Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Borg on a Budget

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imagerymajestic at

New York City has toughened its hands-free driving laws. Now the penalty for fondling your phone while driving is five points on your license and up to $400 in fines. So, this was not the best time for my Bluetooth earpiece to break.  Well technically it still works. What broke is the plastic part that fits around your ear to hold the device in place. I don’t mean to sound all conspiracy theory but I think the manufacturers hope the flimsy part breaks so you’ll buy a brand new earpiece. They’re banking that most people won’t go through the trouble of trying replace the part that loops around their ears. What the hell is that part even called?

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Believe it or not, its name is what it does. It’s an ear loop and you can buy replacements online. A few years ago when the ear loop on my old Motorola Bluetooth broke, I purchased a replacement pack for $4. Sure, shipping was twice that but it was still cheaper than buying an entirely new earpiece. I felt like I was gaming the system. And I was until I put the package away and then forgot where “away” was. It’s been three years. I still haven’t found it. I think it’s safe to say that my office ate my ear loops.

Instead of springing the $12 for another replacement pack I completely jumped the shark and fashioned a new ear loop out of pipe cleaners.

Yeah. You heard me.

I know.

It’s crazy.

But at the time I thought it was the inspired blending of thrift, technology, and arts & crafts. How often do you get to go to Radio Shack and Michael’s? I was kinda proud of myself despite the odd looks I sometimes got. You see wearing a Bluetooth earpiece makes you look like one of The Borg. Wearing a Bluetooth earpiece tethered to your ear with a length of twisted pipe cleaner makes you look like The Borg on a budget. <~ Tweet This!

I’d still be wearing that contraption if I hadn’t accidently laundered it. Apparently the gentle cycle isn’t. The pipe cleaner survived. The Motorola didn’t.

When the ear loop on my newest Bluetooth earpiece broke – just in time for NYC’s steeper hands-free penalties – I thought about employing the pipe cleaner trick again, but to be honest it wasn’t the perfect solution. If I didn’t wrap it around my ear just right it would slide down my cheek like a big, black tech tear.

The Internet is many things: a classroom, a community, a colloquy of kooks. And I was curious to see how others might be dealing with their ear loop issues. A “Do-it-Yourself” search found Luke Ervin’s video:

While the production values are Spartan, the information is on point. Before the video was done I was scavenging my office for a paper clip and black gaffers tape. I found these things with ease. (Perhaps my office felt like it owed me one after eating my ear loops.)  And, for the record, a paper clip provides a much better hold than a pipe cleaner. Thank you, Luke.

As I finished taping up the exposed pointy end of the paper clip I had a I-am-my-Father’s-Daughter moment. My Dad is the King of Do-It-Yourself. Why buy when you can hammer, nail, and tape. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that our winter insulation is recycled comforters and bubble wrap. And while most people give me the side eye when I share the paper clip tip, I knew my Dad would appreciate it. When I showed him my augmented earpiece he gave me the best compliment one do-it-yourselfer can give to another. He said, “Well… I’ll be damned.”

Make no mistake. I still look like a new recruit to The Borg Collective, but now I’m a Borg on the come up.

The Urban Erma, the longest running column on, was created and written by stand-up comedian Leighann Lord. Listen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Watch the video edition on If you enjoy The Urban Erma please leave a comment, Like it on Facebook, follow on Twitter, And share it with your friends. (Share it with people who are not your friends and maybe they will be.) Get her free e-books of The Great Spanx Experiment and Sometimes I Wish Facebook Had a Hate Button. 

1 comment:

Sean said...

My grandfather would admire you. I inherited his extremely lovely 1953 single-cylinder 500cc Norton. In restoring it,I found that he had lost the chain case oil cover and replaced it with a flattened Heinz ketchup lid.