Maria and I shared a spiritual bond that neither of us had enjoyed with any other. Our closeness, even with Maria knowing me so well, meant the world to me. Especially when work started getting stressful again.
The situation felt too familiar. When I looked back, a pattern emerged. I would arrive at a new station with high hopes. I'd do the best job I could and I'd get along fine for awhile. I'd gain the respect of some, but, sooner or later, a coworker or several would get disgruntled and make it their job to make mine difficult. Whether I resigned or got fired, I'd go to a new job with high hopes and the cycle would start over. What was I doing wrong?
Whatever, here I go again.
Toward the end of one interview that seemed to be going well, the manager looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm not interested in a fly-by-nighter for this position. I want someone who's going to commit to our station and be popular with our listeners for some time." He looked down at my resume.
I wasted a trip here, I thought.
"Yeah, every place you've been, you've stayed a year...a year and a half. That's what I like--commitment."
Puzzling over his comment later, I thought back on the people I'd worked with, the radio personalities I'd talked with, the radio trade journals I'd read. Announcers or programmers who stayed very long in any position were a miniscule minority. I realized for the first time what a volatile profession I'd chosen.
Volatile or not, I loved radio. Before long I accepted the job of music director at Baltimore, Maryland. It seemed like a station and job I could enjoy.
Shortly after I arrived, management ordered a new promotional tool -- a thirty-foot white balloon shaped like a blimp. The big blue capital Q on the nose and either side would, hopefully, make people think of Q-104, as we called our station. Its premiere appearance would be atop a fourteen story hotel just off the Beltway.
As soon as the balloon arrived, the general manager scheduled a crew to set it up late the next afternoon. On the roof we reviewed the plan -- two guys would inflate the balloon while I held the nose steady and three others held the larger rear section. It would have been a piece of cake on a nice day.
Unfortunately, as I was tying the front end down, the breeze gusted into a gale. I needed the hands of two men and the strength of five to hold the front steady while I fastened it. "Whew," I sighed when I finished. My arms felt weak. I glanced across to the others. They looked like they were managing fine. My work done, I got curious. Fourteen stories up looks tall. What does fourteen stories down look like?
I walked to the edge of the roof. The cars below looked like the matchbox cars kids collected. The people bustling to and from the hotel looked like so many giant ants scurrying about their hill.
I'd enjoyed the view only a moment when an authoritative voice that sounded like it came from about two feet behind my right ear commanded, "Get Down!"
I didn't ask questions or turn to see who spoke. Instantaneously, I dropped to my knees. I planted my left knee against the two-foot wall around the perimeter of the roof. I gripped the top of the wall like my life depended on it.
The instant I anchored myself, something hit me hard in the middle of the back. So hard that it knocked the air out of me. So hard that my chest and head jerked over the wall, out over fourteen stories of space with hard pavement at the bottom.
The blood drained from my face. I jumped backward, away from the wall. My legs felt like boiled spaghetti. My hands trembled.
Wind whistled over the roof as another gust hit. I glanced around. Everyone else was fighting to hold the rear of the balloon and pull it back toward the tiedown ring. The tie at the rear had apparently come loose and the wind had whipped the balloon into my back.
I checked my tie-down knots -- they were holding -- and rushed to the back of the balloon.
"Jay! Help us!" one of the crew yelled when he saw me.
Another gust hit, nearly tearing the balloon away from the crew again. I grabbed a handhold and fought along with the rest.
By the time the balloon was secured, every person there looked like they'd fought with a heavyweight boxer and lost. We caught our breath in gasps.
We double-checked and triple-checked the knots and stayed by to make sure no gust would launch the balloon into the next state.
"By the way," I asked between gasps, "who warned me?"
Each one scrunched his nose or raised an eyebrow. "What?" several chorused almost together.
"Who warned me to get down when the balloon broke loose?" They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. "We were all busy back here," one said. "Nobody warned you.
That evening I telephoned Maria.
"Jay are you OK!" she asked as soon as she heard my voice. "Yes, fine. Why?"
"Well ... you're thirty. And today... I had a premonition."
I told her the story.
"This was the predicted fall!" she assured me. "I'm positive!"
"But why?" I asked. "Why would the spirits tell me I was going to die at thirty from a fall and then warn me the last minute so I wouldn't?"
