look at readers' trials and tribulations when asked to go out and fix stuff for clients.

This week, reader “SH” shared the story of his time working for an amusement machine operator as a service engineer. SH spent his days maintaining fruit machines*, pool tables, juke boxes and video games. His territory covered London and points south.

“I was on call one weekend when a call come in for a large pub in Epsom,” which SH recalls should have taken about an hour and ten minutes to cover in his car.

As is often the case, however, London's notorious orbital M25 was clogged, so he was stuck in traffic for quite some time.

“This was in the days when pubs closed at 3:00PM and I managed to get there at 3:10PM. I knocked on the door and a rather grumpy landlady informed me that they where shut and reopened at 7:00PM.”

“Using my charms I managed to persuade her that I had driven a long way, got stuck in traffic and I could not guarantee that I would make it back at 7:00PM or sit outside for four hours until opening, so she let me in.”

Once inside, SH was baffled. The machine's startup routine reported no errors, so our reader asked what the problem was in the expectation it might not be paying out, or not accepting coins.

Instead the pub landlady pointed to two light bulbs that weren't lit up.

“There are a lot of bulbs in a fruit machine,” SH wrote. “Some are important and used in features of the game. Others just light up non important areas for show. These two were not important and you had to look really hard to notice they were not working.”

“It took all my customer skills to keep smiling and remain polite while thinking that a four-hour, 90-mile round trip had been for two small capless 12 volt bulbs worth less than 1 penny apiece.”

If you've been summoned to tackle the trivial, or the grave, do let me know by write to me. ®

*That's British for what Americans call slot machines and Australians call poker machines.

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