Sometimes the jobs we don’t get or don’t take end up being more significant in their way than the ones we do get.
Thirty years ago this month, I came close to achieving the thing I’d dreamed of since I was 10–a real-life radio job. It started when a group at my high school had a fund-raising auction. One of the items up for bid was a 15-minute show on our local radio station. I paid $6.25 for it, and within a couple of weeks made my radio debut. (One of the guys at the station the night I taped the show said he’d be happy to sell me some of his time at $6.25 for 15 minutes.) The show consisted of “Takin’ it to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers, “Seaside Rendezvous” by Queen, one other song I can’t recall at the moment, and Monty Python’s “Spam” sketch, plus my scripted and pseudo-witty jock-talk.
After the taping, the station’s general manager quizzed me about myself, and I said I’d like to work at the station someday. He said, well, gee, you’re welcome to come out on Saturday mornings and hang around, just to see what we do here, and maybe we’ll have a job for you this summer. And so, for the next several Saturdays, I’d drive out, sit in the studio, talk to the jocks or the news guys–and feel like I was in the way. I kept it up for several weeks, waiting for them to offer me an actual job, but when they didn’t, I stopped going. They never called me, and so I didn’t appear on the station again for almost 20 years, until I did some voiceovers for a friend who was working there.
It was nearly that long before I found out precisely why they’d never offered me a job in 1976. A friend who knew the general manager well told me that my hanging-out skills apparently didn’t impress them. Either I should have done more of it, or done better at it, because I made them think I wasn’t interested enough in radio to work for them. Which is crazy, because I was not just interested in radio at age 16, I was consumed by it. But I was also a rather shy individual, especially with people I didn’t know, and especially with people as famous as the local radio guys seemed to me. And that shyness caused me to blow it.
So my first experience with employment in radio was painful. I should have taken it as an omen.
Later this week: All about a job I got, and then decided to give back.