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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Hanging With Bad-Ass Betsey Banker

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 6:35 PM

There are PR people. There are *cool* PR people. And then there is Betsey Banker.

Betsey handles the PR and marketing chores for Ergotron and OmniMount, companies that manufacture the really sexy stuff of the technology world like projector and flat panel TV wall mounts and standing desks. If you want a mount that can go flat to the wall, tilt, swivel or even – I kid you not! – raise up and down, OmniMount has a solution for you.

So, as an OmniMount dealer and reviewer, I get the opportunity to work with Betsey fairly regularly to test new products. You can read my latest review of Omni’s new projector mount here. And here is a review of the Ergotron Just Stand desk that I use at work. Though Betsey and I are in disagreement as to whether or not me standing up at work counts as “exercise” or not, either way studies strongly suggest that I will live longer and healthier by standing instead of sitting all day, so Dana can thank Betsey for every extra irritating day of life she has with me. Betsey is also way into beer, joining #BeerClub on a semi-regular* basis.

(* When her other many social clubs like book club, boating club, hiking club, backpacking club, estate sale club, yoga club, biking club and club-club don’t conflict.)

Betsey lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you might recall that when I visited last year to attend Ingram Micro’s  spring expo Betsey took me on a little “fitness hike” that turned into a desert mountain death march. (If you’ve not read that tale, I strongly suggest you do now. It will give you a more complete picture of the Bad-Ass which is Betsey Banker.) So when I was coming this out to Scottsdale this year Betsey said that she was planning a day of activities for us. Much like God promised that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood, Betsey assured me there would be no more 102-degree desert mountain death marches.

I arrived at the airport and texted Betsey that she could find me standing outside by a Shaolin Priest.

I apologize for the picture quality, but this was a stealth selfie – a stealthie - where I captured the Shaolin Priest. Now, to be fair, I can’t confirm that he was indeed a Shaolin Priest as I didn’t see him do any serious karate moves or grab any pebbles from people’s palms, but I assumed that being subtle was the best way to deal when taking a selfie with a potential karate master in the background.

First up on our agenda was swinging by the Omni building where Betsey works.

Betsey wanted to take me in for a tour, but I had already seen a bunch of pics from inside the office and saw that it was really just a bunch of office cubicles with people standing up at their desks – you know, so they don’t die and all – and not much else going on but regular office type work, the likes of which I get to live on a near daily basis. I asked if I would know anyone in there and she said no. I told her they probably *would* know me but it would totally be as the guy that wimped out on the fitness hike and got face-punched by the PLAY mount.” (Yes. You should click the link and read that story. It ends with me bleeding and going to the doctor.)

To be fair, it’s not everyone that gets a warning sticker put onto a product for actions they’ve performed while going above and beyond the call of mount installation duty.

Actual OmniMount label included on all new PLAY mounts; created to commemorate my awesomeness in the field of brilliance. For accuracy sake, it should really show the blow to the bridge of the nose, but we shan't split hairs...

In a way, I’m a bit like the guy/hero that spilled hot coffee in his crotch to inspire the “Caution: Liquids inside are HOT” on all McDonald’s coffee cups.

Betsey conceded that it was *possible* that this reputation might very well precede me in the OmniMount offices.  I asked Betsey if there was any way that she could make me be “that guy that just wrote the great projector mount review” instead and she truthfully admitted that she didn’t think she had enough PR power to pull that kind of social rebranding in such a short period of time. And, while it would have been great to let the fine folks at OmniMount have a laugh at my expense and meet the “guy that got face-punched” in real life, there were too many other pressing things on the agenda, so I talked Betsey into heading on…



We headed off to lunch and Betsey took us to a very cool place call Ohso’s. What made it so cool was they had like 40+ beers on tap. As we’re going through the beer list Betsey, who also loves big, hardcore, pipe-hittin’ IPAs (obviously, because she’s awesome and Bad-Ass Betsey Banker), asks me about some of the beers.

“What’s Hopslam? Have you tried it?”

“What?! Hopslam?! They have Hopslam?!”

“Yeah. Why? Is it good?”

“It’s a Top 10 Beer. Oh my God, it comes out like once a year and I’ve never seen it on draft! It’s like impossible to get. We have to get it! It’s a Top 10 Beer!

