The Bathroom Microphone Claims Another Victim

In a memorable scene from the 1988 comedy The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) forgets to remove his lapel microphone before using the restroom.

Life has been imitating art a lot lately. Earlier this month, a Georgetown, Texas council member forgot to remove or turn off his lapel microphone before taking a bathroom break. As the council meeting proceeded, the sounds of his…well, this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Georgetown Mayor Pro Tem Rachael Jonrowe tried to trudge on, but the sounds were simply too much for her to take. Who can blame her for breaking into laughter at the real-life “Drebin moment?”

Of course, this is no longer known solely as a Drebin moment. Many people now think of the “caught with a bathroom microphone moment” as a Durst moment, named after murder suspect Robert Durst. During the last scene of this year’s HBO documentary series about him, “The Jinx,” Durst appeared to have confessed to murder while still wearing his microphone in the bathroom.

There are many more examples. One of the more memorable is from 2006, when CNN anchor Kyra Phillips went to the bathroom with her microphone still attached—and slammed her sister-in-law as a “control freak” during a live address by President Bush.

It’s easy for this mistake to occur. Audio-visual technicians at conferences often wire up presenters several minutes before their speeches begin. If the speaker decides to make a final stop to the restroom before the speech, the microphone remains attached.

After a while, many speakers forget about the microphone altogether. Like their wallets or earrings, the microphone may be on their person—but they’re no longer aware of it.

As a general practice, I always shut off the microphone until I’m ready to speak and kill it as soon as I’m finished. That way, if I forget it’s on me, it’ll at least be switched onto the off position. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had a few close calls, which reinforces just how easy it is for this humiliating moment to occur.

Perhaps one way to solve this problem is to help your fellow speakers. If you’re an audience member and see a wired-up speaker heading for the hallway, perhaps you could gently ask them if their microphone is off. If it’s not, you’ve just made yourself a new best friend.

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