This Was Supposed To Be The Short Week
Since around September of last year, I have been on a lopsided schedule.
Two of the places I went to on the coast removed games I serviced due to renovations or getting their own. So, instead of going to the coast every week, I go every other. Which means on the long week I have three routes to cover and on the short week, just two.
In a normal short week, I'm doing well to get in 35 hours, which isn't horrible, but 40 is obviously preferred. In a long week, there are times where I haven't hit 40 either, but others where I exceed it and so am supposed to be paid overtime hours.
Well, last week, the long week, I had a little over five hours of overtime. This week, the short week, I could be looking at three to four hours of overtime, depending on what else might arise tomorrow.
As of yesterday, I had 31.5 hours in over just three days. That averages out to roughly 10.5 hours a day.
I've done 14-18 hour days before when I was by myself running a newspaper business, so 10.5 isn't so long. The problem is the type of work. I still don't know all that I need to know, mostly around fixing things, but lately, over the last week, I've been sent places to do more than my usual diagnose or attempt to troubleshoot.
That kind of wears on the mind, and there were a couple of nights this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) where I didn't get home until well after 7 pm. By then, trying to sit down and write wasn't going to happen—I was pretty much too frazzled to do so.
Today was a shorter day (7.5 hours), but it was similar to a day I had a while ago where I went from one problem to the next, and all I was really supposed to do was fill ATMs, and then fill display cases and clean machines.
The first day of the work week is generally pretty busy because I have the most collections to do those days. I like moving from one place to the next as quickly as possible, but if there's fills to be made, or something to fix, then I'm supposed to take care of those.
This particular Monday was spent all in one town, so I'm not driving miles to get to the next stop. Plus, while there are places with 7-12 machines, there are also others with 1-3. The way they're laid out, and based on the times they open, I'm generally through the majority of stops with a lot of machines midway through the route, which means I can move quicker from place to place on the back end.
Well, at the very first stop, there was an issue with the kiosk—it's on a card system and it was down to nearly the bottom of the stack, causing an error message to appear. The employees there filled up the card dispenser, but the error message didn't reset. I was asked to clear it with a special employee card I have, but it didn't work. So, I ended up calling tech support, who promptly answered and within 10 minutes had it running again.
Then, I had to reset part of a basketball game that has reoccurring issues. After that, I actually got to the task of what I was there for—collecting the money in the kiosk, and replenishing the prizes and toys.
I'm usually there for at least an hour every time. Mondays, it's generally longer, mostly restocking things. They do great business though with the card system, so it's well worth the time and effort.
The next place I go to has 12 machines that all need to be collected. Thankfully, there were no jams, and all the machines were working. Sometimes I'll come in and an older multicade game (one with 8-bit games like Street Fighter) will be turned off or frozen, so I have to try to get it going again.
I finished there in decent time, and on to the next I went.
The rest of the morning and most of the afternoon went fine. Then I arrived at a place that is relatively new on the route. They've been having some issues with the jukebox, and one of the other guys I work with was up there last Friday trying to fix it. When he left, the initial problem was taken care of, but sound wasn't getting to all of the speakers.
The setup is a combination of theirs and ours. Ethernet lines run out of the jukebox carrying sound for various speakers in the main and adjoining rooms. Then, they have RCA cables (one red, one white) connecting to at least one TV that can then come through our speakers from the jukebox thanks to a throughput box.
Well, two of the ethernet cables were put back incorrectly, which caused part of the issue. When that was straightened out though, sound was only making it to two zones and not three. I was supposed to collect the machines they have, but I was also supposed to troubleshoot the jukebox.
Well, I managed to get sound from the jukebox to our speakers going, and then needed to call the jukebox tech support to take are of an issue with background music. When that was done, music was still not being pumped into the third zone. I checked their amplifier. It was on and seemed to be working. I tried a few other things, but nothing worked. So, when I left there, things were a little better, but still not completed.
I still had one place to go, though, so I went and finished my route.
Fortunately, everything was good there, and I was able to wrap up and go home.
Tuesdays on the short week are typically the shortest working day I will have. I end up in three different towns, but stops are mainly jukeboxes and so I can make quick work of them. Lately, I've had multiple ATMs to fill, too, so that takes a little extra time. This week, though, I only had one at the end of the collection route, so after getting everything collected, normally that would mean I would be done.
However, I knew going in that I had an ATM that wasn't in the route, but wasn't that far away. No big deal. But then I was asked to replace the shotgun on a Buck Hunter game in another route which is normally a 40 minute drive from my house. In addition, sometime during the day, before I even got to the Buck Hunter, I was given another thing to fix in another town another 10 minutes on.
So, my five and a half hour day turned into a 10.5 hour day.