So our waiter comes over and – despite the fact that the menu says Hopslam is from Sierra Nevada, when I know for an abso-damn-lute fact that it is from Bell’s – assures me that they do indeed have Hopslam on draft. In fact they just tapped the keg like a day ago and have been trying to keep it on the DL so they didn’t cause some kind of citywide panic. I’m chatting up the guy, giving him my creds as a bonafide beer geek, and he’s way into it as we talk about favorite beers and beers we’ve tried. You know, the totally platonic, mating ritual that happens between two beer loving bros. So (obviously) we order Hopslam which our waiter (obviously) confirms as an epic decision on our part

Except he comes back and tells us that despite the fact that they just had it like an hour ago, the keg hath now runneth dry. I know that I shouldn’t have let my heart get too vested in that beer, but the beer man had raised my appetites up and now there was just no way to bed them back down again. I ordered something called Myrcenary that was admittedly good, but I might as well have been drinking runoff water from Fukushima as much as it was bitter in my heart.

The OmniMount people will be happy to know that we spent practically the ENTIRE lunch talking about different products and ways that I could help them engage the industry and suggestions I had for new products and other TOTALLY work related things that would be expected of their awesome PR star. Totally.

After lunch, Betsey took us to Total Wine so we could scout out some future things that she could get for #BeerClub. I’ve never been in a Total Wine before and I have to say that the experience was both exhilarating and soul-crushing. The selection was immense and impressive with just tons and tons of variety, but knowing that this kind of just-walk-in-and-buy variety is out there to be enjoyed by regular people on the daily and not to me was torturous. (Torturous in a different way than a desert mountain death march, clearly, but painful and soul wounding none-the-less.)

The guy saw us looking and I asked if he had something – Greenflash’s Green Bullet Triple IPA – and this immediately sparked another broversation about beers and my man was well up to the task. He was showing and suggesting different IPAs that I should try, and when he pulled out an Avery Maharaja, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit. On the way out I also grabbed a copy of Total Wine’s Guide to Understanding Beer (or something), a 200 page guide on beer styles, varieties and choices that I’m assuming was free ‘cause I just grabbed it off a table and walked out…

So out in the car Betsey starts punching away on her phone and she says, “So…I thought we would go and visit TASER. Their corporate offices are here and my friend works there as an engineer.”

“Cool,” I say. I’m really familiar with TASER and had now idea their corporate HQ was in Scottsdale.

“And…how would you feel about getting TASER’ed…?”


“Yeah. They’ll TASER you after the tour is over. I’m totally going to do it. You don’t have to if you don’t want to...”

It was at this point that I told Betsey that I was not going to let her guilt or peer-pressure me into getting TASER’ed. I mean, this isn’t high school and we’re not talking about trying a beer. This is me being a grown-ass man and GETTING TASER’ED! Even as I was saying it, I knew I was totally wussing out…

“I figured you’d say no, but I’m still gonna do it.” Bad. Ass. Betsey. Banker.

We pull up to the building and it has a really cool, kinda future vibe about it. Even cooler is this super awesome double locking, round, cylinder vault door that you go through to get into the building. There were a bunch of signs up saying “No unauthorized photography” so unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. I mean, I didn’t want to volunteer to get TASER’ed and I certainly didn’t want to give them any reasons to non-voluntarily TASER me either… But, the entrance was way cool, like something out of Cyberdyne Systems from Terminator. There were all kinds of video monitors and you FaceTime chat with the receptionist who buzzes you in after she determines that you’re a non-TASER requiring threat.

Once inside, the building has a really cool Men In Black kind of vibe and Betsey’s friend met us and gave us the factory tour. He showed us the different bodies of TASERs made over the years and how they developed the tech and how now it is the leading non-lethal law enforcement solution around the country. I had no idea how big TASER was as a business, but he said they had yearly sales of $160 Million. (The company’s CEO was actually on CNBC the day that we visited.) We got to see them factory where they assemble the units and cartridges. He said the big engineering goal is to make the units smaller and lighter and to give them more capacity. (Two shots is the current maximum.)

So, the way a TASER works is that it shoots two electrical probes into you at a range up to like 25 feet. The probes have needle barbs that penetrate clothing and into skin and then stay put so they can work their sweet-sweet TASE-ing magic. The probes are tethered to the TASER pistol by thin trailing electrical wires and this is how the voltage travels into the victim/volunteer. The cartridge then gives off 15 electrical blasts per second and lasts for 5 seconds (law enforcement version) or 30 seconds (civilian version.) The thinking is that a cop is going to then immediately cuff and apprehend the post-TASER’ed person whereas the civilian will just drop the pistol and run away while the person is going through 30 seconds in heaven.

