|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Apr. 11, 2006 - 3:03 p.m.
Sunny and Mild
At my new station, on their new morning show, I am billed as "Traffic & Weather Man".
First I talk about how bad the traffic is.
Then I read a commercial.
Then I talk about what the weather will be like.
'But how,' you may wonder, 'does one (admittedly super) human know what is happening every ten minutes along thousands of miles of roads when his butt is firmly ensconced in a radio studio atop an ivory tower far from the lowing herds? And how is it that he is also uncannily accurate with his weather predictions, day after day after day?''
Easy. I don't know.
Oh, I don't exactly guess. But it's not like I'm flying around in a supersonic jetpack over the entire New York metropolitan area every ten minutes taking notes on crashes and shootings, screaming back to my studio in time for my next report, and stopping at three separate weather stations to take barometer readings in between.
That would be impossible.
We don't USE barometer readings.
What happens is, there's this bunch of people ("producers") in a huge dark room where I work. Each sits at a desk, plugged into headsets through which they direct helicopters and other aircraft we have soaring hither and yon looking for trouble. A bank of police scanners are lined up around the desk. All squawk simultaneously, and the producers have to discern which squawk is a traffic accident being reported and which is a routine racial beating. Every producer has two or three phones in front of him to make and receive calls, and a huge list of phone numbers he's responsible for dialing at set times to check in with tow truck companies, sanitation crews, transit authorities, bridge and tunnel authorities, suicide hotlines, etc., to see what disasters each may be working on at that moment. Above all the communications equipment is a wall of monitors, each showing the view from one of 78 cameras we have spying on you in the service of Big Brother. At his station, a producer looks kinda like Neo before he's awoken from his pod in "The Matrix".
Whenever a producer learns of a new traffic incident - roughly every 4 seconds during drive time - he or she or it enters the story into a computer program attached to our company's intra-net, which sorts it by geographic area and severity level and sends it to my work station. Amazing!
Meanwhile, down the hall, I sit in a bright, cheery studio IM'ing friends and checking out the latest cam-whore at Leenks.com. Every few minutes I take my free hand out of my pants, yawn, and turn the mic on. Then I read - in an authoritative voice - the words on my computer screen which the producers have sweated blood to get me. (Oh, I also have a TV monitor showing the same cameras the producers use. But I usually can't be bothered. Bo-ring.)
When my report is finished I take Miss Jordan Capri off "Pause", grab a bite of my Little Debbie cake, and bullshit to my friend on AIM how hard it is making it in this business.
For this I take home 4 times as much money as the caffeinated drudges who've toiled harder than an air traffic controller at Hong Kong International to make me a star. Plus I get benefits. And a fan club.
My job. I think I'll keep it.
That's how I get traffic info.
But what about the weather? How do I know that? Are there legions of meteorologists hunched over isobar charts and Doppler screens in a sunless cave deep beneath the foundations of our building, chained to their workstation and texting me up-to-the-second conditions?
If only. Actually, the station e-mails me a forecast every morning just before showtime. I print it out and just read it verbatim every 10 minutes for the next four hours.
In theory, I'm not responsible for bad information. If a listener is stuck in a 47 mile long line of stopped traffic because a jumbo jet has just crash landed on the interstate, taking out 4 bridges and an orphanage, and I neglected to mention it....well, the PRODUCERS fucked up and never put it in the system. I would have read it if I'd had it. Ees no my fault, boss!
And hey - do you see "Meteorology Degree" listed on my resume? If I announce "sunshine and 82 degrees for the next 5 days", but the next afternoon we get a deluge that breaches the levees, killing hundreds of loyal listeners...again, not my fault. I just read what they sent me. They hired me for my voice, not my brain (to their credit).
All in all, not a bad gig.
However, I've just recently discovered a flaw in the system.
See, last Wednesday one of the above scenarios DID happen. There I was, chugging along on Brand New Morning Show, making astute and witty pronouncements on the topic at hand to the delight of one and all, then flawlessly transitioning to the eagerly awaited Traffic and Weather segment.
The weather portion of the segment went something like: "...by mid-morning the clouds will move out and we'll have an absolutely pristine day with temperatures getting up near 70. Break out your thong and set up the hibachi!"
Every ten minutes, from 5 to 9am.
It snowed a LOT.
I saw the first flakes start to fall the minute I walked out of my studio. 'This does not bode well' I thought.
And indeed, it did not.
By the time I pulled in to DangerHouse we had veritable white-out conditions. Listening to radio reports that afternoon I heard nothing but frightening tales of blood on the highways. People - people like me - had been lulled into a false sense of security by the weather reports they'd been hearing. Reports that trumpeted "Winter is over! Huzzah for Spring!" Most had (foolishly, it turns out) gone ahead and removed the snow tires from their cars in favor of treadless racing slicks. And now they were paying the price for their unquestioning trust in experts.
The next morning I got to work, plunked my headphones on and heard High Powered ShowHost ask: "So, Dangerspouse. What do you have to say for yourself?"
