Different Styles

       So why the empty feeling? I haven't had a vision in several years. Haven't heard fiom the spirits since right after the documentary.
       I immersed myself in more books about reincarnation including several books by Ruth Montgomery, a spiritualist who would sit at a typewriter and give herself over to the spirits. She'd type a question, then just sit there with her fingers poised over the typewriter keys. She believed that the messages her fingers typed in response to the questions came from a group of spirits whose purpose was to enlighten the world on the reality of life after death, reincarnation, and the path to God.
       One day in the newspaper I read an article about a group of mostly Baby Boomers who described their philosophy as "New Age." I'd never heard the term, but the further I read, the more excited I got. They believed the same things I did! I knew very few people who shared my ideas. But according to this, there were thousands all over the country. The title in itself was a relief -- I'd no longer have to use the term "occult" to describe my beliefs.
       My radio success in Johnson City caught other station managers' attention. From time to time I received job offers.  For nearly four years I had turned them all down. I loved Johnson Ciry, and my work, and the staff.
       In radio, cities are ranked by population into "markets." Usually, the larger the market where you work, the more money you make, and the more successful you are considered. Johnson City was about the eighty-fifth marker. Every time I turned down an offer in a larger area, a question nagged at me:  Could I make it in the big time?
       Eventually the question wore me down. I had to frnd out. No matter how happy I am in my work here, I told myself, if I don't give a larger market a try, the opportunity may pass. I was willing to accept failure as the possible price for finding out.
       WGKX - FM in Memphis, known as KIX 106, made me an offer. It was in about the fifty-third size radio market, a nice move up. And it played Country. As much as I'd enjoyed Johnson City, I had missed country music.
       The offer wasn't perfect. The manager's first choice for program director had accepted the position then bowed out a couple days later. The manager made it clear from the beginning that I was second choice. But I've gained others' full confidence after working with them a while, I reasoned. Surely I can overcome the resistance here too.
       Inki and I moved to Memphis. Eager to prove I could be successful in a larger market, I immersed myself in making plans and carrying them out.
       One off-work afternoon, I meandered through a boat show. I'd intended only to relax a couple hours. Instead I left with an appointment to check out a partially-built, custom-made, seventeen foot runabout/ski boat with inboard/outboard motor.
       I loved water and small boats. And I could make one more payment a month. The salesman edged me over a few objections. I left with a signed agreement to purchase the boat when it was completed in a month. Besides, Keyli, my current romantic interest, would enjoy it too.
       I had met Keyli at a remote broadcast in Johnson City after Maria had left. Between her alluring almond eyes and her southern accent, I didn't catch her name at first. "Keyli," she repeated. "'Key,' like a car key, and 'lee,' as in Robert E. Lee. Keyli."
       Life had its ups and downs in Memphis, but through them all I kept in contact with Keyli. I told her about my beliefs in reincarnation and she joined me in the New Age thinking. The strong bond we felt from the beginning of our friendship convinced us we must have been together in previous lifetimes. It seemed destiny had brought us together now.
       But I was cautious. It seemed like everyone who got to know me very well rejected me. In both work and personal relationships, I'd been through way too many cycles: first, attraction; then a honeymoon season where all went well; when people got to know me we became disillusioned with each other; then we'd separate -- I'd go on to another job or another girlfriend or wife thinking maybe this would be the situation that would bring me happiness.
       At Johnson City, though, I'd proved I could do better. My efforts to be personable paid off.  Rather than turning sour, my working relationships got better and better. The staff actually wanted me to stay -- not just management, everyone. They even gave me a going away party. Had I conquered the ugly cycle at work? Would my success carry over into a romantic relationship? I couldn't stand another rejection.
       There was no question I was Number One in Keyli's mind. Her admiring eyes and assurances convinced me we could face forever together.
       Unfortunately, overcoming the resistance of this manager was a larger-than-life challenge. Our management styles did not mesh well. And perhaps I was too direct about my concerns.
       A month before Keyli and I planned to marry, the radio station handed me a real wallop -- a pink slip.
       Even though our management styles clashed, the manager liked me, thought I was a good announcer, and offered me a job announcing.
       "I really appreciate your offer," I told him, "but I plan to move in the direction of programming and management, rather than announcing."
       "Why don't you stay for a month, anyway, while you look for a new job. We'll keep you on the payroll. You can use the station phone for contacts."
       I could hardly believe my ears. When most stations fired an employee, they ran them off the property and didn't give another thought about their well-being. I accepted his generous offer.
       That evening I told Keyli. "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is ... I won't have any trouble getting off time for a honeymoon."
       "Wonderful!" she exulted.
       "Don't be too quick," I cautioned. "The bad news is .. ."
       "I'm looking for a job."
       "I got fired today."
