The tour company I work for uses earphones we pass out to all the passengers, who need to plug them into a little box near their seat to hear the tour.
Speakers on tour buses are now a thing of the past, as San Francisco made it illegal for a bus to use any amplified sound that can be heard 50 feet or more away while it’s out in traffic.
But people can also hear a tour in multiple languages through the earphones by switching channels on the little box thing.
If you’re from China and want to hear a description of the Palace of Fine Arts in Cantonese, we’ve got you covered.
I used to call them headsets, but now I call them earphones because of one little thing that happened on one particular day.
You see, we issue them as people board the bus, and everyone on staff calls them earphones, which is what I should have been calling them all along.
“Welcome aboard, folks, do you have your earphones?”
“Uh no, first time here…”
“No problem, grab one out of this box and plug into channel #1 when you’re seated, that’s how you hear the live tour.”
A few months ago we were boarding some people at our starting point, with the bus due to leave in about ten minutes. This was back when I was saying ‘headsets’ as a matter of habit, but that was about to change.
An older English couple boarded, who were both north of 70 by a handful of years. I’d say she was about 73 and he was around 78 years of age. She came on first and I asked her if she had headsets, but she didn’t hear me; she just smiled sweetly as she said “hello!” and went up the stairs to the upper deck.
I decided to raise my voice a notch with her hubby, in case he was hard of hearing too. Turns out he was.
“Welcome aboard sir, do you and the missus have your headsets?”
He stopped cold and looked at me like monkeys had just flown out of my butt.
“UH, I’m sorry mate, what’s that?”
“Headsets sir… HEAD… SETS… have you and the lady gotten your headsets?”
He turned a really interesting shade of crimson as he leaned over and said, “I’m sorry mate, but why in the hell do you want to know if the wife and I have had sex?”
At that point it was my turn to turn an interesting shade of crimson.
“OH NO SIR, OH MY GOD…” I showed him the box of earphones and loudly said, “I WAS JUST CHECKING TO SEE IF YOU HAD YOUR HEADSETS, THAT’S ALL! YOU KNOW, THESE THINGS…”
He looked in the box and started laughing. “Ah, I see! Yes, we each have a pair from earlier today!” *sign of relief* He turned to head up the stairs to join the wife, but then he turned around and approached me again to share an afterthought that’d just occurred to him.
With a wink and a little wry smile he said, “To be honest with ya, mate, it’s been a while!”
So now I call them earphones.
Photo of senior couple by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com