We start this latest installment of Grandpa Gotta Work on the topic of buttons.
Not buttons on clothes, or that pet or doll someone decided to name Buttons, but the buttons we push.
Not figuratively—though we all know what buttons those are—but literally. In this case, I'll be walking you through two kinds of buttons:
a lock button
a game button
I know, riveting stuff. Steel yourselves. You might want to take a deep breath. Just don't forget to exhale.
Push Button Locks
The business I work for has deployed throughout much of the state of Oregon different coin, bill and card reader operated machines. Most of them are games, and some are of the crane variety, like the ones pictured above.
As with most machines, there are all kinds of moving parts, which means a lot of different things can go wrong. Typically, though, getting in and out of the display case to rearrange or add in new stuffed dolls is not one of the major problems.
Until it is.
If you look above at the crane game on the left, you'll see what I'm calling a button lock. It's in the bottom middle of the display case (just to the right of the joystick). It's an easy enough of a lock to get into. You put in the proper key, turn it, and the button pops out. There's a metal rod that slides out the other side of lock that prevents the display case window from sliding open when the button is in, but it retracts inside when the button is out.
Got it? Not very hard at all.
Except, the one in question—at a different bowling alley on a different machine than the one pictured—has been sticking the last couple of times I've tried to get into it. The last time was Tuesday. I turned the key, the button popped out, but only halfway, so the bar is still out just enough to prevent opening the display case.
I've had plenty of issues with locks before, but not one like this. Not knowing what else to do, I keep the key in and turned, and use it to move it side to side and up and down, all the while very concerned that I might break the key off in the lock (yes, I've done that about three times).
The button doesn't budge. I push it back in and start the whole process over again. Out to halfway again, work the key in the hole. Nothing.
Minutes go by. It's warm in the bowling alley and I started to sweat. Doesn't take much, but I'm getting stressed because I've got more to do and this shouldn't be so hard. Push the lock back, open it back up, manipulate some more, so on and so on.
I'm not sure how it happened, but finally, a little bit of movement up and the lock gave way.
Yes! I'm in!
I'm pretty sure I even fist pumped, but I don't think anyone saw me. Regardless, I shouldn't have to work that hard to get into the display case or feel so jubilant when I finally do.
I rearranged the large stuffed toys that are in there, added some new ones and after making sure all was as I wanted it, I pushed the display window back as far as it will go and pushed in the button.
It didn't move.
Okay. No big deal. Sometimes that happens because the second window isn't quite shut on the other end. In this case, though it was, but I tried to push it as left as it can go. Back to the button. Still won't go in.
Okay. This is new.
Even though it took a while to get the display case open the last few times, it's never been a problem to get the lock back in. I pushed the inside window over so I can look at the back of the lock on the outside window, which gave me just enough space to put my head through. I could barely see the bar that's supposed to come out. I pushed the button. The bar seemed to be hitting the side of the hole, as if it's shifted out of place, however that happens.
I put the key in and started moving it around like I did to open it. Again, worried I'm going to break off the key, I watched to see if I'm moving the bar at all and as far as I could tell from my limited angle, I'm not. I had doubts that the bar was misaligned anyway. I'm inclined to believe that that something was keeping the button from going in, just like it was keeping it from going out. Like something had wedged itself in between the outer casing of the button and the inner bit.
I have no idea if that even makes sense (I don't consider myself a lock expert), but after messing with it for what felt like half an hour (wasn't quite that long), I wondered if some DW 40 might work. If it's gunked up, or some fragment is wedged in there, maybe a couple squirts of lubricant would dislodge it.
At this point, I had nothing to lose. As nerve wracking as it was to get into the display case, not being able to close it was worse. I couldn't just leave it like that, and outside of removing the lock, I was pretty much out of options. I don't even know how the lock sat in the door. There were holes, and some kind of bolt or screw, but not with any head I recognized.
So, without a word, I gathered up the money I've been collecting and the bag of toys and I went out to the truck. I grabbed the can of lubricant, stowed the toys and took the money bag back in with me. I'm right handed, but because of the way the display windows were situated, I had to hold the can with my left and try to push the button while the spray straw was in the lock. I'm not that coordinated, but I managed to do it. One solid burst, then another.
