Sunday afternoon a car door slammed in the parking lot. I glanced at my watch: 12:45. Shortly the station door squeaked open then closed. Steps led toward the control room.
"Hi, Annette," the morning announcer greeted. "Hey! It's great to have you back!"
Whew. My newest employee did show up! Even on time!
I went out in the hall and greeted Annette. I mentioned a fairly new FCC rule. She double-checked a couple things about format. "I'll be in my office if you need anything," I told her. "Feel free to come get me anytime."
"Thank you. I'm glad someone will be around in case I get in a bind."
I disappeared into my office. The last thing a new employee needed was the boss standing around watching her work!
But I did listen to the radio signal as I planned my week. Her first break was clean. Then several more. Time for a deserved compliment.
Annette looked up when I poked my head in the control room.
"Congratulations! You're doing a great job on the breaks."
Her eyes widened. "Well, thank you," she stammered.
"Just relax. You're doing fine. If you need anything, you know where I'll be."
A little after 5:00 I dropped into the control room again. "How's it feel by now to be back on the board?"
"Good." Annette smiled and looked back at the control board. "I feel kind of rusty, but it's coming back."
"You're doing a good job."
She scrunched her nose and shook her head. "But I have so much to learn."
"It'll come in time. And we'll spend some more time in training."
"I'm planning to go on learning for a lot of centuries. Guess I shouldn't expect to master everything about radio in my first day back at work."
Her comment caught me by surprise. Lot of centuries? What's she mean? "Like in another lifetime?" I asked.
"Yeah, you could say it that way."
I caught a glimpse of the clock. "Oops. I'd better get out of your way so you can be ready for the next break. You're doing so well you don't need anyone looking over your shoulder. I'm going to take off... if you feel comfortable."
"Yeah, I think I'll be OK."
"Great. See you next week."
Too bad the "another lifetime" discussion didn't come up earlier, I thought as I climbed into my Jeep. Looks like there may be an opportunity for some spiritual fellowship yet.
Just the possibility of talking about spiritual things with another human excited me. When I arrived home, I meditated, then immersed myself in a new book. It predicted that around the turn of the century cataclysmic changes would usher in a new age of peace. The predictions of the earth shifting on its axis and resultant weather changes and natural catastrophes fascinated me.
Frankly, some days it seemed like the station had already shifted on its axis and it might self-destruct any minute. Often when I communicated instructions, I double- and triple-checked to be sure the recipients understood. Still, practically before Inki could turn around, someone would be doing just the opposite of what I'd told them.
Like one morning when the control room was empty ... again. Dale didn't seem to remember "Stay" as well as Inki did.
"Where's Dale?" I asked Jennifer.
She looked up from a column of figures. "I don't know. Isn't he in the control room?"
"Not unless he just became invisible."
I looked in the production room. There he sat, taping a commercial. I snapped open the door. "Somehow, I get the idea you're not at the control board."
He punched the recorder off. "Just taping a couple commercials in between things," he drawled.
"Is your next break set up?"
"Not yet. I'll get to it in a minute."
"Have you checked the clock lately?"
He looked up at the clock, then exploded out of his chair and in to the control board. Hands, tapes, and knobs flew. Information from the satellite network meant only for the station staff was broadcast to much of middle and western Tennessee, then cut off midword as a local commercial started. Dale cut the last commercial short and still blundered into the middle of a song as he rejoined the network.
When the network played again, he sighed and wiped his hand across his forehead. "Boy, I blew that one."
"I'd agree with your assessment," I said. "Any idea why?"
"I just didn't watch the clock close enough. I'll watch better after this."
"Do you remember us talking about not leaving the control room during a shift?" I asked.
"Yeah, but there's time sometimes to cut a commercial."
"Was there this time?"
"I just wasn't watching dose enough."
"And a bunch of other times you weren't watching closely enough either. Right?"
"Well ... yeah. I'll watch closer."
"How about you just following the new policy of staying at the control board when it's your shift?"
So much for excellence!
Excellence seemed absent in my spiritual life as well. As little or much as I practiced self-hypnosis or meditated or read, I didn't seem to be getting any answers from within myself or from spirits that could guide me.
Maybe the minister in Everett was right, I considered, one evening as I meditated. Maybe I ought to get out of radio and go to seminary. Maybe if I were a minister, I'd be closer to God.
I dialed the telephone. "Pastor Joe, I've been thinking about what you said about my becoming a minister ..."
"Jay, I knew it!" he enthused. "I just knew you would!"
He gave me the address and phone number for the seminary. I telephoned the next day. Several days later, I noted the return address on a large envelope from my mailbox. Standing on the porch, I ripped into the packet and began reading. Academic requirements -- I'll make that. Cost -- It'll be a scramble if I can get that much money together by mid-September. References -- Pastor Joe promised me a good one. Deadline -- My heart sank.
If I had been just a day or two late, I'd have pushed to have them consider me. Records and applications could be faxed. But...
I went inside and plopped onto the ugliest orange love seat that any furniture manufacturer had ever thought up. Desperate for furniture, I'd bought it and the rest of my furniture at a motel used furniture sale. The love seat wasn't particularly comfortable, but it had been cheap.
I looked at the application again -- "Final date for consideration as a student: July 10." I glanced at today's date -- August 16.
"God," I said, "I thought I'd finally found what was right for me. But it's not working out any better than most things I've tried in the last few years. Is it the wrong thing? Or ... maybe ... just the wrong timing?"
Well ... I could stand most anything for a while. This year I'd give the station every ounce of energy I had. I'd save money, get all the records and references I needed, and have my application into the seminary at least four months early for next year.
But for now, back to work. There were policies to be evaluated, announcers to communicate with, salespeople to train, sales to do myself, schedules to adjust, research to do, customers with whom to arrange remote broadcasts, commercials to tape, ball games to find sponsors for, technical adjustments to make, and a new announcer to train.
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