Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Bugged My Boss' Office

I took my first full-time broadcasting job sight unseen.

I mailed all my possessions from a Washington, DC post office and hopped on a plane to Colorado.

There, in small market radio, I learned a few things.

When reporting on a gasoline spill, don't stand in the spill.

And when a program director decides you should do your traffic reports actually from the traffic, don't total the brand-new traffic car. At least not the first day.

I was fired shortly after the accident (which wasn't my fault. They hit me first.).

I fended off starvation by disc jockeying at a classical music station (where I learned how to mispronounce words in French, German and Portuguese.) and ripping and reading newswire at a pop station from 2 to 6 am.

At the news gig inbetween naps in the sleeping bag under the audio console, I did what I could to combat fatigue and boredom.

On Thanksgiving, I interviewed a turkey (which I found on and old sound effects LP). During a story about lung cancer, I coughed a lot.

I was such a devoted employee that, unable to drive to the studio because of a record snowfall, I worked the home phone, recorded and played back interviews with police and fire departments with an answering machine and filed reports in my pajamas. (I think we all should stay at home and work in our PJ's. No doubt, this could reduce stress in the workplace.)

My employers were fair and honest. But they were the kind of employers, who, when you asked for a raise, gave you a booklet of Burger King gift certificates instead. (I took them.)

My last day in the radio business (I was defecting to TV), I bugged my boss' office.

He was both the program director and the morning DJ. And although he was masterful at talking up to the songs he played, he was not adept at singing along with them. Although he did so constantly.

So I planted a tape recorder in the control booth, recorded a few (of his) songs, smuggled the tape out, quickly produced a mock commercial for a fictitious "school of boss jocking" (One that taught its students how to sing off-key with the hits), and dubbed it onto a cart.

Before the days of digital recording, these 8-track look-alike cassettes held recordings of songs, commercials and public service announcements. I swiped the label off of one of that morning's PSA's, placed it on my "commercial," and slid it back in its proper place.

Just as planned, he placed the cart in the machine and hit the button that played it on the air.

Within about six seconds he realized he'd been had. By someone he couldn't fire.

He listened through to the end of the "commercial."

And then, a smile on his face, he played it again.

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