Scratching my own funny bone for shits and giggles. Lampooning books, music and being a single woman over 40. Recording observations with an almost Seinfeldian obsession for the minutiae of life. Things can get sweary around here. You understand.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

THE RETURN OF THE RADIO

I used to work as the phone monkey and director of first impressions at a popular, once formidable, FM radio station in Brisbane. Funny how I ended up doing that job after twelve years of teaching. I used to have thirty state high school students under my thumb everyday. I was there to teach and they had no choice but to learn it. Being boss was both intoxicating and comforting. I knew how the day would pan out. I knew the job like the back of my own hand. Boredom drove me into the arms of a long held fantasy. I would become a radio announcer!

As this brainwave struck me at the age of 34 and I hadn't an ounce of relevant experience, I took an entry-level job to gain some. I became a receptionist, much to my father's chagrin, at a radio station. The constant complaints on the phone and the steady stream of couriers, listeners, celebreties and basic whackos required the hyper-vigliance of a soldier in Vietnam. Tenacity was required. I took the job to make contacts and learn new skills. I had to hang in there. Besides, I loved radio.

As a child of the '70s, I'll never forget the first time I heard FM radio in stereo. As I had grown up snuggled next to the old fashioned AM receiver that was cleverly disguised as some stylish piece of sideboard furniture, ensconsed in laminex, hearing Radio 10 in stereo through my walkman in 1981 was a revelation. Surely I could conjure that same feeling in my daily occupation??? My journals henceforth, will be chronicling my times as an ambitious radio receptionist.

PART ONE

Radio stations seem to attract unstable and deeply unhappy people. Despite the neutral delivery of the announcers, some people still view the radio station as essentially, a friendly kind of place. They come to make contact. 'Gary' bore a strange resemblance to that blonde guy in 'Love My Way'. But more crestfallen. He first appeared as a threat to be monitored. The lobby has this blind spot in front of the elevator and the corner was fitted out with one of those bulbous mirrors for vision. Gary stepped from the lift into the small alcove, and considering himself unseen, proceeded to unzip his jeans and reach far inside. Needless to say I was alarmed. From my vantage point, I was able to activate the silent alarm. This was supposed to inspire grown men to clamour to my rescue. The girl needed help, and I wasn't sure what he was going to do. Was he reaching for a gun? I'd heard the stories about the previous receptionist having a large pot plant hurled at her head over something Fat Cat had said. Let's not take any chances here.

Was he going to get his John Thomas out to frighten me with or did he have an irresistable need to scratch himself? Just why did he have his hands down his pants?

Long legged heroic types were at my side by the time Gary made his grand debut. Brandishing a harmless packet of Drum, he nonchalantly began to roll a spliff in the central lounge. I guess he didn't have a gun after all. Half an hour of coaxing was required to remove Gary from his new found home. G was a fan with personal problems. He cried like a baby about his last failed relationship. Apparently he hadn't been home in days and had been on an ugly bender at the Casino. In fact, he'd 'just come from there' and 'would we like a cold VB?'

Gary slobbered in every morning for a fortnight after that. After a week of dancing the same unintelligible routine with him, I resorted to handing him pen and paper for him to write out his whacky requests. With a jet-stream of Bacardi breath, Gary would challenge me as to whether his messages ever got through to their intended recipients, and with considerable mirth, I swore to him they did.

PART TWO

She looked remarkably like Marty Feldman on a bender.


Shelley stumbled from the methadone clinic into our garden hedge. Unfortunately, she was a very ugly woman. Each time Shelley presented herself to me at the reception desk, she was whacked from methadone. A government funded clinic was located directly behind the radio station near the Roma Street lock-up. It was no longer surprising to find emaciated people shooting up near your car or behind the industrial bin.

Shelley stalked me for about two months. She was the source of much amusement for an amateur anthropologist. She appeared to be in her mid to late forties. Age is always difficult to judge when serious drugs are involved. She was very stooped and skinny and any attempt she made at verbal communication would be interrupted with sudden and violent spasms. Apparently, Shelley loved Guns and Roses and was mother to a son by the name of Axel. He'd been taken away from her by family services. Her long rants about him would be randomly punctuated with recitations of lyrics from random ‘80s songs...“My little man Axel means everything to me. Those government fuckers took him away…and (insert Depeche Mode tune) “when I’m with you babe, I just go out of my head, and I just can’t get enough.” Unbeknownst to me, Shelley also visited the receptionist from B105 radio. Apparently she had presented Hilda with a naked plastic doll and threatened her with voodoo spells and other incantations.

Said place of work was anchored on the apex of a nasty little hairpin turn, notorious for swallowing small cars and mopeds. The architecture of the building allowed the boss to view the exact point at which the William Jolly Bridge connects the quay. That was the last place I saw her…completely fucked off her tits and attempting to walk in front of traffic.

PART THREE

My journey into the world of radio would have to start at the bottom of the shit heap. The following will attempt to outline a typical day working as a receptionist for Triple M.

Catch the train.

Zone out with some Hoodoo Gurus on the walkman with the loose fitting head phones.

Get berated on the train by ugly little ferret who would rather humiliate me loudly about the offensive volume than give me a brotherly ‘wink wink nudge nudge’. (and that's just a taste of the Ipswich line commuter demographic)

Suffer humiliation in front of a packed train of smirking high school kids.

