Saturday, April 08, 2006

Stand By ... You're On The Air

Broadcasting is a strange business and, let me tell you, the people who do it define weirdability. (New word; don't look it up.)

The basic idea here is: "The only thing that matters is what comes out of the speaker."

What doesn't matter: How you feel that day, what's happened between you and your Best Beloved, any aches and pains, your kids' problems, and so on.

So there you are in a tiny booth, talking to yourself with a microphone in front of your face. You know there are thousands of people listening ... well, the "B" side of your brain says, "there's nobody out there; you're just playing a game." The "A" side of your head is reading a live commercial when, out of nowhere, the "B" side chimes in with, "Your stomach is rumbling and I bet you're going to burp right on the air." The A and B sides continue to fight while you push on, trying to get those last three or four sentences out and back to music before you burst out laughing.

Right then, the Program Director walks by the window and sticks his tongue out. Let the audience figure out why you're choking.

Who are those weekenders? They are the stalwarts who keep the station on the air during the off-hours. Here are some of their day jobs at stations where I've worked: Rug merchant, pipe organ builder, Stock broker, Insurance salesman, Movie theater projectionist, High school teacher, Retired university employee, Electronic equipment tech, and moonlighters from other stations using fake names.

I once worked: a station where the owner's bed was behind the transmitter in the next room. He had a hot plate to cook on and not much else. In the studio, we soundproofed by closing the window and air conditioned by opening it.

...Another place had been a pool hall in what was now the basement of an abandoned movie theater. A filthy, dirty place that had water and fried rice coming up through the bathroom drain from the Chinese restaurant around the corner. Eventually, we were evicted. The city wanted to tear the building down and the owner was in no hurry to leave; it finally had to take legal action to get us out of there.

...In a nationally-known auto battery plant's office building, second floor. Nice studios; just a strange location. We never told anyone where we were.

Everybody has a story, part 3:

We had a fellow in the next township who drove the Public Works' garbage truck and anything else that needed to be driven. Nice fellow; always had a smile and a wave and, when possible, a quick chat for anyone who crossed his path. If he knew someone was elderly or ill, he would take their trash containers back to the rear of the house for them. Ordinary guy, ordinary job. Except his life-long kindnesses weren't that ordinary, apparently. He passed away a short time ago and 1,600 people attended his wake. He had made such a difference in their lives that they had to pay that last visit and see him off.


Post a Comment

<< Home