The collection route went relatively smoothly. Since I was close to my house, and needed to pick up some additional supplies for the three other places I would be going (typically two of those are fill stops I make on Wednesday, anyway), and then took off to the off route ATM fill. After adding cash to the ATM, adding coins to their bill changing machine, and filling up something else, it was off to fix the Buck Hunter.
I'm not sure what was initially wrong with it. I understood it and another game weren't powering on. However, I was just given the shotgun to replace the existing one with. I kind of found this all out piecemeal, too, via text messages. The first one came from a co-worker who had gone up to look at the games in the first place. He told me he'd also disabled the start button on the side of the gun replacement so no one would try to play that side (even though there was a big OUT OF ORDER sign hanging taped to the gun—it was a good move, as signs have ways of disappearing(.
When the message came in, I thought to myself, Okay, cool. But what does that have to do with me?
Well, twenty minutes later, in comes another text, this time from my boss. I'm supposed to pick up the gun and then go and fix it.
Suddenly, the first text message made more sense.
So, when I finally got there, I had the start button to reconnect, and then the shotgun to remove and replace.
As you can see by the image, the start button (the one disabled was the green one), sits below where the guns are cradled. Below it is the door I normally open to get in to collect the bill acceptor (if there is one). The fastest way to get the button working was to reach in through the door around a corner and reconnect the cable.
Well, if you've done it before, and kind of know what to expect, that might work. For me, it was all at an odd angle, in a cramped space, and I couldn't get the plastic connector to go into the hole it was supposed to fit into. So, after some minutes messing around that way, I finally decided I needed to try unbolting the front cover.
That meant removing quite a few bolts, two of which sit directly under the viewscreen, and as such, only come out part way (apparently the screen cover has to come off first). So, I only was able to lift the cover partially up, but it did help. I could see the other button and how it was attached, too, and after several tries of twisting this way and that, I got the cable connected to the button. I made sure the button was working before I put the screws back.
I don't know how long it took to figure that out, but I still had the gun to replace. There are bolts that go through a cover plate, but the heads are smooth, which means removing it has to take place from the inside. Again, from the cash door, I could reach over and feel the nuts on the bolts, but it would be another blind operation that I wasn't going to be able to pull off. That meant pulling the entire cabinet out away from the wall and turning it so I could get in from the back.
It was stretch, even to do that, since my arms are only so long, and there's not really enough space to stick your head into to try to get closer. The computer gets in the way. Fortunately, the ratchet screwdriver made up for it, but I had to be careful not to lose the nuts or bolts as I was disassembling.
That all proved to be the easy part.
Once the existing plate, cable and gun were removed, I first plugged in the new gun and powered on the game to see if it was working. There's a calibration setting to go through and I did that. The first setting (upper left), worked fine, but the lower right was way off, and so was the center. I went to go play a game to see what would happen and it only really worked on the left hand side of the screen. So I went back to the calibration setting and magically, this time it worked the way it was supposed to.
I made sure by playing a game all the way through. Aside from not being so great a shot, the gun was as accurate as it was made to be. So, then, it was on to the task of bolting the new cover plate on.
Somehow, the first one went on without a hitch. I had enough pressure on it from the cable that runs from gun into the cabinet that it didn't try to push out while I was trying to screw it on. It tightened up in short order. The second one though was sitting at an angle, creating a gap. I had to readjust the cable a few times to try to put more pressure on that side. Finally, it worked (I'm feeling pretty lucky about that).
After the back door was secured and the game pushed into its place, I filled one machine with candy, made sure everything else was in working order, and left. I was about five minutes down the road when I realized I'd left the gun I'd just replaced behind. So, I had to turn around and go get it. By then, it was already after 6 pm and I wasn't even done yet.
Fortunately, the next stop proved to be issues with the bill acceptor and a coin mechanism. Someone had stuck a quarter in the former and a triangular piece of paper (probably a sticker), in the latter. Both relatively easy fixes, so I was out of there (after filling three of their machines).
It was somewhere past 8 PM when I finally got home. Needless to say, no posting took place on Tuesday night.
Even though Tuesday was a long day, I still felt pretty good about it. The tasks I was given were all completed satisfactorily. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to last.
On the short week, I've been going to the shop on Wednesday instead of Thursday to restock. That means getting out the door before 8 AM (which isn't something I do the rest of the week because most places aren't open that early). I got a later start but still made it down there before 9 AM. I'd intended to go to a few more places I like to fill since they're usually running out of stuff, but I was given eight ATMs to fill, along with two more things to fix. The first was a pinball machine, the other was the sound system at the place I wound up at on Monday.
The information I was given about the pinball machine was that the lefthand flipper button kept popping off. In this particular location, the button has done that before. On both sides. In fact, the left side had just been fixed a month or so ago. I'd never fixed one before, but understood from our shop pinball expert that it's kind of involved if you do it the right way.