That's more than enough, as lubricant came flowing out and I had to wipe it off the front side of the machine. Fortunately, nothing leaked on the inside, or it might have ruined the closest stuffed animals.
I let it sit momentarily, then started pushing on the lock. Nothing. I put the key back in, moved it around again. Nothing. Push some more. Move the key. Still nothing.
By now, I'd really worked up a sweat. And I was getting anxious. I couldn't leave it like this.
I sent a text to general manager to see if he has any ideas. I know he doesn't usually answer back right away, so I went ahead and collected the rest of the money, hoping that either the boss would get back to me or the lubricant will do its thing.
Several minutes later, I'm done. No answer from the GM, so I went back to the lock, mess with it. Zip.
A few more tries. Zilch. Then, all of sudden, just trying to push it in with thumb, the button went in and something spat out the keyhole. I'm not at all sure what it was, but it may have just been the lubricant. I didn't bother to look for it. I needed to get back on the road, so I finished up, made sure everything else was secure, and I got the heck out of there.
Fast forward to this afternoon.
I'm at a different location, trying to fix a button that has been broken for weeks now. Only, the other button is broken, too. Basically, both of the buttons look like the one in the image at right. They're on a machine called a Winner's Cube, which is very much a misnomer if not an oxymoron because you spend much more trying to win than any actual winning.
Basically, there's a display case with rows and columns of shelves where prizes sit. There's a bar that moves horizontally and vertically on two different tracks that gets triggered by the player pushing the first button and then the second once the machines coined up. It's pretty simple to operate—just push the button—but you have to get the bar to slide through a hole in the inner display case that's not any taller than the bar itself. In other words, you've go to be very precise if you want to get the prize.
Then, you have to hit the prize just right to push it out the back so that it will fall down and out of the inner display case.
So, even if you manage to get the bar in through the hole, it's not a guarantee that you'll get the prize out.
The Button Problem
Someone had removed the tops. In the picture previously referenced, its the yellow plastic part.
Above, you can see it again in the middle piece. It sits on top of an undercarriage with a spring in the center.
That whole deal goes into what I'll call the base of the button, or the black piece.
Once it's all the way through, the tabs on the end of it pop out. The tabs actually move away from the bottom of the base when the button is pushed from the top, and retract when the button is released.
What's Supposed To Happen
As you can see when the last piece is slid into the bottom hole of the base, the right tab sits just touching the top of what I'll call the bar button. When the top of the button is depressed, the tab moves down and pushes in the bar button.
The first button, once pushed in, triggers the bar to move horizontally across the bottom of the display case. Then, the player needs to push the second button to get the bar to move vertically to where the hole in the display is.
It really should be an easy fix. Swap out the one button assembly for the other, and Bob's Your Uncle. Except, in this scenario, Bob doesn't want to be your uncle and is stubborn and belligerent and after a while, you don't want Bob to be your uncle either.
But the dang button still needs to be fixed regardless of your familial relationships.
The problem from the beginning has been the buttons in the machine are not the same buttons I'm given to fix them with. The piece with the light and the bar button doesn't fit in the button base (black piece). The attachments are different.
The fix is supposed to be removing the top button assembly with the button, the plastic tabs and spring and put it in the existing button base. Simple right? Works like a charm, too, until you go to push the button. The tabs just barely touch the top of the bar button, like the other button did in a resting position.
Plan B. Or Is it C?
Remove the existing piece with the bulb and the bar button and replace it with the new one, which means you just use the entire button assembly.
As you can see, there are metal prongs on the light and button bar piece. Wires with connector sleeves slide over those prongs. I've tried to remove them, but they don't want to come off, even when ample pressure is applied. So, either they're crimped together and need to be uncrimped, or they're soldered or otherwise fastened in there. Tugging and wiggling them would not dislodge them.
Well, the remedy for that was supposed to be separate the piece. The piece with the light bulb and the bar button are actually two pieces. If you look at the bulb piece on the left there's a tab with a protrusion that inserts into the hole on the piece with the bar button. However, as you can also see, there are prongs where wires go on the bar button piece, too. Doesn't help to separate them if I can't get any of the wires to come off.