When the blast hits you, it fires off all the muscles in your body causing you to go stiff as a board and basically just kerplunk falling to the ground. (This is actually where the few TASER related fatalities have happened; where the person will fall and hit their head on something and then die of brain trauma.) Unlike other non-lethal weapons like pepper spray, there are no ill-effects to bystanders, it doesn’t matter if the person on the receiving end is hopped up on drugs or has a high pain tolerance and there are no* lingering effects once the voltage stops. 

(* Betsey might disagree with this...)

After the tour is over the receptionist is all, “So, are you gonna take a hit?”

Betsey, sweet, innocent, naïve Betsey has never seen a TASER in action so she is all, “Oh, yeah! Definitely! I want to try it.” John, grizzled, worldly wise, John HAS seen TASERs in action in documentaries and he is not so inclined to experience “a hit.” I felt the silent corporate disappointment shaming echoing mercilessly throughout the TASER hive mind.

So, they make her sign a release form – “Just the one…?” the girl asks looking at me, her eyes completing the sentence with “…you total puss?” – which Betsey starts reading and then says, “Who am I kidding reading this thing? I’m just gonna sign it and do it anyhow.” Bad. Ass. Betsey. Banker.

While it isn’t necessarily a requirement for all employees to take a hit – some civil liberties law or something I imagine – nearly everyone at the company has done it and it is like a total team building thing. And when the word goes out that someone – and a girl! It’s the girl not the guy that’s gonna do it! – is going to take a hit, the lobby starts quickly filling up with TASER employees to watch the festivities.

They say that it usually isn’t as painful for girls because the TASER affects muscle and it is usually the big strong guys that suffer the most. They obviously don’t know Betsey Banker and all the 20 mile bike rides and hikes and yoga that she does. And at this moment I thought, “Hmmm…”

They give Betsey a T-shirt to keep from making a hole and getting blood on her clothes and then they bring out a gym mat. Two guys stand beside Betsey to help her as gracefully to the ground as someone can fall while their body is in the throes of electrical TASER agony. And, the guy authorized to deliver the hit stands behind her with the exact same pistol and TASER cartridge that cops use to take down bad guys and, well, this is pretty much what happened…

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Bad. Ass. Betsey. Banker.

Here is a much shorter video from the back where you can watch Betsey perform a pretty sweet dolphin kick post TASE, when she was in what she described a state of full body bliss and relief once the voltage stopped.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Betsey said it was almost like how you feel totally spent and wiped out after a spa day. If the spa was being run by the fine folks of the Spanish Inquisition. Apparently, even as “blissful” as that moment might be, Betsey says the five seconds preceding it weren’t worth the effort. Go figure.

Betsey said she wasn’t able to really think of anything during the five seconds except for “thereisnowaythisisjustfiveseconds!!! whenwillthisstop?!?!?” She also said she knew she was making a sound and she was kind of embarrassed about it but she also didn’t even care or know if she could stop. Ah, those crazy TASER electricity dreams! Also, Betsey’s TASE moan *kinda* reminded me of this:

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

I wish I had some AutoTune skillz can I can only imagine the remix that could be made from that. I asked Betsey if she would take a 30 second hit for a TASER company Polo shirt and she said absolutely never ever never no.

Afterwards, the receptionist helped Betsey to the bathroom to get cleaned up. Turns out that the person that TASE’d Betsey also TASE’d her. Oh, and, fun fact! It was her dad! She said that watching Betsey get TASE’d brought back all kinds of bad repressed memories of her own TASER’ing.

When we walked out of the building, all I could say was, “YOU JUST GOT FRICKIN’ TASER’ED! YOU…JUST…GOT…TASER’ED!!!”

Yes, Betsey Banker is more man than I am.

And, I’m almost afraid for what next year’s trip to Scottsdale will bring… God, I hope Glock doesn’t open up a factory there…

(But, seriously, thanks for an unforgettable day, Betsey! You’re a trooper, super woman first-class for sure!)

Categories: April 2014, Bizarre, Beer/Liquor/Wine

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