|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Sept. 03, 2005 - 3:08 p.m.
A Spouse By Any Other Name
I did, of course. We all sacrifice for our art.
(This was in line with all the other equipment at that station. All music was on either vinyl or carts (like one song 8-track tapes...if you know what 8-track tapes are) because the owners didn't want to spend money on cd players. On my very first day I was ushered in to the studio and found every single surface covered by a huge painter's tarp. The roof had sprung a leak, and until the owners could sucker a roofer to exchange his service for free commercial time instead of cash, we had to start our shift by crawling under the tarp and remaining enshrouded there for 5 hours. When it rained, water streamed in from the holes in the ceiling and hammered onto the plastic sheeting enveloping our head. If we were talking on mic, it sounded like someone with Cerebral Palsey had been handed a snare drum and two sticks, and was practicing in the studio with us. This lasted for 3 months.)
So when after 15 minutes not one person had reached me to claim their windfall, I saw no reason to panic. At my next mic break I came across with: "Hey hey hey! Guess what? Our phones decided to take a lunch break - union workers, y'know - but now they're back! If you wanna claim that free ten dollar bill just for knowing my name, jab that speed dial now!" I threw on Don Mclain's "American Pie" - every DJ's go-to song when an extended bathroom stay or phone contest was necessary - and hovered over the reciever.
Nate was rocked back in a chair behind me, feet up on the stack of Penthouses we used as "show prep", hands folded serenely across his gut. He didn't say a word.
Cut ahead an hour and a half, and that's when I do start to get irritated. One call had indeed managed to find its way to my studio, but the listener had been WRONG, confusing me with the mid-day guy. After that...nothing, zero, right up to 8pm and my sign off.
Four years on-air 3 to 8pm, six days a week. One week vacation a year. No sick days. That's over 1,224 days -six thousand one hundred and twenty hours - of quality entertainment I had injected into their otherwise miserable lives. And not ONE of them could remember my name? I mean - my face and name were even plastered up on that stupid billboard on Rt.206 in Branchville! Were they blind too??
Immediately after my shift I forked over a grimy wadded up 10-spot to Nate, who still had yet to utter a word. He smiled and walked outside to the beat up '77 Pacer he refused to junk even though it had no floorboards left. The squeal of a stripped starter gear, a belching mushroom cloud of exhaust, and he was gone. Taking my ego with him.
Ever since, I haven't cared a whit for listeners or what they called me. I do, and do, and do for those kids, and this is the thanks I get? Fine, tell me what to say, gimme my thirty pieces of silver every week, and get out of my way. I've got a dog waiting at home who can identify me by smell, and that's all I ask for.
So when I started at Horrendously Megolithic Radio Conglomorate, Inc. a few years later and they told me that I'd have to use a pseudonym on the nation's largest all news station, I said "Whatever. Where's the fridge in this dump?"
As a result, for the past 11 years I have been the Racer X of announcers around here. Nobody knows my real name. My friends - and some family - don't believe I'm actually on air in the nation's #1 market because they always hear a strange name intro'd when they tune in. Don't they recognise my voice? But again...whatever. That's why god gave us alcohol.
Despite my dismissive, blase attitude (that actually belies deep psychological frustration), being anonymous at a job like this does have its ocassional advantages. As I alluded to waaay back in paragraph #3, just last week it came in VERY handy.
There I was, see, going work at 2:30am, heading east on Route 3. Route 3 is a major honkin' artery that everybody in this most densely populated state in the Union uses to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, and thereby Midtown Manhattan. Although it is 75 lanes wide the average speed during rush hour is measured in feet, not miles, per hour. Even at 2:30 am when I reach that stretch there is rarely 2 car lengths of empty space between you and any other Overnight Wanderer.
I had just come over the little humpty hill that gives you a brilliant view of the Empire State Building when I spotted a loooong line of red lights, stopped, approaching the Clifton Commons Mall. This is about a mile from my turn off, approximately 2 minutes from the studio I was supposed to be sitting in within the next 15 minutes.
Some idiot had the temerity, the sheer inconsideration, to crash and die on Rt.3 just after the mall, about a half an hour before I was scheduled to arrive. Bastard! I hope his widow gets AIDS.
