Monday, April 25, 2005

Radio Days

At Duloc Manor, we have two separate landline phones. The first was our "original" (the one that I hated because it is a 321-939 number instead of the traditional 407-566 Celebration exchange). When we moved in full-time, that one was demoted to the status of computer line. My husband sometimes has to dial in for his job, so we added a second line to make sure that we'd have an available phone for my business.

Our new phone number was much more to my liking, since it was a 566 number, and the last four digits are the same as my street address (check out my blog entry from last October to learn about my obsessive/compulsive number fixation). That's the main line that we use for making and receiving calls, whether business or personal. We have some sort of ultra-package that includes call waiting, call forwarding, and about a zillion minutes of long distance, so it works out really well.

Sometimes my husband and I both need to be on the phone at the same time for our respective jobs, so we press both lines into service. But mostly the computer line phone sits silent, so I'm always startled on the rare occasions that it actually rings.

I heard it ringing the other day; it's only plugged in upstairs, and I was down in the family room, so I heard my husband treading across the second floor from his office to answer it. A few people still have that number, and he was on the line for a while, so I figured it must have been someone we know.

"Who was it?" I hollered up when I heard him conclude the call. "An Arbitron survey," he replied. He informed me that during the week of May 5, we will take on the vitally important role of helping to determine radio station ratings. A few years back, my brother's family participated in the Nielsens, but I've never heard of anyone being contacted by Arbitron before. Oh well, it doesn't sound too complicated...just track what stations I listen to during the designated week.

There is an irony in this situation; when they asked my husband what he was listening to at the moment they called, he replied, "WNUA." That happens to be a Chicago jazz station, which he listens to via a live internet feed while he's working. It confused the survey taker for just a moment, since the poor guy knew he was calling a Celebration, Florida number. But then he told my husband that it's becoming more and more common for people to stream in radio feeds from anywhere in the country rather than tune in to the local airwaves. Chicago may be over a thousand miles away, but its radio entertainment is as close as our computer.

Normally, I don't listen to the radio unless I'm driving solo in my car. When I do tune in, I prefer talk radio in general and a continuous news/traffic/weather station in particular. It's not so much for the information as to have the "company" of voices, much like some people keep the television on when they're home alone. In Duloc Manor, I have plenty of company even when my husband is out of town. Between the three cats romping around in a frenzy of shedding and litter-scattering and the bird perching on my should to taunt them, I rarely feel lonely. In the car, it's nice to have something to break the silence; I know that nowadays most people do that with cell phone conversations, but I think that the radio is a much less dangerous distraction.

I enjoy music, but being able to burn my own CDs, with specific songs that I like, has spoiled me for listening to music stations. There are too many bad songs mixed in before they finally play a good one, not to mention all the ads and inane, blathering introductions. If I want music, I pop in a CD, but usually I prefer a talk radio station.

In Chicago, I always listened to WBBM NewsRadio 78. Even when I was a kid, I tuned in to that station every night at bedtime. During the day, I was a typical youngster listening to WLS or to Super Jock Larry Lujack on WCFL (my fellow 40ish Chicagoans will know what I'm talking about...remember "Animal Stories' with your old Uncle Lar and Little Snot-Nosed Tommy?). But at night, I always switched the dial in time for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which was broadcast on 78. I would usually drift off in the middle of the show, before the news broadcasts resumed, but sometimes I managed to make it all the way through the mystery and fell asleep listening to the news.

As an adult, I drifted away from pop music to talk radio almost exclusively. In Chicago, my commute to work was less than five minutes, but if I timed my leaving time correctly, I could usually catch traffic and weather, which is repeated every ten minutes on the eights (8 past the hour, 18, 28, and so on). I also could catch the main news stories; usually, they were things I already knew about, but I'll never forgot the morning of 9/11, when my drive coincided with the second plane striking the World Trade Center. When I turned on the radio, the first plane had already hit, and I listened in stunned horror, thinking, "What a terrible, terrible accident." Then the second plane crash, and it was suddenly apparent that it was no random tragedy.

By the time I got to the office, my co-workers were clustered in anxious little knots around the desks of those who had radios. I don't think much work got done that day; we were all too involved in listening to the drama unfold and trying to make some sense out of an utterly senseless situation.

Thankfully, the morning news was usually more benign. Sure, there were assorted tragedies on a local and national level, but none could ever begin to reach the horror of that dark day in September.

Now, in Florida, I have no commute at all. My radio listening is limited to the my "airport runs," when I'm either picking up or delivering my husband to Orlando International Airport. That usually happens in the early morning or late night, so the newscasts keep me alert on the road. I learned on the 1200 Mile Drive From Hell that talk radio is a great way to keep your mind focused in the wee hours of the night, when your brain wants nothing better than to sink into a numbed state of unconsciousness. On that overnight drive, with my husband dozing in the seat beside me, I found an Atlanta station to keep me company from Tennessee through Florida.

The shows on that station were actually quite scary, as the hosts tended to have extremist views. I don't remember much about the political discussions, but I do remember the hunting show. The two hosts spent the whole time making fun of a person who wrote them a letter about controlling deer populations with contraceptives. They yucked it up for an hour, and various people called in to join them in mocking the poor letter writer. They also discussed some sort of militant gun club to which they belonged; I meant to check out the website, but the address has long since slipped my mind.

The programming got more ominous as night turned into morning and reports of the ice storm started coming in. Since we had two fish, three cats, and a bird, we couldn't stop at a motel, so we had to press on through the wicked weather. It's a good thing we had the radio on or it would have come as a complete surprise.

That station doesn't make it all the way to Florida, but I've found a pretty good one called WDBO, AM 580. It has some really cool extremist talk show hosts; most seem to be rabidly conservative, although I think that one is a liberatarian. Personally, I don't pigeonhole myself into a category like "liberal" or "conservative." My views vary widely, depending on the subject. Therefore, I enjoy listening to just about any viewpoint. When I'm heading to or from the airport, I love listening to the extremist rantings of whatever host might be on the air. Sometimes, it's an Orlando Magic game, which always disgruntles me...then I have to search the airwaves for an alternate. I am a creature of habit, so I don't like searching up and down the AM dial.

We don't have a radio in Duloc Manor; even my alarm clock is a little atomic clock rather than a traditional clock-radio variety. But we don't really need one, since my husband and I can both get our Chicago feeds online. I can get WDBO online, too, and if I ever decide to listen to the radio while I work, that would probably be my choice. It's just to weird to listen to Chicago news and local advertisements while I'm sitting in the Sunshine State. I'd rather tune in to my own local programming and hear what's going on in the Orlando area.

I did actually manage to pick up NewsRadio 78 one night while driving on 417. Now, that was weird! It's one thing to hear about the traffic on the Dan Ryan from your PC speakers and quite another to hear it while you're driving among the palm trees on the Greenway. But I think that was a rarity; normally, the radio signal doesn't make it more than 1000 miles.

When Arbitron contacts us in May, it looks like WDBO will be the winner with me. My husband will skew the ratings with his beloved Chicago station; there is a jazz counterpart in Orlando, but he's a creature of habit, so I don't think he'll ever make the leap.

Me, I'm just the opposite; the next time I'm stuck in Chicago, I won't be thinking of my old news channel. I'll be logging onto my favorite Orlando station with its troupe of crazy talk show hosts, and then I'll feel like I'm really back home.

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1 comment:

Tannerman said...

Let's here it for Chicago stations! You should know that WBBM is now streaming on the Web if you want to hear it: