A few weeks ago, with my trusty friend Max by my side, I did my very first radio show on WCOM, a low-power station in Carrboro. The station is completely volunteer-run, and after several months of providing them with a daily news report (grabbing this and that from the local news websites) the station manager asked if I'd be interested in taking over the Wednesday West End Report. The show features local events listings, interviews and commentaries. I answered with a resounding "Yes!" My very own thirty minutes on air? Definitely. Not that, you know, the throngs would be listening. You can hear WCOM in about a ten-mile radius surrounding the transmitter, but, really, you can hear it best when you drive right up under the radio tower and just, you know, keep your car completely still. Max B. was in town for my debut (after an on-air training session I'd participated in the week before - in order to learn how to answer the phones on-air, the station manager's daughter called in and read her middle school lunch menu aloud). Since he'd been a DJ in college, playing the latest and greatest in contemporary alternative, Max wasn't nervous. I, surprisingly, was. I don't get nervous that often anymore. Not like this anyway. Sweaty and whatnot. But I was, and have been every week since.
It's an interesting scenario. I don't think that that many people who know me would categorize me as "nervous." I'm not shy around new people, or scared marching up to strangers and demanding that they answer my questions. Part of that is my job, and part of it is just how I am. I don't mind public speaking or big groups. I wasn't nervous on my wedding day, but maybe that was because of the number of bottles of white wine opened by my lovely bridesmaids - or the fact that we were experiencing the "drenching rain" that had been predicted, and when it is drenching rain on your wedding day, you just aren't nervous, because nothing else bad is going to happen.
The radio, however, makes me nervous. Before my show, I actually pace, or sit on the couch, just staring or talking to myself. Things that people in movies do. I'm always watching these people in movies, as they do things like lay on their beds and think about the date they just went on and just - daydream - or whatever, and I decide I should do more things like that. And less watching "Little People, Big World" on the Discovery Channel and Ina Garten on the Food Network, who, by the way, I've finally gotten into - and that woman makes mighty cocktails. I'm serious. I watched her make one recently that was, like, 70 parts vodka, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Party it up, Ina.
Today I interviewed John Heuer, who's heading the N.C. Grassroots Impeachment Movement (G.R.I.M.), part of a larger, nationwide network pushing for the impeachment of President Bush. I was pretty much ready to lose it before I headed over to the station - either throw up or crawl into bed with a vat of ice cream in my sweats, never to emerge again - but J came home and not only assured me that I'd be fine, but that he'd have dinner ready when I got home. This last promise was enough to carry me through, and he was right, I was totally fine. Whatever that radio thing is that makes me nervous, whether it's the fact that I can't see the audience, or that I have to remember so many buttons and cues at once, or that talking into a metal microphone is so very different from talking to a real, breathing person - when I got in there with John, who was extremely friendly, it was just me and him talking, and I sort of forgot that we were on air. I was in my element, just asking a stranger questions.
I was in my element, that is, until I decided to end the conversation roughly a minute before the show's closeout music was scheduled to start up, thinking I'd, I don't know - say goodnight for a really long time? Tell a joke? When I realized a minute of air time is pretty long when no one is talking, I tried to quickly pull up a song, all the while glancing over at my guest, smiling, like, "It's cool - this is Carrboro VOLUNTEER radio, see. Carrboro. Hippies." While explaining to my audience (of, oh, 10 people? 12?) that I was having a few small problems, the closing music started up and I said good night. I will, hopefully, be a little less nervous next week, and the week after and so on, but I have a feeling that the technical difficulties may persist for a little while. I suppose that's why people go to school for broadcast journalism. To learn about the buttons and timing and all. And maybe to be on radio stations you can hear in more than one zip code. But I'll get there, or somewhere. The School of Life for me. At least I'm not paying tuition. Or getting paid.
You can hear me on the West End Report Wednesdays from 6-6:30 on WCOM, 103.5, in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, or by streaming the show at www.communityradio.coop.