The following is a story that's mostly about a hurricane, and the way a man I used to work for reacted to it. More or less. Or maybe it's about how a perfect stranger reacted to the predicament that man put me in. I'll warn you in advance that there's a bit of inside-baseball here, except it isn't baseball, it's broadcasting, but I've done by best to explain along the way.
I posted this story a long time ago, but I've edited to change the man's name for the sake of allowing him some anonymity. For a while, if you googled his real name, this was the first thing that came up. That seemed kind of cruel, so... I deleted his name. Every word of this story is the truth, but even idiots deserve anonymity. After all, his story isn't mine to tell. I've also removed his name from any comments that follow this story. After reading this, you'll probably think I should have left his real name here. You'll probably be right.
It was the summer of 1995, and I was working at 93 KRO fm, a miserable sounding radio station in Daytona Beach, Florida. Actually, we weren't in Daytona at all. Our studios were located a half hour south of Daytona, in a doublewide trailer that sat off a crisscross of dirt roads in, yet nowhere near, the town of Edgewater. Our transmitter was across the lawn, through the woods and up a hill. I know this because I was the one who laid down the coaxial cable connecting the two. A cable which, I should note, was sliced in half each time someone would mow the lawn. But that has nothing to do with a hurricane, so it's not the story I'm about to tell. I was the station's overnight dj, as well as being the closest thing to a technical expert they had. It was a job I'd gladly quit a few weeks after the events that follow.
The sky was crystal clear on the afternoon of August 2nd as I sat in my apartment pondering what I should do. Hurricane Erin was expected to make landfall within 12 hours, somewhere in central Florida, and I was looking at everything I owned in a half-hearted attempt to decide what was worth saving, and what could be lost to the inevitable flood.
It wasn't a fun decision to make - but it was even less fun when the phone rang with a call I'd been dreading.
"Hey Rob, it's Les."
Les Williams is a name that will forever send a shiver up my spine. Les was my boss at the time. He was also an idiot. Les was the sort of man who loved the sound of his own voice so much that he was once struck by lightening while talking on the radio, yet he kept on talking. Was the station on fire? Had our transmitter been blown up? These questions wouldn't be answered until Les decided to shut up... which he didn't for quite a while, even though he could no longer hear himself. And why couldn't he hear himself? The station had been struck by lightning while he was talking. The station was in a doublewide trailer, which means he too had been struck be lightning. And yet, he just kept on talking. I mention this because I'd said the man was an idiot, and I felt the need to prove it. And now I have. And, I digress.
"Hey Rob, it's Les."
"What's up?" I knew damn well what he wanted.
"The storm is supposed to make landfall tonight."
"...it's a hurricane Les."
"So what's your plan for the station?" I already knew: Les had a plan, and the plan's name was Rob. Oh fuck.
"Well, I was thinking, It's not safe to have anybody on the air during the storm, but we have that reel to reel sitting in the air studio. I want you to go to the station and record an hour of music and loop it."
In case you're not familiar, this is what a reel-to-reel tape deck looks like. Don't let the pic fool you - this thing is huge.
This idea managed to out-stupid his not shutting up after being struck by lightening episode. In a sense, that's impressive.
"93 KRO fm, hello?"
"That's me - what can I do for you."
"OK don't freak out or anything but I know where you live."
OH FUCK. ...stalker? "...aaaand I shouldn't freak out because...?"
"No no no no no... I'm not some kind of psychopath. You talked about your crappy apartment the other day, and I'm pretty sure I drive by there all the time on my way to work. If you live where I think you do - dude - you're screwed. If that place doesn't get knocked down, it'll definitely be flooded."
That's the sort of conversation that really cheers a guy up.
"Do you have somewhere to go?" he continued. "You need a safe place to ride this thing out because your place is bad news."
Not-A-Psycho-Stalker ['NAPS' since I've forgotten his name] offered to drop by & help me lift important things as high as we could - onto tables, shelves and such ("...because you really are screwed..." "Will you stop saying that?!?") - and then we'd sit through the storm at his apartment, on an upper floor of a tall concrete apartment building.