Discover that ferret owns a Triple M back pack.

Have smug fantasises that when he comes to collect his U2 tickets I will allocate him the crappiest seats in the venue.

Walk from Roma Street Station to North Quay.

Step over previously mentioned junkies.

Smile back at ‘Sven’ backpacker types.

Arrive at work and am greeted with the salutation “Is the coffee van here yet?”

Turn the phones on and pray that I don’t have to answer 300 calls like the day before and that none of the announcers have said anything too provoking.

Settle a wager between two factory workers as to whether Mark Knopfler is singing Hawaiian ‘noises’ or ‘oysters’ in Money for Nothing.

Navigate a listener calling from her mobile who claims she’s driving the wrong way up North Quay.

Spin lies to get rid of a woman renowned for stalking our breakfast announcer Marto.

Shake my head at the staff member who begins our interaction by asking me how I am, then without pausing to find out, launches into their own infinite black hole of need.

Roll my eyes at Brian from Kingston who calls to complain about the jocks ruining his ‘mixed tape’ by talking over the intros and outros of songs.

Attempt to diffuse an angry soldier on the phone who was determined to convince the station to broadcast from Iraq.

Interrupt a long diatribe about aluminium trays for utes to inform caller he had the wrong “Triple M”. Rattle off the number he should have called by heart. Impress stranger because I did a better job than Telstra Directory.

Try to block out the bimbo I work next to because she won’t stop banging on about her personal problems.

Fear for my life when anonymous caller threatens to beat me with a length of lumber that’s 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide if we played that Ashlee Simpson song one more time.

Attempt to keep my cool when a courier abuses me for his mistake.

Miserably fail at explaining the concept of satire when an angry Steady Eddy type calls to complain about playing Randy Newman’s ‘Short People’

Deflect deluded rock star wanna-be stalking the station wanting feedback about his song titled “Bigger than your Mum’s Bum”

Act as a basic venting receptacle for everyone’s angst and being expected, by management, to smile my arse off through it all.

Is it any wonder that by the end of it all, I had the attention span of a gnat?

12 comments:

Bondiboy66 said...

On the move again? As in moving house? Heavens it doesn't seem that long since your last move.

Good luck with that...moving (be it house or work) sucks big time. I hope it goes smoothly and relatively painlessly.

Bangar said...

Hope the move goes smoothly Nat. If you're still interested in being an announcer how about community radio?

Natalia the Russian Spy said...

BANG: I've done that already. At 4MBS Classic FM. I loved it. Still have the audio on tape. Showing my age I know. Anyways...it's all good. Have a mate in the podcasting business but won't discuss it until it's in concrete...

BONDI: Yes indeed. On the move AGAIN. I was doing the same thing this time last year. Except I am going out on my own this time :D Thankfully I didn't fully unpack last time. My kitchen and linen boxes are ridiculous!

Bondiboy66 said...

At this rate you may have to consider purchasing a Gypsy Caravan Nat! (And this from a bloke who spent several years moving every six months...not my choice, either external factors like having the rental flat sold out from under us, or a girlfriend with nomadic tendencies).

Natalia the Russian Spy said...

BONDI: Wonderful suggestion! Then again maybe I should live in a yurt, my possessions easily loaded on the back of a donkey: a prayer rug, a shawl and a hymn book.

LERMONTOV said...

Good luck with the move - it sucks!

Steve said...

Well, SOMEBODY needs to get beaten with a 2x4 for playing Ashlee Simpson.

*shakes fist*

Flinthart said...

Whoa. And you never actually killed anyone?

Abigail said...

OMG Natalia! I laughed and I felt sorry for you both at the same time.
That was so good.

All of these mad people wandering around finding safe harbour in radio stations across the country. Who knew??

But the abuse you endured! gee they word the job description cleverly "first point of call; you're sooo important to the image" AKA: "Oh man, we're going to feed you to the lions. No guns allowed, baby". Yopu had to fight off these maniacs with your bare hands and if you ran out of ideas...too bad.

I mean, how is a female receptionist going to restrain a pot plant throwing maniac ? "That Fucken' Fat Cat 'he's a big hairy loser and --YOU, you encourage the fucker, you in your $25 an hour job, you're responsible for hiring and firing, take that you evil desk chick! wham, bam, kapow !!"
And don't you just loovvve those egos who ask how you are then show Absolutely No Interest in your answer but use it as an opener to rattle off about their deadly boring selves at you? Who the fuck raised these people?? I mean, they know how to *ask how you are* they just don't know how to *find out how you are*.

There's a book in this story, Nat.

:) Abigail

Therbs said...

I remember those radio recollections. Good to see them again Nat. Best o' luck with the move stuff.

Anonymous said...

Hawaiian noises. Definately noises.

Bummer about the pilot. If the team decides to pay the grand and sells shares, put me down for 10 percent, babe.

Abe

yankeedog said...

Well, shoot! Bloody shame on the TV gig. One had hoped...alas.

"my foray into the blogging world and the beginning of many internet friendships that I still enjoy today."

Ah, it's us who are blessed.

There are those out there who hide behind the machine and simply use people and toss them aside when it becomes inconvenient for them to be a friend. There are people who make a habit of taking and not giving a bit for their fellows when times get tough. There are ones who don't mind having friends but have trouble being one.

We are all indeed most fortunate. You've been a beacon in the darkness. Bol'shoye spacibo!

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