Most Saturday nights, I buy myself a sandwich on the way to the radio station and eat it in the studio while I’m on the air. And I wonder precisely how many meals I have eaten in radio studios over the years.
Back in 1979, I was disappointed to find myself scheduled to work Christmas Day from noon to 6. It was the first major break in the family Christmas routine in my lifetime. To minimize the disruption, I planned to drive the hour from home to the station and back again the same day. Before I left, my mother packed leftovers from our Christmas Eve turkey dinner, and as I began my Christmas broadcast day, I enjoyed what is still the most elegant studio meal of my career.
After that, it was fast-food burgers (back when I still ate those), but in recent years it’s been a lot of sub sandwiches. Many were fetched to me by The Mrs., even before she was The Mrs. I recall having Chinese a couple of times, although a meal like that poses a couple of problems. First, anything requiring utensils raises the degree of difficulty because you need to bring utensils. And second, anything hot tends to get cold, because it’s the nature of the studio meal to be eaten a bite here and a bite there over a lengthy period of time. There is no radio station on Earth that has never had pizza delivered to it, but pizza is problematical for studio dining—greasy fingers and studio equipment don’t mix.
Neither do beverages and studio equipment. Coffee was once ubiquitous in radio studios—no jock would hit the air without a cup in one hand and headphones in the other—so it was never unusual to find coffee rings or stray brown drops on the printed program log used in the studio every day. This also meant a risk of beverages being dumped into sensitive equipment. I have never done this myself, despite the fact that a large insulated mug of Diet Pepsi powers every radio show I do, although every jock has heard stories of such accidents, and may have witnessed them.
A beverage accident prompted one company I worked at to ban all beverages from the studios. Memos were sent, signs were hung, and small tables were placed outside each studio door with signage to make abundantly clear what they were for. I complied, begrudgingly, for one long, miserable night shift—only to discover that the station’s highly paid morning team was exempt from the rule. I decided I wasn’t going to be treated any differently than they were, so I ignored the rule from that point on. So did everybody else, and pretty soon the tables disappeared.
(My beverage mug is a source of great amusement for a couple of people at the company I work for now. It’s a 52-ouncer, which used to be what I required to get through the six-hour night shifts I did back in days of yore. Now I use it primarily because it’s a cheap refill at the local convenience store, and because the next-biggest size, a one-gallon gasoline can, is just too big.)
When I was a little baby disc jockey in the late 70s, smoking was permitted in station buildings, and even in the studios. Cigarettes were as ubiquitous as coffee, and the spongy windscreen over the microphone would permanently hold the aroma. At one place I worked, the back hallway between the studios and the newsroom was designated as a smoking area. I always wondered how our chain-smoking news director failed to set the building on fire, given the way she’d flick butts into wastepaper baskets full of discarded wire copy.
A radio studio is a place with many faces: it’s a stage for performers, a salt mine for the underpaid, a refuge for the maladjusted, a garden of delight for those who love what they do. And sometimes, it’s a dining room.
Note to Patrons: Posts are liable to be light here for the remainder of this week. I suggest you use the time to read some other like-minded blogs, which you can find by clicking “Favorite Waste of Time” at the top of this page. Most of them are better anyhow. Or go play outside. Summer’s nearly over.