Before heading to his place, however, we had to make the half hour trek to the radio station in Edgewater so I could pre-record the loop. This took hours since the cheapass radio station I worked for didn't even HAVE an hour of tape, which meant I had to splice shorter lengths of tape together while the hurricane neared landfall. We also didn't have splicing tape, which meant cutting electric tape into tiny little strips with a razor blade as a hurricane loomed.
Shortly after midnight, I played my last song on the radio before hauling the beast of a reel to reel tape deck into the on-air studio. I connected it to the control board and started the loop so we could haul ass out of there.
Naps and I left the radio station without saying a word, because there wasn't much to say. Not a single star could be seen in the sky, and an immense silence screamed through the blackness of the night. I didn't know it yet, but the moment of nothingness was a sign that the storm had begun to roll in. Everything stops. And then, the rain begins, first with a pitter-patter, followed quickly by a deluge.
We listened to the loop on the radio as we drove away. A few of the pre-recorded songs played... and then a pre-recorded (and by that point out of date) emergency alert began...
"This is an activation of the emergency alerrrrrrrrrrmmpt... rrrrrrrrmmmmrrr rela ycnegremeeeeeeeeee hjerkwrtjhjghkmfglmlkvh wrrrr RRRrrrRRRRrr WWWwwWWwwrrrrR!!!!!!!!
Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!!! Bweep!!! Bweep!!!!"
The tape had snagged, and the machine kicked itself into reverse when it no longer knew what to do. This was followed up by a tone that I must assume is tape-deck-speak for "All Hope Is Lost."
Naps & I looked at each other and laughed. What else could we do? The rain against the windshield as we drove away was the beginning of a hurricane making landfall, and we still had 20 minutess of driving ahead of us before we'd reach the safety of his concrete building. We didn't even consider turning back. "Fuggit!" Rain was coming in waves, softly at first, then SMACK SMACK SMACK!!!! Then softly again, and then SMACK SMACK SMACK!!!! All the while, beep-beep-beep played from his car radio speakers. I don't know why we didn't shut it off, but we didn't.
By the time we reached his apartment, the storm had knocked my radio station off the air. The silence of nothing happening on the station was replaced by static, which, to be honest, was for the best. And it played until we pulled into his building's parking lot.
Naps' apartment felt like heaven. It felt safe. He apologized as he offered me wine from a box, but somehow, that was EXACTLY what the situation called for. During the early hours of morning before the sun would rise, the eye of the storm made landfall one county south of where we were. Catastrophe was only a few miles away, but we'd been spared. Mostly.
I returned to my apartment later that morning to find it relatively intact.
This is where my story should end... but it doesn't.
The final part of this story is for anyone who has ever worked on the air and had the pleasure of sitting through an aircheck session, where your boss listens to a tape of your show and critiques you. For reasons I'll never understand, Les had made plans to aircheck me that day, and for reasons I cannot even begin to imagine, he still felt the need to do so, less than twelve hours after Hurricane Erin made landfall.
I know what you're thinking, but it gets worse.
He couldn't aircheck me at the radio station, because it had no electricity and probably needed to be inspected to make sure it was safe since it was in a doublewide trailer. The electric had been knocked out at my apartment as well, and I damn well wasn't going to his place... so... where did Les decide to aircheck me? In his pickup truck, in the parking lot in front of my apartment.
Let's talk about my apartment for a moment, because that's important.
My apartment sat less than a hundred feet from a short canal that led to the Halifax River. The Halifax River isn't actually a river. It was initially built to serve as an inland shipping channel for passage to the Atlantic Ocean, but it's used for recreation these days. In fact, there was a dock less than a hundred feet from my apartment's front door, at the end of the parking lot.
As Les and I sat in his pickup truck, listening to my aircheck tape in his car stereo so he could offer up a brilliant critique, the storm surge continued to roll in off the Atlantic. Water was rising in the canal and slowly making its way up the boat loading dock. When water began to spill into the parking lot, mere steps away from my first floor apartment's front door (already having reached the tires of the pickup truck we were sitting in), Les turned off the tape and said "Well, I guess this isn't the best time for this."
