Slice of Life

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(Pictured: I’d eat it.)

It happened at radio stations from time immemorial—somebody orders a pizza for lunch or dinner, and whatever they don’t eat sits on the counter in the break room for anybody to grab a slice. There’s not a single radio jock alive who hasn’t taken advantage of such good fortune. Sometimes it gets put in the station refrigerator instead of being left on the counter, but it doesn’t matter. We’re still gonna eat it, and we don’t care if it’s cold. But it seems to me that COVID-19 has killed the food-on-the-counter tradition. Most of us are not inclined to mess with stuff when we don’t know where it’s been. Hand sanitizer is not a good pizza topping.

(Digression: I tweeted general thanks to whoever made leftover pizza available at my station one day, and I got a response from Chicago radio legend Fred Winston, who was following me at the time, asking how long it had been sitting out on the counter. It was one of my greatest thrills in radio. Alas, Fred blocked me several years ago. I choose my heroes wisely and they don’t often disappoint me, but he did, and it still stings a bit.)

Also dead is the dish of candy on the desk. I used to cruise the sales office when everybody was gone, early in the evening or on the weekend, looking for a sugar fix, but I found nothing so often that I quit doing it. I once heard of a company that told people to take the candy dishes off their desks because somebody from their health insurer was paying a visit, and they didn’t want that person to see them. You could apparently fill up a drawer with Ding Dongs and Butterfingers if you wanted, but keep it out of sight.

(Further digression: I remember one especially long and stressful day at the radio station when, late in the afternoon, I found a package of Oreo cookies in my desk that I’d forgotten about. It redeemed the whole day.)

I occasionally joke on the air about having eaten exactly one million sandwiches in studios, but realistically, it’s got to be a few hundred by now. These days, it’s usually a pre-made sandwich from our neighborhood convenience store, which is cheap, edible, and best of all, simple. Simple is key, although my very first Christmas Day on the air, in 1979, I ate turkey and dressing in the studio, packed by my mother, leftovers from our Christmas Eve dinner.

Occasionally The Mrs. will suggest that I take leftovers from home, but I like to get out of the house precisely so I don’t have to eat what we’re eating at home.

I wonder if COVID will interfere with the broadcast-and-print newsroom tradition of Election Night pizza. In past years, you could be sure that everybody who worked on Election Night coverage was fueled by a slice or two. I have written before about a similar phenomenon that sometimes happens on radio station blizzard days. When staffers are likely to be shut in for a while, if only for a long day, food appears in the break room, either delivered or picked up from a grocery or convenience store. One blizzard day, the menu consisted exclusively of Doritos, Oreos, and Chips Ahoy. As one colleague said to me, “It’s not a blizzard, it’s a party.”

The company I currently work for has a fairly liberal attitude toward beer in the building. One of the stations does a regular feature with a local brewery, and it’s not unusual to find a few bottles at large in the fridge. We don’t drink ’em while we’re on the clock, but people who are done for the day have been known to crack one in the office, and nobody gets weird about it. Maybe that’s a Wisconsin thing, though.

Every profession has food-in-the-office stories, not just radio. If you have stories from your job, no matter what the job, please share them.

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life

  1. mikehagerty

    The NPR station in Sacramento where I work is taking the COVID protocols very seriously. There is no communal food until further notice.

    I see my old station (I was laid off in January) is still laying food out on the assignment desk and letting the crew have at it.

    I like my odds better now.

    We are discussing the Election Night pizza tradition, however—and it may end up personal-size pizzas for every participant, just to be safe.

  2. TimMoore

    Although not working anymore, the last company I worked for made concrete finishing products. They had 3 giant kilns that after firing had to be opened .Needless to say, in the summer it approached 100 in there.. They always had a freezer full of Popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and would bring them around to the workers…great place!

  3. Bragging on myself, here, but I am proud of this story:
    I was working for a newspaper some years ago when the HR department announced a naming contest for some sort of new internal award — one of those silly things that is given twice and then forgotten.
    For some reason I scrolled all the way to the bottom and found they’d buried the lede: The prize for the winning entry was either $500 or $1,000.
    “I bet none of my cynical colleagues read that far,” I thought, “and if I submit some name that’s bland and acceptable and makes a good acronym, I’ll win, easily.”
    And that’s exactly what happened.
    When they announced my windfall to the whole company I felt a little bad about it.
    So I spent part of the money buying pizza for everyone in the newsroom — both dayside and nightside (thus making lots of friends on the nightside, since they are usually left out when treats are furnished for the dayside.)
    And that is my proudest food-on-the-job story.

  4. Yah Shure

    Every year in late January, Pearson’s Candy Company would deliver what had to have been a 10-pound Salted Nut Roll bar to the AM/FM station in St. Paul where I worked. Its purpose was to spark on-air buzz for the St. Paul Winter Carnival and, not coincidentally, that candy maker located a couple of miles away on West 7th Street. The entire staff would graduate with honors from Sugar High for days on end, with slabs being carved from the giant candy bar, plopped onto paper plates and hustled off to every corner of the building. It felt like the best Halloween ever.

    Or it did for a few days. Between the size of the thing and the fact that no one thought to bring in a roll of plastic wrap, the Salted Nut Roll’s caramel and nougat center would begin to dry out, morphing into either a suitable pothole patching substitute or whatever that stuff was that MCA Records used to press into LPs. The plastic knives would start to break, leaving those who hadn’t grown sick of too much of a good thing to grab hunks and rip them off of the remaining mass. Eventually, someone would mercifully dispose of the carcass, and all would be forgotten until the following January.

  5. Tim M

    Several thousand years ago, as an employee of Kimball Broadcasting Corporation early in my career, I worked a weekday afternoon shift on the FM (“Matinee In Stereo”) and, because I was a musician with side gigs, was dragooned into filling in occasionally for the jock who did the Saturday night Big Band show on the AM – located six miles up the road. I was generously allowed to “train” once for the Big Band Cavalcade with the jock who did it regularly.

    I was more than familiar with the music, so the “training session” was pretty much a boondoggle. Around 10 PM he asked if I was hungry. Sure. “Watch this,” he said. When the Benny Goodman cut ended, he back-announced it, gave the standard time/temp/ID, and ad-libbed, “boy, I’m telling ya, right about now a big ole’ Jess and Nick’s pizza would taste so good! Lotsa toppings, swimmin’ in cheese, hot and fresh – man, I’m tellin’ ya, Jess and Nick’s is my all-time favorite pizza.” Half an hour later, a big, hot Jess and Nick’s pizza delivery guy was buzzing to be let in the front door of the station.

    The regular jock told me he’d long ago discovered that the nearby Jess and Nick’s pizza parlor ALWAYS had the station on, and one time he just ad-libbed this unsold, unlogged promo to see what would happen. Sure enough, the delivery car arrived shortly thereafter, and the kid doing the delivery said after the mention, they’d had six calls for delivery, and “the boss” just wanted to thank him.

    Completely unlawful, of course; but the GM and SM never listened after 10 PM on Saturday, or so the regular jock told me; and every time I did the Saturday-night fill-in, I availed myself of a free pizza.

  6. Thanks to all for your stories. I know of several jocks who tell the “boy I’m hungry for a XXX pizza” story, although it’s not something I ever did myself. At my current station, for the last couple of summers, a local insurance agent and station client has sent over a freezer full of ice-cream bars, which usually lasted two or three weeks and made for a delightful treat. They did not do it this past summer, however. My station is doing an annual benefit radiothon this week, and they’ve ordered in food for the staff, but everything is individually wrapped and non-communal.

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