Anyway, whenever there is a fatal accident on the roads around here, the local gendarmes feel it is incumbant upon them to undertake an investigation into What The Hell Happened. No so much because they particularly care, but because they began getting tired of all the lawsuits generated when they just used to push the dead bodies over to the shoulder of the road to become part of the food chain.
And now I was gonna be late because of it.
Sloooowly we crept forward to the scene of the crime. Then just as we got a glimpse of the buckled and slumped wreck, one charred arm flopped out of the driver's side door onto the pavement, we were directed off the highway into the parking lot of the Clifton Commons Mall.
And from there....nothing. There must have been 8 cops cars and 15 uniformed officers stationed all across Rt. 3 at the detour. One bored officer was laconically sweeping his arm like a pendulum as he directed us seething commuters off the road, the other 14 were grouped in 2's and 3's, sipping coffee and chatting among themselves.
No signs directing us back to the highway, no officers stationed inside the parking lot to offer helpful advice to all the people trying to get home, to work, or to a bar with a later closing time. Once they booted us off the main line we were on our own. It was "Farewell, brave warrior! Return either with your sheild or upon it." None of the Donut Gang could be bothered to so much as stick a "This Way, Fool" arrow on any of the lightposts to point us to salvation.
Once in the parking lot it was like a Keystone Cops chase scene viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dozens of cars skittering all over the place, no one paying any attention to the marked lanes, everyone darting around unheeding of other cars as they looked for a lifesaving escape valve out of the asphalt net.
Through sheer luck I happened to stumble almost immediately on the Freight Entrance in a remote backlot corner. Shooting (illegally) up the ramp I found myself on a jerkwater backstreet in Clifton. There were a few other glaze-eyed denizens of the night who had also somehow managed to free themselves from the grip of the Mall Monster, and we gave each other waves as we passed like members of an exclusive club. Or POW's.
Cutting ahead, I'll just say that I was a half hour late to work. In any other industry a half hour delay in start time might not be such a big deal, but when you have your own radio show the rules are a bit different.
Needless to say I was boiling mad when I got to my studio, and I let my listeners know it from my very first mic break:
"Lemme tell you folks, the Clifton police should take all their cruisers into the shop tomorrow morning and have the word 'SERVE' erased from the "TO PROTECT AND SERVE" sign on their doors...." and then let fly a 10 minute vitriolic tirade of Righteous Indignation aimed at the stultifyingly indifference those beer bellied Simpsons PD rejects were embodiments of.
On my second report I did it again.
Again on the third.
All. Night. Long.
On the largest all-news radio station in the Free World.
Needless to say, this was not met with overwhelming acclaim by the Clifton, NJ police force. All of whom tuned in simultaneously once one of them heard one of my reports and told his porcine cohorts. And I know they were all tuned in because they all started calling our Producers' Desk demanding to know who the fuck was on the air badmouthing them in the middle of the night. There were implied dire threats that the person doing the badmouthing would be on the recieving end of not only constant police surveillance the rest of his natural life, but also probably a wooden shampoo if so much as a license plate light were out.
I have to admit a certain ammount of trepidation when a non-stop line of producers started streaming into my studio between every report, recounting (with an unseeming ammount of glee, I thought) the latest volley of belicose warnings from the Boys in Blue. But - I was STILL madder than I was trepiditous. My tirades continued until Pete came in and I sullenly left the airwaves.
I was very careful exiting the building that morning. Half expecting my shirt to light up with laser points eminating from a row of unmarked blue sedans on the far side of the lot, I scurried as quickly as I could from pillar to pillar until I reached the Mighty WRX.
The entire drive home was traversed at the posted speed limit, not 1 mph faster, for the first time since I started working there 11 years ago. My palms were sweating like a Suicide Bomber's just before meeting his posse of virgins and my heart was beating so hard against my chest that my shirt was creating a breeze. I just knew that the day shift gunslingers had me on The List. And when you are on The List in New Jersey, your life expectancy is shorter than a Mayfly's.
Nonetheless, against all odds and despite my being a devout Atheist, god took pity on me and guided me through the Valley of Beatings until I arrived safely back at Dangerhouse.
I guess being a cop in New Jersey is more reprehensible in god's eyes than being an liberal Atheist pedophile-wannabe radio liar. Go figure.
