Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Radio: A game of minutes.


Every now and again, I have an interview with someone who ends our segment by saying, “Wow. I had no idea exactly what all you had to do in a few short minutes!” Yeah. When you get to see all of the plates being spun at one time it can be dizzying to watch. It’s even more so, when you’re the one in the roll-y chair behind the microphone and every minute is accounted for.  Well, every second really.

Today, a friend asked me to break it down for her and I thought I’d share.

Doing the Drive Time shift means you are the person responsible for Traffic Every 10 Minutes and it would be great if that’s all I had to keep an eye on for you to listen to, but it’s not.

During the four hours I’m behind the microphone, I’m also in front of two computers while attached to my smartphone and connected to the outside world via a call-in telephone line.

The main computer is the brain that holds all of the day’s line-up in regards to songs, advertisements, music underscoring for weather and traffic and places for interviews (either in-studio or call-in).  That computer also holds the programs to answer the phones and record segments when needed.

The second computer is the one that has approximately seven tabs/screens to be opened at any moment. Three are traffic websites, one is weather, one is the master calendar, one is the site for posting news and traffic on all social media in one fell swoop and the last is for incoming and outgoing emails when needed.

When I first get to the station I sit in a production room and set up my log (or line-up) for my four hour shift.  It is not done for me, I sit down and configure every minute of every Afternoon T. A typical hour consists of approximately six to eight songs (ranging from three to four minutes) separated by ads, five to seven minute segment interviews, traffic every ten minutes, weather four times in an hour, live reads and two national news breaks.

Now, traffic is one of the things that makes the day tough. If someone were to hand me a paper that said, “There is a traffic collision on the northbound 14 freeway at Sand Canyon Road involving two vehicles that are blocking the carpool and fast lanes” or “There is a stalled vehicle in the center divider that is out of gas and a woman is standing outside the vehicle.”  But, no. I have to shuffle between three websites and a phone APP that read: 14N at Sand Cyn 2 veh 1180  t/c blk hov #1 FSP or R/P 1125 O/O/G XRay CD.  For the most part, I know the codes pretty well. But on a rainy day in Southern California where there can be 14 incidents at a time, followed by 8 or 9 new ones every few minutes and then having to UPDATE each of those every ten minutes, it’s a recipe for madness.  When there are no new incidents I take the time to gently lecture my listeners against tailgating and to be patient as they go through congested areas and if they can’t be patient: Be Kind.

When there are interviews, I have to research the guests or the topics and sometimes I don’t get that information until the interview is a minute or two out. My bosses smile at my ability to wing it, but it is incredibly stressful – but I do it, smile on my face.  Interviews have to be recorded both video and audio and when interviews are booked back-to-back it can make it challenging to get all of the appropriate technical balls in the air. [Monday, I got distracted and forgot to turn the camera off – recording my entire three hour shift, leaving no memory on the card for the a.m. host. THAT was embarrassing.

Timing out advertising spots and songs to fit around traffic and interviews is tricky.  Add into that the fact that national news has to fit in at the bottom and top of the hour and our own in-house local news posts their four times and hour segments half way through Drive Time – suddenly, it’s a game of seconds.

When callers are on the line to give me information about what they see on the highways and byways (and especially surface streets, where I don’t always get reports – except from my eyewitness traffic tipsters) it can be frustrating for them when the phone rings and rings, but I try to announce on-air every now and then that I cannot be taking traffic reports at the same time I’m on the microphone giving traffic reports. It’s a trick I’ve not yet learned. Then, when I receive information from four different news sources and two or three callers it irritates some people to the point of screaming (yeah, lady – I still haven’t healed from that one time you berated me for not using YOUR report verbatim). I absolutely adore my traffic tipsters, but I haven’t completely figured out how to make them all happy.

Last on the every-minute-completely-filled-and-accounted-for is trying to find a couple of minutes to fill the tea/coffee/cocoa mug and empty the filled bladder. Those moments are lost, too – when people pop their heads into the studio to ask important questions or provide vital information. A handful of those in a day and there are zero trips to the kitchen (where the hot water dispenser isn’t working right now) or bathroom (which have just recently been repaired – our whole staff had to go out of the building to use portapotties for quite some time, due to an unfortunate issue with the sewer system).

I had stepped away from my writing for a couple of months, partly because I was exhausted with absolutely no words left at the end of ANY of my days and very little energy, to boot.  However, I’ve finally managed to string together three days in a row where I’ve had ample sleep and enough energy in my mug to feel like time might be on my side again.

You’ll forgive me if it takes a minute or two.

“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller

xo – t.

***Please forgive any typos. I often type late at night and while my heart is in the right place, my fingers on the keyboard — not always.***