The Simple Life
By Michele Meier Vosberg
“Look Ma, I’m on the Radio”
I’ve been listening to the radio since the days of the little transistors with little white cords and earplugs that fit into your ears. Listening is the operative word here. That’s what you do with the radio, you listen. I’ve been a radio listener since I can remember. First it was the country music and baseball games my dad listened to. Those baseball games were a big deal on radio and the sound of radio announcers coming from our garage is a vivid part of my childhood memories. My friend Chuck still listens to baseball on the radio and I get a wave of nostalgia when I hear baseball blasting from his garage.
I graduated from my dad’s radio to top forty hits on the AM radio. There was a time in my life when I knew all the words to the top ten, could recite the top fifty from memory and knew the name of every DJ in town. The New Year’s eve top one hundred countdown was a big deal. Somewhere in my teen years, FM came along and for me there was no turning back. Gradually my top forty turned to public radio where I could listen to experts discuss politics, health care issues and gardening.
And then my phone rang. A voice on the other end asked if I would like to be a guest on a show called “Education Forum,” on KDTH, AM radio. I would talk about education of the young child. I didn’t even know AM radio still existed.
“Of course,” I said. “I would be delighted.” I hung up the phone, my eyes glazed over, my mouth, I’m sure, wide open.
I lied. I would not be delighted. I would be terrified. What could I say on the radio? I doubted that I could think of anything to say for two minutes, never mind twenty. They called the wrong person, I am sure. I am not an expert, I am the one who listens to the experts.
I take a deep breath. They asked me to bring some people with me, an education student perhaps and a teacher of young children. We could be a panel of experts! Brilliant, I think. This is brilliant. There is safety in numbers. If I have to go and make a fool of myself, at least I will be in good company. I invite a student and first grade teacher to join me. Both seem rather nonchalant, as if they were asked to appear on a radio show every day. I am impressed.
In my car that evening I change the radio station. It takes a minute because I don’t know where the AM button is. I haven’t used the AM button in a car since the seventies, I’m sure. I want to be prepared, I am going to listen to this station. I move the search button up the dial to 1370. There it is, a real live AM radio station. Frank Sinatra is singing. I calm down a bit, Frank is mellow and calming. Then I panic. People who listen to Frank Sinatra listen to this station. I can not compete with Frank Sinatra. I am doomed before I’ve even begun.
When I get home, I share my big news with my family. “Guess what girls, mom is going to be on the radio!”
My daughters are momentarily impressed. Then they find out it is on AM radio.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Mom,” my oldest tells me, “It’s AM radio, no one will be listening.”
I appreciate the vote of confidence. Somehow I manage to get through the evening and before I know it the alarm is going off. I wake with butterflies in my stomach. What should I wear?
I scatter clothes around my closet. I have no idea what to wear to be on the radio. This is ridiculous, I tell myself. It’s radio, no one will see me. And if my daughter is right, no one will hear me either. I change clothes three times. I’m sure that my outfit is totally inappropriate, but it is time to leave or I will be late. I am fairly sure that being late for my radio interview will not set a good example.
In my car, I listen to the station. There is a lot of news and weather. The host has a big, rich voice. He is about sixty, I decide. He is a large man, I think, with lots of white hair. He has a comfortable voice, a nice voice. I like listening to it. I calm down a bit. The host stops talking, it is time for some music. Patsy Cline starts singing. Patsy Cline? My Dad listened to Patsy Cline. For one brief moment I think that maybe I am caught in a time warp…AM radio, baseball, Patsy Cline.
I meet my colleagues and we enter the radio station building. I have no idea what to expect. In all my years of listening, I’ve never really thought about what a radio station looks like. The building is very unassuming. A receptionist greets us.
“Welcome, have a seat. Michael will be down to greet you in a few minutes.” She smiles at us. I must look nervous. “Don’t worry, he is very easy to talk to and he makes people feel comfortable. The first time people get a little nervous, but when you come back you’ll feel right at home.”
When I come back? That is assuming I don’t die of stage fright. Or maybe it’s not called stage fright when it’s on the radio. I don’t think that a stage is involved. We wait. I put on lipstick even though my rational mind tells me that no one can see it. My irrational mind is sure that I will speak more eloquently with lipstick.
“Hello, and welcome.” It is our host. He is young, blond and slight. I couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. He leads us back to a small room with microphones and headsets. The microphones hang from a metal bar. We put on the headsets and lean into the microphones. It’s just like I imagined it. Suddenly I feel important. I know, despite what my daughter thinks, that somewhere out there people are listening to me. “Look, Ma,” I want to shout. “I’m on the radio!”
“Welcome to today’s Education forum, I’d like to introduce …”
The host begins the show. I take a deep breath. I’m really here, it’s really happening, I think. I’m on the radio. Someday I’ll tell my grandchildren about this, about the time I was on the radio…me…right up there with Frank and Patsy.