Close to the End

       Is that what an out-of-body experience is like? I wondered.
       First thing the next morning I checked the car. Yes, the alarm was set. And yes, my sunglasses hung from the mirror, exactly as I'd seen them the night before.
       The spirits are still watching out for me, I concluded. My karma must have just needed for me to work through this time without spirit contact.
       Life looked brighter again. I prayed with more intensity for answers. And then one morning I was in vision again. I saw a toddler standing on the roof of an old building and sensed that it was myself. A door with small glass panes opened into an apartment and I stood on the roof -- the apartment's large porch. A woman wearing a long dress and a long apron stood to the left of the door, wringing her hands. Two men with brown, slicked-back hair and brown pin-striped suits stood just outside the door. They glanced about and whispered apprehensively.
       Suddenly, I stamped my feet and screamed. As the toddler (me) screamed, words flashed through my adult mind: "My daddy's famous! If you don't let me go, he's going to get you!" Then the toddler (me) turned and ran. At the edge of the roof my little feet kept going. Suddenly, I was falling. Red brick walls and windows with small panes flashed by as I tumbled down ... down ... down ...
       Terror filled me. Even in my child brain, I knew I was going to die! I was still free falling with arms and legs flailing when the vision ended.
       Terror gripped every muscle in my body. My heart pounded in my head. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Calm down, I told myself. Get a grip.
       But besides the terror I'd felt when I saw the vision as a toddler and when I'd experienced my first regression, an added panic gripped. Could it be? No! Surely not! I don't want it to be!
       "Please give me answers, God," I begged. "I don't want to be the reincarnation of anyone famous. I just want to learn what I need to know to work through my negative karma and move to a higher plane. Please help me make sense out of this!"
       No further visions came. The spirits seemed to turn a deaf ear again.
       Deeply frustrated with my spiritual life in general and my questions about the fall in particular, I immersed myself in work. Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was one of the biggest song-recording areas in the country. One of the highlights of working there was meeting and interviewing music stars and being invited to sit in on recording sessions.
       Mingling with stars boosted my morale ... usually. But one morning after I'd moved to WHHY in Montgomery, Alabama, my boss handed me a tape recorder and said, "Go out to the clubhouse and interview someone famous."
       I headed out to the annual charity Celebrity Golf Tournament. The first person I saw was Pat Boone. As he walked out the clubhouse door after the interview, I pushed the rewind button to check the tape. But the recorder switched right back off. I pushed play. Silence. Fast forward. Play. Silence.
       Oh, no! I blew it big time! A great interview and.., now what?
       I scratched my head. I could just ignore it. Act like nothing happened and go interview someone else. Should I tell Pat Boone what happened? He could think I was a complete idiot and tell me, "Tough luck. You had your chance."
       I swallowed hard and leaned out the door. "Pat?" He turned.
       "I feel like a real fool, but I failed to push the 'record' button. If you have a few minutes, could we talk again?"
       He chuckled. "Sure. No problem."
       I made sure the tape recorder was working!
       Interview take-two was just as pleasant as the first. Pat Boone answered my questions with flair ... again. He had a ready smile and positive comments. He seemed genuinely happy. He was totally gracious.
       Many celebrities, even if they'd tried to be nice, would have betrayed themselves with a roll of their eyes, a grimace, or other body language. I knew Pat Boone claimed to be a Christian and his reputation was as squeaky-clean as his traditional white buck shoes. But he was so gracious. So nonjudgmental. Not like a lot of Christians I'd known.
       The lesson in humility didn't seem to hurt my career. A few months later, WHBB in Selma, Alabama, offered me the operations manager position.
       Management! I couldn't stand complacency in radio. I hated to see a job botched when it could be done well with a little dedication to excellence. Here was my chance to make a difference in the profession I loved!
       With my eyes focused on perfection, I jumped at the opportunity.
       Another fact about Selma interested me -- Edgar Cayce had lived there. Through the years since I had attended the self-hypnosis classes, I'd continued reading about him. I joined an Edgar Cayce study group there and thoroughly enjoyed the spiritual fellowship.
       While I lived in Selma, Edgar Cayce's personal secretary, Gladys Davis, and Hugh Lynn Cayce, one of Edgar Cayce's sons, came to dedicate a plaque in front of his father's former photography studio. As well as meeting them and covering the dedication on radio, I scheduled a radio interview with Hugh Lynn. For half an hour we promoted reincarnation and associated beliefs. I enjoyed the interview thoroughly.