The above is an image of what I found when I got there. No button. None of the employees there knew where it was, either. The problem is, the button has a long thin piece that runs through the part that's in the cabinet, and it's supposed to strike the metal piece that appears in the image below.
That missing thin plastic piece has a ridge around the end of it to supposedly keep it and the button from popping off. Apparently, it was broken or something. Since the button and attachment were missing, I'll never know.
I didn't have a button with the accompanying thin piece to try to cram through there. The button that was on the machine previous to the new one was inside the machine, but it was removed because it had issues. As it was, I couldn't get the piece in the cabinet out anyway. Come to find out when I called the expert that it wasn't the right sized button. He told me it was probably jammed in there and would need to be forcibly removed. I tried prying it from the outside and pushing it or unscrewing it from the inside, but nothing worked. I didn't try bashing it, though, which sounded like what I needed to do.
The button that's supposed to go there looks more like this one above. Typically, they're either all white or all red. I guess there wasn't a white button to fit into the housing part, so white and red it is. Those two, I guess, are interchangeable.
The one I had was not.
So, after about an hour of messing around with it, first trying to get into it (since I had to figure that out), and then being unable to remove the clear plastic housing, I basically gave up, and put everything back.
The image above is from a different pinball machine, but I took to show that same left side flipper button. You can see its all red, button and housing. You can also see that to get inside, there's a few things that need to be removed, which includes the glass. I already kind of knew this from working on other things, but game manufacturers don't generally make their games with the ease of maintenance or replacing parts in mind. Kind of a like a car engine compartment in many respects.
So, not being able to fix that, I ended up heading back to the place with the malfunctioning sound system to try a new throughput box. That meant climbing a ladder above their fancy new bar without falling or knocking off anything from the jumble of wires up and behind the television screens. All of that I managed to avoid, but the new box didn't change the situation. The auxiliary input was still not working.
So, that ended up being unfinished business number two. And I still had ATMs to fill elsewhere.
This all came after an unplanned trip to the coast to fill an ATM and restock the display of a crane game with large plush toys that had been nearly picked clean. After that, I decided to go to the next town up to check on a site that generally needs restocking in a Roadtrip game. As it turned out, it was nearly out of medium prizes.
While I was there, the manager let me know he was told someone had won one of the large prizes, but that it had failed to dispense. Without witnessing it, that can be a he said/she said kind of thing. Fortunately, the game has a log of what is won and after going back several days, we couldn't find any instance of the large prize, but saw where all the medium prizes went.
That took some time. I wasn't even going to go there, either, but another place I was given to help bring back a machine to was changed en route to the coast (someone else ended up going in my stead), so it was by chance I ended up there. I'm glad I did, because if I didn't take care of it then, I would end up doing it next week when I was back there again on the collection route.
I also mentioned earlier that I had eight places to fill ATMs, and I'd only been to one (on the coast). That left the other seven. Five of them were more local, and the other two were farther north. I decided to take care of three places locally that typically run out of money quickly. Good thing I did, because two of them were pretty low when I got to them.
That left four more to do.
So, in a rather large and winding nutshell, that's how my nearly 11 hour Wednesday went.
No post for STEEM that night, either.
That finally brings us to today.
Officially, on the short week, after Tuesday, I essentially have three days to take care of one days worth of work. Since I've added in some stops to keep games stocked with prizes, it might be more like three days to do a day and a half worth of work. So, normally I would try to do the additional stops on Wednesday, then have Thursday and Friday to take care of the 8-10 official spots that need to be filled before the weekend.
I'd already been to one of them (the last stop on Tuesday night), so that meant nine remained. I didn't need to do all of them today since I still had tomorrow, but trying to figure out how to divide it up took a while, because I still had the ATMs to fill. Two of the places I could go were accessible (though not officially open) at 8 and 9 AM, respectively. However, the next two places close by didn't open until 11 AM. Normally, that would mean about an hour and a half that I would have nothing to do.
I thought about going to the neighboring town, but the two places I thought about going to over there don't open until 11 AM and 1:30 PM. More gaps in time, so that wasn't going to work out, either.
And I couldn't head north right away because one of the ATM stops didn't open until 3 PM!
So, after a few attempts to work it out, I decided I just wouldn't leave until around 10 AM, and I would do the local stops first, then head north, and leave the four in the nearby town for tomorrow.
That was, until I checked the website with our service calls. Fortunately, the one I was given was for one of the places up north I was intending to go to, anyway, but I was told to get some duct tape to cover up a part of a game that had been damaged somehow. Stopping at the hardware store wasn't already in the mix, so I quickly looked up if Home Depot had what I needed, and then got ready to go.
After procuring the duct tape, I went to the first local stop. It's usually a matter of checking to see if there's any money jams (they only have three machines), restocking the duck crane, and making sure the bill changer has quarters.
