High Expectations


       At six one evening, Darrel called me into his office. "I haven't been happy with your performance, Jay. I've hired someone to take your place." He turned, picked up a box from beside his chair, and offered it to me. "Here's a box for the personal effects from your desk. You need to clean it out.., now."
       He followed me to my office and stood guard as if to keep me from carrying off the desk. When I finished, he escorted me out. We stepped through the front door. He held out his hand, open palm up. "The key!"
       "Oh yeah." The firing had happened so quickly I hadn't even thought about the key. I sat the box down on the walk, pulled my keys from my pocket, twisted the station key off the ring, and handed it to him.
       He snapped his fingers closed around the key, whirled, yanked the door open, and strode down the hall.
       I trudged to my car, hardly believing the last few minutes. Sure. It was obvious Darrel and I didn't see eye to eye. But getting fired? After I turned the station around and brought them success they didn't dream possible?
       Defeat. Defeat spit from the jaws of success.
       At home, I hugged Keyli. "I'm not really a prophet, but ..."
       She tipped her head up, her dark eyes searching mine. "Huh?"
       "Remember my saying that radio is an unstable profession?"
       "Yeah."
       "I knew it was always possible I could get fired again someday. I didn't think it would be from the next job."
       Keyli's left eyebrow jutted up. "Are you saying .. .?" Letting her half-question hang, she searched my eyes.
       "I'm saying, I just got fired."
       "How could they?"
       "Pretty easily, I guess."
       "But look what you did for them! Doesn't that mean anything?"
       "That's what makes it so frustrating. Before Darrel arrived, I was the golden boy of the company. The president of the national chain that owns this station bragged to others about my performance. And last time he was here he was full of praise. 'Jay, we're so proud of what you're doing. We're thrilled with the success of the station. It's obvious you're the stimulus behind it. We're thrilled to have you with our company.'"
       "So where is he now?" Keyli asked.
       "Nowhere to be seen -- right alongside the other corporate officers that praised me up one side and down the other a few months ago."
       "So, what did he use for a reason to fire you?"
       "Reason? Who needs a reason?" I sneered. "He gave some excuses. Like, I didn't follow all the recommendations the chain program director gave. That's so phony! I specifically asked Darrel, 'Am I to treat his recommendations as suggestions or directives? Am I supposed to implement them no matter what I think? Or do I still have the choice to use what I think is valuable and not use what I don't think is right for our station?' Of course I did tell him I wasn't responsible for any downturns in the ratings if I wasn't actually making the programming decisions."
       "And what did he say?"
       "He assured me I was still in charge of programming and I could make the choice. And every one of the recommendations were over very minor things. After the written recommendations arrived, I asked again, 'Do I have to implement these changes or do I have the choice what to use and what not to use?' He still assured me it was my choice. So I used some and didn't use what seemed inappropriate for our station and our goals. It surely seems, though, that the fact that I made a choice was a major part of his excuse for firing me."
       I slumped into my chair at the table. "The only 'reason' he had was my anger. I did lose my temper twice. Maybe three times."
       Both Keyli and I picked at dinner.
       "Can you find a job here?" Keyli asked.
       "I don't know."
       "I only have a couple months left in nursing school."
       "Whatever happens, you can finish school. But what if I can get a lot better job some other place?"
       "I really don't want to move."
       "I didn't want to get fired either."
       The next morning I started calling radio contacts. Even though I'd just been fired, my reputation was known. Since my daughter was an adult now, I didn't limit my search to within driving distance of her home.
       Between calls, I evaluated my contribution to the disease at the last jobs. Two firings in a row was more than enough.
       One evening I heard from a disc jockey who had worked for me in another area. I'd fired him then relented after he begged and pleaded for an hour, assuring me he'd live by stringent guidelines. He met his end of the bargain. More than a year later, he left our station and I hadn't heard from him since.
But after I was fired, he called, "Heard you were fired, Jay. I just wanted to encourage you. You're good at what you do. You'll find another job."
       "So how's it going for you?" I asked.
       "Well," he said. "You may be interested to know, I got a chance to go into programming. I grabbed it. Finally, a chance to run radio the way I knew it should be run!
       "Just one problem," he continued. "Our station's ratings took a nose-dive. And nothing I did helped. One day I said to myself, 'My way's not working. Who's succeeding in programming?' Immediately I thought of you. You did wonders in Johnson City. And repeated them in Cleveland. So, whenever I had to make a decision, I started asking myself, 'What would Jay do!?'
       You know, Jay, for being so stupid when you were my supervisor and I had all the answers, you sure got smart. As soon as I started doing things the way I thought you would, the ratings turned around and headed up again. I'm doing really well. And I've got you to thank. With the record you've got, Jay, you're not going to have any trouble finding another job."