       Hugh Lynn seemed to sense my sincere interest. During his stay in Selma, we met for lunch or breakfast several other times. These times had nothing to do with radio. We simply visited as friends. Hugh Lynn was open and honest, kind and sincere. I reveled in the stories he shared -- a number about his parents and some of his own spiritual experiences. Besides the high respect I had for his father, I developed a deep personal bond with Hugh Lynn.
       I was tempted to ask him about my visions of a small boy falling off a roof. But would he confirm my fears? I didn't bring them up.
       Maria and I treasured our friendship -- especially the spiritual fellowship -- and the phone calls and trips between Selma and Wilmington threatened to bankrupt us both. We married and she moved to Selma, complete with pet skunk, Sweet pea. Maria loved animals and animals of all kinds loved her.
       When I felt I'd accomplished everything I could at the station in Selma, I started looking elsewhere. Shortly, WDOD Chattanooga offered me the job of program director at an FM station that was partly religious, partly easy listening and partly anything that anyone would sponsor. The plan was to change it to a rock-and-roll format and challenge the station that was number one -- another rock station.
       I knew I'd miss Selma and the spiritual stimulation of friends in the study group. But neither Maria's psychic powers nor my own meditation showed me any reason not to accept the job.
       As I looked over the situation in Chattanooga, it occurred to me that what they really needed was a country-music station. But I didn't know a thing about country. Besides, I had been hired specifically to put a rock format on the air.
It was hard work -- finding all the music we wanted to play, hiring a complete air staff, organizing the sound of the station, and getting it all done in time to meet our target air date. The budget was too small for a lot of advertising. But we worked hard and had a lot of fun. We did everything we could to get attention by word of mouth. Then came ratings.
       Radio life revolves around ratings. The announcers want to know their individual ratings. Pride plays a part -- it really feels good to know there are a lot of people in the community who listen to your show. But, also, if an announcer's ratings are good, their job is more apt to be secure. Program directors need good ratings to keep their jobs. Sales managers want good ratings so they can sell commercials and their stations can make money. General managers want good ratings for higher salaries, financial success for their stations, and job security. Off-air staff want good ratings because when billings are down during low ratings, jobs may be eliminated.
       Our major competitor usually had ratings in the mid to upperteens. It was a great share of the market. They were quite a bit ahead of everyone else in the area. They had a monster promotional budget, did music and audience research on their own, and, generally, did everything right. If we didn't start off with a decent number for our first rating, we could be in trouble.
       Thinking about her psychic abilities, I asked Maria, "What will our rating be?"
       She closed her eyes. A moment later she tipped her head and raised an eyebrow. "I see a six or something."
       Six? I wondered. I surely wanted it to be higher than that! But ... I suppose we could live with six for the first ratings period with the new format.
       The ratings company representative promised to call us late one afternoon to give us the preliminary numbers. They'd mail the complete report later. My air shift ran from three to seven, so the general manager said he'd take the call and then bring the results to me in the control room.
       Three-thirty. Four o'clock. Four-thirty. Still no Len. I went to his office during a long record. His door was closed. I knocked. No answer. I knocked again. Nothing.
       "Where's Len?" I asked the receptionist.
       "He's gone for the day."
       "Gone? He was supposed to tell me what the ratings were. Did they call?"
       "Yes," she said, "and he left right after he took their call."
       Puzzled, I headed back to the control room. During songs, I got the phone number of the ratings company and called them.
       "Yes," said the female voice on other end of the line, "we did call your station with our report."
       "Could you give it to me again, please? The manager must have forgotten and he left for the day."
       "Let me get them." A moment later she spoke again. "Uh-h-h-h ... did you change format during the ratings period?"
       "No," I said. "We changed just before the ratings started. Why?"
       "Well, I'm sorry, but you got a point six."
       I grabbed pen and paper. "I missed that. A six point what?"
       "No," she said. "POINT six."
       Shock waves rumbled through me. "As in six-tenths of one percent?"
       "You got it."
       I passed the news on to the evening announcer when he came in. In the hallway a little later, I heard him say over the air, "I just got a request from our listener. Don't turn your dial, sir. Here's your song. Don't want to chance losing our entire audience!"
       At home Maria took one look at me and asked, "What's wrong?"
       I collapsed into a kitchen chair. "For years I've been working toward radio programming. Finally got the chance and I blew it."
       "What do you mean?"
       "My first and last chance," I moaned.
       "We got the preliminary ratings. You were right about the six, but I surely didn't understand where the decimal point would be."
       "What was it!"
       "Zero POINT six. As in six-tenths of one percent."
       "So what'll happen?"
       "Well ... Len took the general manager job here right after the ratings period but before we received the results. I don't know him well enough to know how he'll react. But I could give you a pretty good picture of the norm for a general manager who just had their radio station ruined."
       "They'd fire me on the spot."


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