Oh my god, ohmygod, OH MY GOD.
The story should end here, but I cannot resist adding one last bit.
Before I could quit, I needed to find a new job. What can I say? I've always been a planner, and since a hurricane had knocked my radio station off the air for at least a few days, I had some free time. I made a demo tape. Yes, a tape. Most people forget that the era of recordable CDs arrived only a few years before mp3s. Even into the mid to late 90s, people used cassette tapes.
My tape consisted of three things: a sample of my on-air work, and a sample of my production work. Production is the term for station imaging - in other words, all of the stuff between the songs. Contest promos, station IDs, that sort of thing.
When our radio station returned to the air, Les had a new sense of purpose. He wanted the station to really kick ass, so, it was time to improve things.
To give you a sense of how bad of a radio station we were, I'll explain a bit about the old days of radio ratings, done by a company called Arbitron. Arbitron would solicit people to write down what radio station they listened to, and when they listened to it. Then, Arbitron would compile those numbers into ratings into a book (it wasn't really a book, but that's the industry term. The book.) When our first ratings book arrived (over a stream of fax machine paper) Les was surprised that our station wasn't in it, so he called Arbitron to report the error.
Because the radio station was in a trailer, it was impossible to not hear everything else that was going on. And because Les was stupid enough to use a speakerphone, this was what everyone (myself included) heard the representative from Arbitron say:
"Sir, if no one writes you down, you don't show up in the book."
Oh my god, ohmygod, OH MY GOD.
As I said, Les had a newfound sense of purpose. He needed to fix things! He didn't like how our Big National Voice Guy was saying the name of our station, so Les asked me to make a tape with examples of how he was saying the name wrong, and how he was saying it right.
The name was 93 KRO FM. KRO, as in "Crow."
The voice guy was saying:
Oh, just shoot me. Fine, I made the tape.
A funny thing happens during the aftermath of a hurricane. Disorganization happens. Mistakes happen, and I own up to this one. I was making demo tapes and sending to radio stations across the country in hope of landing a new job. Somehow, I mixed up one of my demo tapes with the tape Les had asked me to make. So, I can only assume that a station in Miami or maybe Denver got a tape of my station's voice guy reading our name wrong over and over again, and I mistakenly gave my boss, Les, a copy of my demo. I am absolutely sure he immediately knew what it was.
Keep in mind that I was working at a ratio station named WKRO - a station whose call letters were one letter away from being WKRP, as in, WKRP In Cincinnati. Also, keep in mind that I've always been a bit too clever for my own good.
My demo tape began with this short clip:
Not long after I gave my boss that tape, two things happened.
#1: Les handed me back the tape and suggested I redo it. I asked "Is something wrong?" and he just said "I think you'll to want to redo it." When I listened to the tape, I instantly realized what I'd done, and thankfully, Les never said another word about it.
#2: A phone call came from a radio station in a much Much MUCH larger city. The call began like this: "Ahahahahahhahahha!!! Rob, is that you? AAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAAA!!! Rob?! AHAHAHAAHAAHA!!! You fucker!!! I got your tape, and... AHAHAAHAHA!!! ...WKR, Oh no!!! Let's get your ass out of there!!! HAHAHAAHAAA!!!!"
And THAT is where the story ends.
OMG! I know him! [Name removed]! HA! That's all I'm going to say about that. LOL::::: | August 26, 2005 5:00 AM
Oh wow what a small world. I knew that guy! I mean [name removed], not Naps. Boy were you right about him. Fun story too::::: | February 8, 2006 9:18 AM
Did everyone that worked with [name removed] eventually hate the dickhead? I know I did.::::: | October 19, 2006 7:17 PM
[Name removed] is an idiot! Wait, I take that back. [Name removed] is a fucking idiot!::::: | October 1, 2007 11:51 AM