Friday, January 21, 2011

Pinball Repair Master Adrift in the Age of Modern Marketing

Florida State Highway 33 is a desolate ribbon of asphalt that connects Polk City to Groveland, two places that are little more than speed bumps and never destinations.   It is an artery we must transit when moving between Gainesville and the USDA labs in Winter Haven, FL, as they do a lot of analytical chemistry in association with our projects.  There are no gas stations, mini marts or scenic stops, just mile after mile of pine and palm, broken up only by a toothless goon here and there, occasionally one rolling a tire.

About six miles out of Polk City and 21 miles before Groveland there is a sign hammered into a naked spot on a tree.  It is about eighteen inches wide and twelve inches tall.  It is unpainted wood and features black block letters that say PINBALL REPAIR, followed by a phone number.

Now, what are the odds....   you see where I'm going.

Imagine the almost infinite alignment that needs to happen here.  First, someone has to own a pinball machine.  Next, it has to be broken.  Next, they have to want to repair it.  Next, they could find nobody to do the work.  Next, they have to be driving north on Florida State Road 33 from Polk City to Groveland, during the day.  Finally, they have to actually spy this rather innocuous sign, then be quick with a pen to jot down the phone number.

WTF?  I think you'd be more likely to find Bigfoot walking arm-in-arm with Jimmy Hoffa in the middle of Disneyland, or the Cubs winning the Super Bowl.

Sadly I picture a sixty-something unkept guy, perhaps missing a limb, sitting near an old rotary dial phone in his home near the modest suburbs of (ahhem) Polk City.  Every morning he dons the coveralls, sits down at his work desk by 9AM, on time, every day, waiting for a service call.  He sits among boxes of flippers, bumpers, plungers and tilt lights, maybe rolling a heavy shiny silver ball across his desk over and over to keep what's left of his sanity.

But the call never comes.  Perhaps once in the middle of the night the phone exploded into its song, leaving him only to find a wrong number.

He might wonder what is wrong.  Is his advertising network not connecting with its market?  Maybe he needs  to modernize his marketing strategy, perhaps a note in the church bulletin or maybe he needs to thumb it up to Groveland and put ads under windshield wipers at the DQ.  Clearly the net he has cast is not reaching his potential clientele in broken-pinball-machine space.

To me it speaks to the ambitions of the human spirit and how well-intended ideas die from poor execution.  Next time I'm down there I'm going to get that number and make the phone call.  Stand by for details.

A Response to Carey Gillam