       His call encouraged me.
       Shortly, out of Cleveland's ashes rose San Francisco. At KNEW, part of an AM/FM combination, the AM station was suffering big losses -- had been going downhill fast for a year. Usually when AM listeners abandon a station and go to FM, it's extremely hard to get them back. Besides, there were more than eighty radio stations in the San Francisco area. They were looking for a new program director who would also be the afternoon drive announcer. My interest in the job centered around expectations. Were they realistic?
       From the interview, all looked bright. My own figuring assured me their goals were reasonable. Was this finally the job where I could use my skills and be appreciated?
       After the last fiasco, I wanted to give myself every advantage - I used numerology to check the name San Francisco, the call letters of the station, the names of people at the station I'd be working with, apartment addresses. Everything checked out fine except my name. But with changing Jay to just the letter J, the number went from negative to positive. So I changed my radio name from Jay Christian to J. Christian. Everything was set for success!
       It was exciting to be in a big company in the fourth-largest radio market in the country. My first goal was to stop the ratings from going down. If we could just slow the descent for the first ratings period, I'd be happy. If we were flat -- going neither up or down -- I'd be thrilled. That would mean the decline was over and we were starting back up.
       I researched market and music. I chose new music, coached a crew of top-notch announcers, devised contests, and took care of a host of details besides filling the afternoon announcer position.
       Keyli finished school in Cleveland then joined Inki and me in the San Francisco area. It didn't take her long to feel at home there.
       Life had never looked brighter on all fronts. Though I received only rare visions, I checked decisions with numerology. Wasn't that an assurance of knowing the right decisions to prepare for tomorrow? Wasn't it practically a guarantee for success?
At home, Keyli and I continued to get along well. We discussed decisions sanely --no yelling or temper tantrums. In our entire dating and marriage relationship we had never even argued. I had overcome the nasty moods that had soured past relationships -- Keyli had never had to endure them. Finally, I thought occasionally, I've broken the negative cycles that ruined my life before. Keyli's sparkling, almond eyes, her warm smile, her charm assured me over and over that I was Number One to her no matter what the world around me thought. Life was good!
       "Don't you ever get any ideas about leaving me," Keyli crooned, smiling up into my eyes, "'cause I'm gonna love you the rest of your life and I'll never in a dozen lifetimes let you go without the biggest fight any divorce court ever dreamed of."
       She'd said this on occasion before. I always responded the same: "I hope you always want to stay. But if you ever change your mind, I'll be the easiest guy in the world to get rid of. I love you enough to want you to be happy."
       Keyli found a job she loved, and I felt the same about mine. After twenty years of aiming high and working hard, of discouraging failures and heartening successes, I'd made it to the big time. Probably less than five percent of those who work in radio ever made it to a position of this prestige in a market the size of the San Francisco area. I was well paid to do a job I loved in the specific place where I wanted to live. And I was getting along with the staff.
       One question remained. I'd made it to the big time. Could I succeed here? We wouldn't know about that until ratings.
       At the staff Christmas party the general manager took me aside and said, "We're real happy with your performance, J. We hope you're with us for a long time." Shortly, the preliminary ratings were released. The general manager, operations manager, and I stood at the fax machine watching every line as it printed. First came the 12+ rating. We were down. But then the 25 to 54 ratings line printed. I couldn't believe my eyes. I stared at it.
       "Do you see that?" I exploded. "Our target audience! Up two tenths of a point!"
       "Great!" one of them said.
       I couldn't contain my delight. "Up. From 1.2 to 1.4. In the first quarter! We didn't just slow or stop the decline! We did both and started back up!"
       In the next few days, all of us congratulated the announcers and other staff and rejoiced over our success.
       Karma was finally smiling on me!
       Weeks later when I quit spinning records at 7:00 p.m. I noticed that Ron, the operations manager, was still in his office. Why's he still here tonight? I wondered.
       As I approached my office, he stepped into the hall. "Can we talk?"
       Ron was usually friendly, jovial. Now his voice sounded strained. My shoulders tensed. "Sure," I said, trying to sound casual.
       He motioned me to a chair. "Uh-h-h," he stuttered, staring first at my left shoulder, then at the floor.
       Why won't he look me in the eye? I wondered.
       Ron slouched into the chair behind his desk. Our eyes met. Silence hung like a bomb waiting to explode. Finally I forced words between dry lips. "What's happening?"
       He looked down at his cluttered desktop and came right to the point. "The company's decided to make some changes. Unfortunately, you're one of them. As of now, you're done as program director."

 

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