Radiogurl a la Carte

2004-03-10
The Radio Rant

If you've ever read the diary of Dangerspouse and thought that he was exaggerating about the business of radio - you'd be wrong. While there may be a few points in which he stretches the boundaries of truth, for the most part he's dead-on.

Case in point #1.

For the past couple of weeks, my boss has been sick. For the past week or thereabouts, he's been REALLY sick, in the way anyone in this business dreads most. Not open, oozing sores. Not cancer. Not a heart attack. Not violent projectile vomiting. Well he had the projectile vomiting too but that's another story. It's laryngitis that's the bane of every announcer. He lost his voice, which means that he couldn't go on the air.

I work for a very, VERY tiny radio station in an equally small town. We have a three-person crew: my boss (owner, lead deejay, and producer for most of the programming); me (news director/IT person/webmistress/personnel director/deejay/any other title needed at any given moment); and my assistant and friend Traffic Girl (who does 'traffic' - but in our case the radio-lingo version, which means scheduling commercials and all other programming. She also does bookkeeping and assists me in keeping my boss from believing falsely that he actually runs the place.)

Traffic Lady is a terrific lady but while she knows our traffic program and bookkeeping and advertising (any one alone adequate to assure her a place of honor in the afterlife), she can't do anything on-air. She doesn't have the voice or the know-how, and doesn't know how our broadcast software works except to push one button to start if if the boss forgot to put it back on 'automatic play'. Which means it's up to me to cover our 'live' shifts, on top of my regular job. The rest of the time the station is driven by the computer, which is managed by... me.

So for the past few days I've been dragging my butt out of bed at 4am and starting work at 5am latest. I do the morning drive show until 9am, then do my normal job until 3:30pm, go back on the air until 5:30-ish, and then go home.

But wait!

In the past few weeks there have been countless civic meetings, and yesterday (oh joy of joys!) was election day for the municipalities here. So after my already-marathon day, I got the unmitigated joy of covering the elections returns, dead and in person from the elections center while boss sat at the studios pushing buttons to tie me into the on-air stream.

I finally got home last night about 10:30 and had to write my report for the news. I was supposed to record it, but after uttering countless colorful non-euphemistic terms in reference to the idea, I instead opted to email in my report and crawl into bed.

(It was short-lived sleeping bliss, because daughter's ex-boyfriend came in and got locked in the bathroom. We had to go get the landlord to break down the door to get him out. But I digress.)

To his credit (or maybe because he saw the crazed "I-swear-I'm-really-gonna-quit-right-now-but-not-until-after-I-kill-the-computers" look in my eyes), Boss went back on the air today. He was raspy and clicking the mic off about every thirty seconds to cough, but he braved on.

And out of the goodness of his heart, he let me come home half an hour early, after I spent most of the day playing catch-up with all of our web stuff, PSA's (public service announcements), and FCC files. I was planning to do some system upgrades tomorrow but can't - there are at least two meetings I have to attend. I do have to attend, too, if we're going to cover those things for the news - Boss has been banned from most public places due to his extreme sensitivity on the air (if you think Dangerspouse and crew were rough...)

Case in point #2:

I get phoned at 2:30am on a semi-regular basis because our software failed or Traffic Lady forgot to load the new schedule and the computer locks on dead air. Or if it's not at 2:30am, it will be at 8pm on the night that I finish early and think I will actually get a full night's sleep. Of course, those nights Boss is careful not to wake me until I'm fully asleep and will be sure not to fall back asleep after.

When friend was here from Quebec, I think one night I got a call at 7:30pm or thereabouts... and at 9:30pm... And at 5am the next morning... and 5:10am, and 5:15am...

Often the earth-shattering question of the moment is, "How do you spell knave?" (That's a verbatim, by the way. Boss has an engineering degree and got through reams of FCC red tape but hasn't mastered the art of using a dictionary.)

Case in point #3:

Being in broadcasting offers you a wonderful facet to your life: you're never quite sure who you are or who your friends are. In some cases, literally.

Most, but not all, on-air personalities (jocks, news, whatever) use a pseudonym. I don't know about Howard Stern but it wouldn't surprise me to know that his name is actually Jean Smith. I was no exception.

I was only thinking in terms of not wanting anyone to know that the person on the radio often washed clothes in her bathtub because she couldn't afford the laundromat, lived in a house with holes in the wall, and drove a beat-up Pinto. I didn't find out about groupies and stalkers and other assorted crazies until later, when I was really glad I didn't use my real name on the air!

Or I didn't use ALL of my real name on the air. I used my real first name, because it as unusual enough I figured people would ASSUME it was a fake (and they have, over and over again, lol.) But instead of using my real surname, I used my middle name for a surname. Okay, not terribly imaginative but it worked for me.

Years ago, every time I walked into the local grocery store, I was stopped by the same woman who talked to me for at least half an hour, asking me how my kids were, commenting if I lost or gained weight, changed my hairdo, etc. She wished me happy birthday, ruffled my kids' hair, and so on. She always called me by my first name. And to this day, I haven't got the slightest idea who she was. She thought she was my bosom buddy and lifelong friend. And maybe she was, who knows? If I ever find out for sure, I'll let you know.

I love this job.

Quick amendment. I know I spoke of radio groupies before and I want to clarify that not everyone who speaks to me who's heard me on the radio is a groupie. That classification is reserved for the people who, upon first meeting me, act and speak like they're related to me, and in some cases actually begin telling me what to do. They may also include people who, upon first meeting me, proceed to tell me what I had for dinner the previous night and what I was wearing when I ate. That's particularly true if I ate at home the previous night.

If you don't fit into that category, chances are that you're not a radio groupie and if you say hi, I'll be honored and tickled pink to know that you like listening to me when I'm on the air!

I don't know for sure if Church Guy falls into that category. If he's who I think he is, he's a middle-to-older Hispanic man. In his world, depending on how strict his upbringing, a man didn't approach a woman without going to her father. And since my father doesn't live anywhere near, he went to the nearest person to that category. He might even have believed that this was my dad rather than my late ex-husband's father. If that's his reason - if he's just sweet and old-fashioned, he might not be so bad. But I reserve judgment until I know what's really behind the decidedly uncommon approach!

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )