The Your Turn Challenge days keep slipping, slipping, slipping… and I keep shipping, shipping, shipping!
We’re up to Day 6, and today’s writing prompt is: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.
Yes, that’s exactly how it felt!
One of my most memorable “geez, how’d I do that” moments was when I staged my own personal sit-in at the shared lobby of several Cincinnati radio stations (sorry, WKRP wasn’t one of them). At the time, I was working as the afternoon DJ at 97X, a tiny but beloved and nationally-acclaimed indie/college rock/alternative radio station about 35 miles north of Cincinnati. I loved the music (still do) and loved the people I worked with (still do), but several years of below-poverty wages had taken their toll and I was hoping to move up to the “big leagues” of Cincinnati radio. Being semi-young and very naive, I had no idea how to go about getting a job at a large-market radio station. Compounding the problem was the fact that two corporate monoliths owned pretty much every station in town, so my options were limited. But I went to the lobby of one of the behemoths – the one that owned 8 stations – resume in one hand and demo tape in the other, hoping to meet with the FM rock station’s program director. My conversation with the receptionist went something like this:
Receptionist: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I’d like to meet with [name of rock station program director] and give him my resume and tape.
Receptionist: Do you have an appointment?
Receptionist: Let me see if he’s available… (calls from switchboard… whispers to person who answers… long pause)… I’m sorry, but he’s in a meeting right now. If you want to leave your resume with me, I’ll make sure he gets it.
Me: No, I’ll just wait.
Receptionist (desperately trying to get rid of me): But it could be hours before he’s available!
Me: That’s OK, I’ll just wait here.
This was completely out of character for me – normally I would’ve meekly handed over my resume and demo tape and shuffled out, head down. I don’t know what came over me. The receptionist realized I wasn’t kidding… and I wasn’t budging. The program director’s schedule magically cleared up and he came out to meet me 10 minutes later. I’m sure he had a fair amount of trepidation, worried about the stalker/psycho/wacko who refused to leave the lobby.
The “meeting” took less than a minute. I gave him my resume, tape and my well-rehearsed spiel about my radio experience and how I’d be a great addition to his station’s staff.
In an alternate universe, here’s how the story ends: “Duly impressed, the program director hired me on the spot, and we lived happily ever after.”
But in reality, he probably threw my resume and tape into the trash can on the way back to his office. However, I did get a job at those radio stations two months later… as a gofer/mail/errand boy (just what I went to college for!). Eventually I weaseled my way into being the 4th banana (a couple notches below a second banana) for a nationally-syndicated comedy radio show hosted by Gary Burbank, a National Radio Hall of Fame member. I got to write comedy sketches, do character voices and celebrity impersonations, arrange celebrity interviews, put together the weekly best-of show, occasionally fill-in as a co-host and generally have a grand old time. And I firmly believe that the same sort of courage I showed in staging my sit-in helped me be more assertive and speak up for myself, which helped me move from gofer to radio performer once I got a foot in the door.