I haven't let my guard down since, either. For the past two weeks I have left Dangerhouse 20 minutes early so I could be sure that no overnight flatfoot would have cause to pull me over for speeding. All my lights were working, the stereo was kept to hospital zone levels, and I even Fabreezed the Eau d'Maker's Mark from the fabric (took two full spray bottles). There was NO WAY I was gonna get snagged by The Man.
Until I got pulled over on my way to work.
Yup. Three days later, just when I was beginning to breath again as I drove the 8 mile stretch of Rt.3 that passes through Clifton, I came around the corner, over the humpty-hill, down to the Clifon Commons Mall...and into an overnight sobriety checkpoint.
I just KNOW those bastards set it up to ferret me out!
Once again I inched my way to the front of the line. Every two or three cars an officer would motion the driver to pull over to the side where another blue clad tool checked his paperwork, looked in his pupils for signs of inappropriate dilation, and either let the guy go or...cuff him, zip him into a body bag (saves time later) and toss him into the back of a squad car. I kept my fingers crossed.
"Pull over to the side please, sir" said the 320 pound Rubin Stodard impersonator with a holster, waving me to his exact double on the shoulder.
I casually (as casually as I could, considering I'd gone clinically hysterically blind) eased the Mighty WRX to the side of the highway and handed the waiting Officer of the Piece of Fried Chicken my paperwork. He looked it over, asked me if I'd had anything to drink tonight, then asked what my destination was.
"I'm on my way to work."
"Work? At 2:30 in the morning? Are you a prostitute?" (He had no ironic tone in his voice when he asked this.)
"No sir. I'm a reporter at Worldeating Media Monstrocity, Inc. My shift starts in a half an hour."
The goon stared at my license again. I could feel sweat filling up my buttcrack, soaking my Underoos.
Finally, "Do you happen to work with a 'Mr. X' (he said my on-air name here)?"
HE DIDN'T KNOW!! Of course, how could he. But still....
I forced myself to keep from leaping out of the car and giving him a Relief Blowjob on the spot. Instead, I concentrated on putting all my vocal training skills into one carefully intoned statement:
"Yes sir, and he's a real dirtbag. He's terrible on the air, nobody listens to him - his ratings are horrible - but they can't find anyone else to fill the shift so they're stuck with him. He drives a crappy car too, an old Buick Electra. Bad for the company image, if you ask me."
The cop snorted in shared derision. He handed me back my papers and said "Thank you Mr. Spouse, you can go now. And when you get to work, would you give Mr. X regards from the Clifton Police Department? He'll understand. Oh, and tell him most of us like Buick Electras very much. Have a good night."
I rolled back onto the highway, my head light and somewhat dizzy from the sudden euphoria. FREE! They bought it!
15 minutes later I was back on the air, running through the usual litany of overturned pickup trucks, stalled limos on the Tappan Zee Bridge, and...a tie up on Route 3 because "...the Clifon PD have nothing better to do now that the Dunkin' Donuts is closed for the night...."
I got out of work 6 hours later, strode boldly to the Mighty WRX and shot home at an average of 25 mph over the speed limit.
Before I got to Dangerhouse I counted three Buick Electras pulled over on the side of the road. The driver of each was spread eagled on the ground while K-9 officers and plainclothes detectives tore apart each body panel of that Detroit boat, looking for even a stray beer cap. Any excuse to start a Rodney King dance, any excuse at all. Gotta "Serve and protect", after all. Especially each other.
I'm outta here!
Just for a bit, though. Put the razor down.
Tomorrow morning NewWifey(tm) and I are returning to Vancouver, BC for a week's R&R. (Hopefully we will not have the fiasco upon entry with Customs that we had last year. Check the archives if you're curious.)
Then, on our return, I have to undergo surgery to repair the ligament in my ankle that was not manly enough to support me when I crashed through the steps carrying an unconscious wife (two entries ago). Turns out the tear was worse than expected, so I'll be off my feet for a solid month after surgery. If I can hobble to the keyboard during that month, I'll regale y'all with more mirth and merryment. Maybe more cop bashing, which all good Americans love. But if not...wait for me, willya?
And if you drive a Buick, bypass Rt.3 for a few more months. Just a hunch.