It’s no secret around here that research is not my favorite thing. Been there, done that, wrote the thesis. Unfortunately, books require research – unless I want to sound stupid and anger readers who know the topic much better than I do. Even when I do research, there’s a good chance I’ll screw something up, so NOT doing research isn’t an option.
But there is one kind of research I really do enjoy: the field trip.
What better way to get a feel for how things work than to go someplace and witness it first hand? Thankfully, there are people out there who don’t mind being watched while they do their jobs and answering stupid questions from me at the same time.
Like Dan and Dingo from WDRM- 102.1 in Huntsville.
See the current WIP has scenes that take place in a radio station during a live broadcast. Unfortunately, the sum total of my knowledge about radio stations and how they work was gleaned from reruns of WKRP, Frasier episodes, and the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
I very quickly learned that wasn’t enough info to write a book on…
Enter Dan and Dingo, who allowed me to come observe their show, and in doing so, saved my hide from huge errors (I won’t tell you how much rewriting I had to do just on what I already had…).
There was one small problem: Dan and Dingo are the morning show hosts. Do you know what time they get up in the morning? ZOMGWTFBBQ!!1! kind of sums it up...
But nothing shall stand between me and research, so I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed at 4.30 and went to the radio station. (And though it was radio, I did put on makeup. Eyeliner before dawn is not easy…)
By the time I arrived at the station a little before six (earlier than planned, but I didn’t stop to think how little traffic there would be on the road before dawn), Dan and Dingo had been on the air for an hour already. And they weren’t the least bit grumpy about it.
They were both super-friendly and never laughed at my stupid questions (and there were some doozies!). I was immediately impressed at their ability to multi-task (answer the phone, find something on the internet, and never lose track of the exact moment they had to go live again). I was also floored by the patience they had with long-winded callers – including the guy who obviously calls in regularly just to chat and bring them up-to-date on his life. (It was kind of sweet, actually, the way they knew who he was by his voice, asked how he was recuperating from his surgery, listened to his story, etc, all while keeping the show going. I got the feeling this caller was an older man who didn’t have a lot of other people to talk to, and looked forward to checking in with Dan and Dingo because they cared enough to listen.)
But, back to my field trip…
I started snapping pictures and asking questions (and taking lots of notes that I’m having a hard time reading now because did I mention it was six o’ freaking clock in the morning? My hands weren’t awake.)
I have to admit I was rather disappointed to find out there wasn’t a CD in sight. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that all the music would be digital and instead of CD players and fancy stuff like that, it would all be computer screens and mouse clicks.
Then came the words to strike fear into anyone’s heart – especially before sunrise: “Let’s put you on the air!”
Um, okay. Totally unprepared for that. Me, mouth-of-the-south, struck dumb by the thought of going on the radio. Talking to people doesn’t bother me, but talking to thousands of people I couldn’t even see? Risk the chance of sounding really stupid because my brain wasn’t fully awake? (Did I mention how freakin’ early it was?) Take the risk that in my nervous, sleep-deprived state, I might get flustered and say one of those seven words you’re not supposed to say unless you want FCC fines? Oh, the possibilities for shame and humiliation were endless and abounding…
But the next thing I knew, I was seated at the mic, Dan was introducing me, and I was live, baby.
Sadly, I remember very little of the conversation – mainly because I was so nervous. But my mom taped it, and I don’t think I sounded all that bad. Since Dan and Dingo were there in the studio and I could make eye contact with them, it made it much easier to talk and not focus so much on the microphone in my face. It was kind of like a conversation, only with a lot of expensive equipment around for me to worry about breaking while trying not to stick my foot in my mouth too much.
I guess the first go-round went okay, because they put me back on the air a few more times. I assume if I’d sounded too bad or screwed up too much, they’d have thanked me nicely and moved my chair away from the microphone.
Instigator and Smarty Pants both tried to listen, but neither of them heard me. My mom, DG and AC* all heard me (AC and DG were listening while getting ready and in the car on the way to school.) My aunt in Tennessee found the WDRM website and listened to the live stream, so she heard me too.
So, many thanks to Dan and Dingo for having me on their show and letting me observe how it all works. My book will be much better for it, and it was a lot of fun as well. If you’re in the area, you should give them a listen in the mornings, or check out their live stream on the website. They’re on the air from 5-10 am.
And while I hope they’ll invite me back one day, I’ll probably try to wait and show up after the sun comes up. There’s just not enough caffeine in the world at five a.m.
(*Those of you keeping score will be happy to know that being on the radio did get me a bump up on AC’s Famous-O-Meter. Thanks Dingo and Dan…)