This is not the way the show usually opens. I quickly ad-libbed something.
"Well...I was born a poor black child...."
"That's not what he meant" chimed in Impeccably Credentialed CoHost. "We want to know how you missed predicting THE BIGGEST SNOWFALL OF THE PAST THREE MONTHS just hours before it hit! Do you know how many accidents I saw on my way home yesterday?"
I literally took my headphones off and stared at them. They must be broken. They COULDN'T have just transmitted those words to my ears!
"Yeah," continued High Powered Host. "Yesterday all morning you were telling us...wait a minute....here we go - "
And he played a cut of me from the day before cheerfully telling everyone up and down the Eastern Seaboard it would be "...sunny and mild today, with temperatures perfect for a lunch hour picnic or game of Lawn Darts with the kids!"
I sat in front of my microphone with my jaw moving up and down but no sound coming out. I couldn't believe they were calling me out on-air about this.
They e-mail me the weather report THEY WRITE every morning! WHAT WERE THEY DOING?!
Finally, CoHost broke into the steady stream of wheezing sounds I was producing. "In your defense, Danger, I noticed that most other stations got the forecast wrong also. Why don't you at least tell us, in retrospect, what happened in the atmosphere to produce yesterday's sudden snow squalls?"
Now I probably have about as much knowledge of meteorological processes as Tara Reid does.
But here's the thing - I know they don't know any more than that either.
So...I bullshitted. It seemed easier than telling the truth ("Why don't YOU tell ME what happened, since you wrote the damn thing") as well as more likely to result in my continued employment.
"Well, early on we noticed a low pressure mass off the coast to the southeast, but the computer models strongly indicated it would swirl away from us. However early in the morning the Gulf Stream suddenly shifted, pushing this moisture laden mass right into the edge of a cold front that's been stalled over the coastal states the past few days, resulting in a sustained bout of snowfall. Either that, or god got drunk and fell asleep at the switch again..."
They bought it. Say ANYTHING with an authoritative enough tone and you can snow people into believing it. How else to explain the current crop of politicians, for instance? I once convinced a buddy of mine that from years of relying on tourists in Yellowstone Park, there is now a population of deer which has evolved into a species which can eat only toast. Not bread. Toast.
It's easier than you'd think.
Unfortunately, after congratulating me enough times on my "insight into weather dynamics" I began to believe my own press. When they asked my thoughts on the upcoming forecast, I threw aside the script they'd e-mailed me (which called for a steady warming trend from now through November) and just went with my gut.
My gut said: "What's all this guff about a warming trend? It's fucking freezing out! There's no WAY it's gonna warm up 30 degrees in one day."
And I said so. Although it came out like this: "The late Arctic front that dipped down causing yesterday's snow when it collided with the moist Atlantic Low is currently stalled above us. We'll see temperatures not rising much more than they are now, and if that low pressure system doesn't move back offshore we'll probably get more snow tonight - could be as much as two inches before it's all over. Look for tomorrow to be more of the same. If you took the snow tires off your car last week, better get them re-mounted. Sorry."
More back-patting and verbal praise for my encyclopedic knowledge of meteorology and subsequent service to the community. It was noted that none of the other weather reporters in New York City were predicting anything remotely like what I was calling for, the fools.
Shortly after 12:30 I flipped my mic off, donned my 3-layer Columbia Russian Steppe Parka, laced up my Columbia quintuple insulated Bugaboo Boots, and strode out into the parking lot.
Where I immediately collapsed from heat stroke.
It was 40 degrees warmer than it had been only five hours ago!
What the hell??
People in thong Speedos, glistening with SPF-600, peered in amazement at me through UV-Protector Ray Bans.
I peeled down to my Tasmanian Devil boxers and climbed in to the Mighty WRX. The steering wheel was almost too hot to touch.
On the way home I flipped on the afternoon show at the station I'd just left. They'd broken format and were doing a special segment on the amazing weather we were having - the weather that "nobody" predicted. They called a local Home Depot and got the manager to give tips on setting up your outdoor grill. Then they harangued a City Parks guy about opening the community pools early because kids were collapsing in the streets from dehydration. Old people spontaneously combusting.
It was HOT.
I punched the radio off and drove the rest of the way home in silence, my underwear soaking up sweat streaming down my back. I dragged myself up the staircase which was shimmering like a mirage. Casey the Wonder Corgi was lying by the front door, desperately gulping at the slightly cooler air trickling in at the bottom.
"How was your day, Honey?" NewWifey(tm) called from the kitchen. "How 'bout this heat, huh?"
I collapsed into the recliner and flipped on the news. Every. Single. Station. Was gleefully noting that their meteorologist had predicted this unprecedented thermal spike earlier in the day. Most played clips of a magnificently toothed blond guy named "Storm" or "Kelvin" in front of an animated screen showing the rapid retreat of an Arctic cold front, replaced by an arid convection current blowing up all the way from the Transvaal at just sub-sonic speeds.
I ripped the wax from a fresh liter of Maker's Mark and popped the cork. No glass.