Curses, Spoiled Again!
After showing up with some renewed enthusiasm, thinking I might actually get the buttons fixed this time, I walked away once again defeated. It wasn't fun telling the lady at the front counter what happened. Thankfully, she was new on the job and wasn't someone I've had to tell the same thing to previously.
There's supposed to be yet another workaround, and that's putting something in the gap between the tab and the bar button. I tried that, but it didn't work, either. You need to have something small and solid enough to sit there, and you need a way to affix it. The one time I tried, the bar button was depressed just enough from the start so when the machine is coined up the bar just automatically starts moving horizontally.
Leaving A Job Unfinished
It's actually one of the three things I dislike about my job the most—not being able to repair something. Especially something that others are considering an easy fix.
I don't know what else I'm supposed to do. There's no in house training, and because of where I live and where my routes are, I'm on my own. I don't have someone who will run up to the rescue and show me how to do it. Mostly, I've been learning on the job, after much trial and error. In the case of the finicky buttons, I'm 0 for 3.
I See Mercedes!
Okay. On a much lighter note...
Quite a while ago now, I wrote in a previous installment of Grandpa Gotta Work that I regularly see a disproportionate amount of Subarus on the road. Oregon is one of a few states where the Subarus have made such inroads that they can dominate the streets and byways at times.
Well, many months later, I'm still seeing plenty of Subarus, but yesterday while driving back from the shop and over to the coast, I saw another make and its models of vehicles.
Yes, that's right. Very uptown.
What's most interesting to me about yesterday's sightings is, a few of them were actually Mercedes trucks or vans. In fact, the first one I saw was a truck. It was kind of like being in Europe or something!
Except, are they? A truck's a truck and a van is a van, right? Do you get the luxury of a Mercedes in a work truck or van, or just the extra cost of the Mercedes brand? What about maintenance? I imagine it's probably more expensive, too. Something must be worth it, though. The engine durability, maybe? The prestige of owning and driving a Mercedes?
The second sighting came in the form of around eight or so Mercedes sedans and SUVs carried on a trailer. You can see a couple of them in the image below. I'm being good and counting each as separate sightings.
That would be cheating.
Then, right behind me at the same time as I'm passing the truck and trailer of Mercedes vehicles, was another Mercedes van. Unfortunately, it wasn't as close as I thought it was when I took the picture so you can't see the Mercedes logo on the front of it.
Guess you'll just have to take my word for it.
After that, the rest were cars of some kind. I wasn't able to get pictures of them without possibly being seen or it was too dangerous to do so at the time, so I only have the two images to show. There were about six sightings in all. Normally, I'll go days without seeing a Mercedes of any stripe.
Wish I could say the same the same thing about the Subarus!
Okay, not really. The cars are okay enough. Can't believe there's so many, though. Oregon is kind of strange that way. It can be very independent and forward thinking here, but in ways most people don't really think of as genius.
Like not being able to pump your own gas.
No sales tax, though, on anything. I'm okay with that.
Mall Crime Scene?
I put a question mark on it because it seemed kind of click baity and while it still might be, I wanted to leave it open enough to wiggle out of.
Because it's not really a crime scene. At least, not in the obvious sense. In a more subtle but probably more troubling way, though, it most definitely is.
Okay, Mr. Cryptic! Which Is It?
The county I live in, along with 26 others in Oregon, is considered extreme risk. That means no dining in, anywhere, including the food court at the local mall. The chairs have been put onto tables and pushed together so no one will use them. For extra good measure, the mall folks decided to string it up with yellow caution tape.
Like a crime scene.
Or a danger zone.
Either way, it doesn't sit well. I'm not unhappy with whoever did it. As far as I know, they're trying to comply, and the addition of the caution tape is for the people who are apt to take the chairs down so they can sit and eat at the table when it's against the governor's mandate.
Thou shalt not eat...
...in the place where you get your food.
I'm petty sure that's how it's written in the oficial edict.
Except if you get your meal at home. Then you can eat there.
At least, for now.
All images courtesy of Glen Anthony Albrethsen