Well, when I get there, I find this:
Someone, presumably a youngster, crammed two ends of a toothpick into the door lock. I was able with a bit of finagling to get the top part out intact. The bottom piece though did not cooperate as well. I managed to get some of it out, but the little pick I have on my all-in-one tool wasn't thin enough to get all the way in. So, after ten minutes of trying to clear the keyhole, I still couldn't get the actual key in all the way.
To boot, there was already an Out of Order sign that no one there knew anything about. My guess was it was a coin jam, since the bill acceptor looked like it was working (the green triangles were flashing). However, without being able to get inside the door, I had no way of knowing. So, I ended up leaving the game turned off with a promise to the staff that someone (maybe me) would come back to get it working.
The lock will probably need to be replaced, which means somehow forcing the door open without damaging it.
So, I left that unresolved and moved on. Next stop, I find this:
In case you can't tell what that is, it's a coin in the bottom part of a coin mechanism. That is actually where the coin ends up if it's been rejected for some reason. I had to remove the middle part above it to see into that bit, and when I did, three quarters fell out of that area.
Turns out, there were some other coins, too:
In case it's not clear, the silver colored one is Canadian, and the other two are actually newer $1 USD coins. None of them work in any of our coin slots. Only quarters.
I've been coming across a lot of the $1 coins. Some of them have George Washington on the front, so even if their coloring is different, the size and the president's profile would be confusing. However, in this case, neither person depicted is Washington.
With all the practice I've been getting, clearing this minor coin jam did not take too long. I did have to fill a crane game, but that didn't take too long either. By now, it was well past 11 AM, so I headed to the next two local stops for ATMs and fills.
Neither place, fortunately, had any issues. That meant I could finally head north.
I had one stop to make before going to the business with the broken game I was supposed to duct tape. It typically has little I need to do, and that proved to be true again, thankfully.
That got me to the place I knew I had trouble in (or thought I did) around 1 PM. The game is a version of Sno Cross, where you actually get to mount a motorcycle and then on screen get it to go over ramps and do different stunts. I haven't played it yet but I've seen others do it and it looks quite fun.
So, I was supposed to duct tape the broken area, and I was supposed to send images to my boss so he would know what needed to be replaced so he could order it. This is one of the images I sent him. As you can see, it already has tape on it. But I didn't do it. It was already like this when I got there. I was told someone else had shown up days before to fix it.
I sent the images anyway, not knowing if my boss also had those. He didn't really indicate either way, so I still don't know if he needed them.
Since this is a place I would normally fill on the short week, that would be my next task, but they also had the bill changer that was acting up. I was supposed to run a test, but there's really not one you can do, other than stick bills in and see what it gives back out. There's a console on the inside that tells you if it's running correctly. When the door was opened so I could get to the console, the readout screen indicated everything was running normally.
However, when I went to check out the bill acceptor, potentially part of the problem, an error message came up. One of the buttons below the readout is supposed to clear it, but when I pushed it, the error did not clear. I tried turning it off, and turning it back on. The readout went through its startup protocols, then hung up on the bill acceptor, and back to the same error.
There was no manual in the machine, but I looked up a similar one online. It was indicating that potentially a wire or connector on the bill acceptor was shorted or had come unfastened. I don't have equipment to tell whether current is getting where it needs to go, but I didn't see any loose wiring or missing connectors. And all I did was slide the bill acceptor out, something I regularly do with another similar bill changer.
So, after several minutes of messing around, I ended up closing it back up and telling the manager about the error. In other words, I left it in worse shape than it was already in. The manager seemed okay with it, though, since the reason for the call was because they were short some money, and since the error was relating to it potentially, he was just glad that it might get fixed.
Me, though, I was thinking about all the machines I couldn't fix for one reason or another, and had wasted valuable time on in the process. It's only been eight months since I went back to work, and while I've learned a lot, I've received very little in house training on anything—most of it has been trial and error in the field. I guess that's the way it's supposed to be, but it's not quite the way I like to learn, since there's generally an audience, and an expectation that things will be functioning properly when I leave.
So, what will tomorrow bring?
I have those four remaining stops that I would normally do on a Friday. In addition to that, I'm going to guess that I might either get called to do some ATMs in the collection route area I was in on Tuesday, or potentially be asked to assist on trying to fix the sound system at the place I was at twice this week already. Just hunches. I'm kind of hoping neither comes to pass, especially since things have tended to bleed into Saturday of late.
I like what I'm doing. I do enjoy learning. I don't mind the last second additions here and there, but this week has been a bit much. I like some routine more than I like something different all the time. When I'm finally able to fix most things with confidence that I won't make things worse, I will feel better about mostly what bothers me now. Hopefully, that can happen sooner than later.
In the meantime, there's little else to do but keep plugging away.
All images courtesy of Glen Anthony Albrethsen