The next morning I walked into my studio like I was heading to the gallows.
I put my headphones on, the show's opening theme blared out right at the top of the hour, and just as quickly the host shut it off.
"Ok...so...Dangerspouse. Guess what I did when I got off the air yesterday?"
"No, I did not freeze. I called my mechanic. Do you know WHY I called my mechanic? Because the weather guy on my show yesterday said that a frigid Arctic air mass was stalled over the Metropolitan area, and if we didn't put our snow tires back on we were all going to die an icy, bloody death on the drive home. I was calling my mechanic to schedule an emergency tire change. Do you know what he told me, Dangerspouse? He told me that his shop was closed because his air conditioner broke and it was too hot to open!"
"Gosh, you know how flaky these computer projections can -"
He cut me off. I wasn't gonna be allowed to pass the buck. "How come EVERY OTHER weather reporter in New York managed to predict the heat wave? Are they all using different software in their weather computers? Did you get ours from the Clearance Table at Radio Shack?"
"Well I -"
"I just happened to pull up your resume before the show started this morning, Danger. It says here you've got a Master's degree in Experimental Psychology. Tell me, how does that make you qualified to be a weather announcer on a New York City morning radio show?"
I so wanted to answer that it made me qualified to pronounce him Officially Psychotic. He was raking me over the coals for reading the weather report HE sent me! (Well, except for the previous day's, when I went rogue.)
However, I remembered my mortgage...my fan club...the 75% pay cut I'd take if they kicked me off the air for arguing with the Host and being forced to work as a Producer....the Payola....
"It really doesn't Mr. Host. Can you ever forgive me?"
"I suppose we'll have to. There's nobody else on deck, and we've already spent a ton of money to promote you around town. But be warned, I won't be this lenient again if you predict 'sunny and mild' but we get hail and a rain of toads."
I went from that right to my first traffic report of the morning, then did an absolutely faithful rendition of the weather forecast they had e-mailed me only minutes before. It called for continuing warm temperatures and lots of sunshine for the next several days.
I think the Executive Producer of the show had an inkling of how irked I was by this however, as he hotlined me right after the show.
"Danger, you're probably wondering what happened there this morning. Lemme put it this way: you're the Whipping Boy when it comes to weather inaccuracies. Don't take it personally, but I can't have High Powered Host go on the air and say 'The highly paid meteorologist who's services we subscribe to and who e-mails Dangerspouse the weather every morning so he can read it in a stentorian voice fucked up.' We need to keep alive the illusion that YOU, a key member of the morning team, are actually digging up every bit of information you tell the listeners every morning. It's part of the Illusion Of Radio, you know? So don't worry, we're not really mad at you for reading OUR weather reports that were wrong...but this is how it's gonna be if those reports are wrong again in the future. Ok?"
I walked out of the building and got back in the Mighty WRX, waving to a group of Producers who were carpooling in a rusted out '68 Volkswagen Bus with cardboard shocks and no back seat. I drove up to my cozy house in the woods, started up one of my motorcycles and went for a long ride. Afterwards I kicked back in my recliner and engaged in a rousing game of Gran Tourismo-4 on my new plasma screen, the sound blasting out from a series of B&W and NHT speakers mounted around the room. In between races I poured drams of a nice Fine Champagne Cognac (Jean Danflou) from one of my Baccarat decanters into a sparkling cut glass snifter.
Oh well, if I'm to be a Whipping Boy, at least I'm a well paid Whipping Boy. And that is indeed OK.
Besides, who could be upset for long on a day like this? It's beautiful - sunny and mild, just like the weather guy predicted.
Quote of the week, from Not-A-Finger:
"Please stop looking at me like I just crapped a small likeness of Hitler into your grandmotherís mouth."
(She's a lot like me...only funnier...and in 1/5 the space.)
I can't help but notice that there is a lot of excitement these days about immigrants taking that whole "Give me your tired, your poor...." thing literally. Personally, I can only wonder what Native Americans must think when they hear the White Man wailing about about uncivilized mobs invading his borders. They probably can't decide between "irony" and "divine retribution". Although in truth, it's probably more along the lines of 'Woo hoo, more wampum in the slots!'
On a related note that speaks volumes about People Who Get Elected Based On Vocal Delivery And Not Content:
"According to the Hartwell (Ga.) Sun, state Sen. Nancy Schaefer, speaking at an "issues day" event in February, said one reason illegal immigrants find work in the United States was because "50 million" abortions have caused a U.S. labor shortage: "We could have used those people." [Hartwell Sun, 3-1-06]" (from Chuck Shepherd's "News of the Weird")
Housekeeping: Two years after having paid for it, I've finally figured out how to add a "Comments" feature to the ol' homestead. Go me. It's over there on the left, just above the impressive slew of awards buttons. Now you too can leave your tired, your poor, your cliche'd bon mots, even if they are crossing illegally over from some foreign site. Have at me.
Have a great day kids. Oh, and don't forget your umbrella. I think it's gonna rain.