"Maybe," she suggested, "because you're destined for something big. Perhaps you've handled karma so well that now you're going to do something really worthwhile in this world."
"Well, whatever, I have some thinking to do. I hadn't planned life beyond thirty."
I prayed: "God, what do I do now?" I read. Nothing gave me direction. I medi- tated. No images or ideas came. Months went by without a single vision. A white fog of uncertainty settled around me: I slept, ate, went to work. But I couldn't see into the fog that covered tomorrow.
Have I done something so negative the spirits wont even communicate with me? I wondered. That doesn't make sense! If I'd been stacking up more negative karma no spirit would have protected me from falling off the hotel roof. What's the purpose in my life? What am I supposed to be doing?
Amidst the spiritual silence, I finally decided I may as well continue with my pre-thirty goals -- personally, treat people right so I can move to higher planes as quickly as possible and, professionally, move to bigger and better stations and work toward programming and management.
One evening a TV movie about the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. played. With my Lindbergh fascination, I settled in to watch it.
Minutes into the movie I plopped cross-legged onto the floor three feet in front of the TV, a large pop and full bag of chocolate chip cookies on the floor beside me. As the movie progressed, tightness gripped my chest. Before long I was leaning forward watching every move, listening closely for every word. Anxiety overcame me. I was reacting with the terror I'd felt when I experienced falling during regression.
When the movie showed the actor that played the accused kidnapper -- Bruno Richard Hauptman, I muttered, "He didn't do it! They've got the wrong man!"
What is wrong with me, I wondered. Why do I care? It's history.
But reasoning with myself didn't curb the extreme emotion that had overcome me. My palms sweat. My heart pounded. I felt an overwhelming sense that a horrible injustice was being done, like somebody had to stop it. "it's not him!" I exclaimed over and over. "They've got the wrong man!"
But the movie played on. My muscles tensed the tighter. Even though I hated what I saw, I couldn't force my body off the floor or unglue my eyes from the screen. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I couldn't believe it. I never cried. But I was crying. Part of the time I rocked back and forth. "He didn't do it!" I shouted.
By the end of the movie, 1 hadn't touched the pop or my favorice cookies. I forced myself to my feet, then collapsed onto the bed, totally exhausted.
What in the world is going on? Why am I so upset? I couldn't figure out why the extreme emotion had engulfed me. For days afterward, I couldn't shake the sense of injustice. Nor could I keep myself from waking at night shouting, "He didn't do it!"
"Please, God," I prayed, "please send answers. Life isn't making sense."
Months dragged by. I checked out a job in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It met my number-one criteria for every job -- within a day's driving distance of my daughter, Jodi. And it was in programming. I had read everything I could about programming. I'd watched and evaluated the whats and whys of the effectiveness of every program director I had worked with. WLAY was my chance to give it a try, even if it was only as assistant program director. I was also mid-day announcer and music director.
But, despite accolades related to work, I felt frustrated by the lack of spiritual contact. "God," I prayed, "What's going on? You kept me alive. Why? What am I supposed to be doing?"
Through the silent months that followed, an uncanny identification with Charles Lindbergh and his family kept resurfacing images from my earliest childhood reading, my charter flight, the movie about the baby's kidnapping. Sometimes the terror of my childhood "fall" squeezed in among the Lindbergh thoughts.
Maria and I talked on the phone frequently. But even she with her spiritual sensitivity, couldn't make sense out of the jumble of my life.
One evening, after a particularly long and trying day at work, I parked my new burgundy Corvette in the garage, closed and latched the heavy wooden doors, and trudged up the steps to my second story apartment directly above the ground-level garage. I collapsed onto my bed and drifted in and out of an exhausted stupor.
I woke with a start. Did I set the 'Vette's recurity system? Though it was parked directly below my bed, I couldn't pull myself off bed to trudge down the steps, check the alarm, and climb back up. I lay there, worrying.
Suddenly, I floated above the living-room floor, through the closed entry door -- through the door, not the doorway, down the steps, around the side of the garage, through the garage door -- through, again, and over to the car. I noted that the alarm activation lock on the left front fender was set. Then, looking through the windshield on the driver's side, I noticed my sunglasses hanging on the rearview mirror. That surprised me since I ordinarily put them in the glove compartment. Assured that the alarm was set, I glided directly up through the apartment floor and into my body on the bed.
My eyes opened with a start. That was too vivid for a dream! Did I actually do it?
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