       We discussed things a bit before I suggested, "Keyli, radio is a very unstable profession. If you marry me, you'll likely have to face this sort of thing again some day.  And no one knows how often! You might have to leave a city you love."
       "I don't care," she said. "I love you."
       "Just because I was the Number One disc jockey in the nation when you met me doesn't mean life will always go that well. Maybe you ought to reconsider. I'll understand if you want to back out. Life with me could ..."
       "No!" she interrupted. "I don't want to back out! I don't care how many jobs you lose! I don't care how many times we have to move! Losing a job is much too small a thing to interfere with my love for you!"
       So we married as planned, honeymooned in Mexico, and came back to Memphis. I continued looking for work from KIX 106.
       Sure losing a job was a downer, but anyone could get fired sometime in their working years. No sense letting it get me down. My reputation was good. And well-known.
       Before long, I had a choice. Though I'm not at all fond of cold weather, the position of operations manager at WGAR - AM/FM in Cleveland, Ohio was more temptation than I could refuse. Cleveland was only a few hours' drive from Jodi. The job was in management. The expectations seemed reasonable. And Cleveland was about the twentieth largest market in the country. A good move up!
       By the time I arrived, the company had already hired three broadcasting consultants to evaluate the market potential. I looked over their predictions then did my own market research. I devised a format to meet the unique tastes of our target audience in Cleveland. After some calculating of my own, I felt we could do better than any of the consultants' predictions and set about to make it happen. Only time would tell. I wavered between eager and anxious for our first ratings.
       Jodi graduated from high school while I lived in Cleveland. As I sat in the football stadium watching her march by in cap and gown, I remembered the day she was born and all the hope I had then of being a good father. I relived her departure when she was only eighteen months old. I remembered the summer vacations she stayed with me and the myriad motel visits when I drove to see her. I relived spending every Christmas with her.
       Yes, I'd missed out on some great job opportunities because I wouldn't move more than a day's drive away from Jodi. That didn't matter. There wasn't one sacrifice that wasn't worth the trouble. Susan had been fair with me and had raised Jodi well. And I'd helped all I could. Pride swelled in me as I thought about the beautiful young lady Jodi had grown to be -- both inside and out.
       One day at the station, our morning announcer interviewed a numerologist on air. Nancy touted the benefits of determining fortune and fate through a system of exchanging numbers for letters, adding them up, and determining the positive or negative value. According to numerology, you could also take someone's name and determine their personality, to a degree.
       Unhappy with yourself? Change your name to fit a number for a personality you like, and voila! New person. How about that house you want to buy? Add up the street address, use the formula to change names into numbers, and, if it's a positive number, the house is for you. If not, avoid it! Looking for a spouse? Use the formula on the name of someone who interests you. If it's a compatible number with yours, proceed. If not, keep looking.
       Nancy's theories and testimonies fascinated me. I made a point to meet her before she left the station. It didn't take her long to sense my interest. She invited me to bring my wife to her home for more information.
       Keyli and I visited Nancy a few evenings later. Over the ensuing months, we became good friends, discussing numerology, reincarnation, astrology, spiritualism, and more. We also attended some of the meetings she held in her home featuring local, everyday people who had developed some skill as mediums or numerologists. Nancy was a wonderful person with a warm and enthusiastic personality.
       Numerology became a big part of our lives. Many times we pored over charts on Nancy's kitchen table, planning our work and personal lives. She also became a popular radio guest on our morning show, doing numerology readings for listeners.
Everything seemed to be going well at the station. Then it was finally time to get the ratings report.
       The very first rating period I was there, our AM/FM signals beat the consultants' projected highest possible figures, moving into third place in the city. Our morning announcer was rated second, as well.
       I was jubilant! I could be successful in larger markets!
       The staff worked hard and had a great time. Our ratings continued to inch upward. We got a lot of attention from Cleveland listeners and the local press.  Even the national radio trade magazines were writing stories about our success. We had gone far beyond the ratings the station had ever attained or hoped to attain as a country station, and we were within challenging distance of its former glory ratings when it was a powerhouse pop station. All went well until the manager left.
       The new general manager's experience was in sales, not programming; in rock music, not country. And his management style was far different than mine. Not wrong, necessarily. But very, very different. Right away, I started looking for another job.
       But I like Cleveland, I pondered one day. So does my wife. Why let Darrel run me off. If I stay, perhaps I can move up in the chain of stations this company owns.
       Besides, I liked challenges. I had a track record of remarkable success at this station. I'd had numerous compliments from the home office, from people whom I highly respected. Since I was doing a better job than anyone else had, even beating the best projections for the station, I figured that management would recognize my value to the company. Surely we could find a way to settle our differences.
       So I quit looking elsewhere and fought hard for the programming I believed would keep the ratings soaring. Did I fight too hard?


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