Is there a ghost in the room?!

No, it’s just my boss.

At the radio station. Where fun & spookiness meet.

I don’t mean hauntings, though those might occur. After all, the station where I work two nights a week has been around a long time — some 75 years to be exact.

I’ll get to the spookiness in a moment. First, we’re a pair of sister stations on one property.

The station where I run the board is all conservative and local talk radio. We’re actually the 12th station to pick up Rush Limbaugh some 25 years ago when he first came on the air! Definitely conservative street cred!

A short walk away is the sister station. It plays calm music all day every day. They air news in only small bites. People from around over the country tune in just for the music, not the news.

Most nights it’s just me and the cat and an old-school operating board at the news station. I do my duties, ensure programs and commercials run smoothly and take actions when they don’t. Mine’s a late shift ’til midnight and most times quite quiet.

Last night however brought adventure!

Arizona’s in its summer monsoon season. Around 9 o’clock I get a call from my boss, the station manager. He need me to head NOW to the sister station to create and broadcast a weather warning of flash-flooding.

I don’t work there. I don’t know its control board, apart from certain commonalities with “my” board. I don’t know my way around the levers and knobs and buttons, oh my!

But my boss does. He’s been in the business for, what, 30 years and at this station for about that long.

He knows the equipment. I mean KNOWS! So well that he doesn’t even have to be in the room. He’s the Wise All-Seeing All-Knowing Radio Guru.

You can be seated at the board and something goes wonky on the computer — which you never want in radio by the way! — and he can lead you step by step through screen by screen, button by button and message by message to the promised land. That promised land is Stay on the Air.

And he does it all on the phone! He’s like a spirit hovering in the corner, seeing everything you’re seeing. He knows exactly what button does what, what function leads to the next, what lever’s where on the board, what each screen looks like what and what the next screen looks like and how to get you out of a pinch and off the wrong path.

It’s spoooooky!

Last night he’s the all-seeing guru leading the blind man. Or woman; that’d be me. :).

Like I said, I don’t run the board at the sister station. But he needs that weather warning created and aired and he needs it NOW!

So after hastening to the sister station and seating myself in front of a foreign console, I call him ready for instructions. It goes something like this.

“First the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see A. Click that.”

I do.

“Now, in the upper right, you’ll see B.”

“No, I don’t see that. I need to hit log-in first?”

“Right. Log in. Now it’ll load up. You’ll see C on the left side of the page, about halfway down.”

I do.

“Hit that. Now you’ll see D on the center of the page. Scroll down to the 8.43 weather warning in Flagstaff.” (Clearly he’s got access to breaking news at home.)

“I see it.”

“Good. Now at the top of the screen’s a Print option. Press that.”

On it goes, step by step.

“Now, over to your right is a board with a knob.”

“I don’t see that knob.”

“To the far right of the console.”

“Oh! A different piece of equipment. I see it now.”

“Okay, turn that knob to about half.”

On it goes, with urgency oozing in his voice. That’s the greatest challenge. Navigating a board and computer of near-zero familiarity!

And it’s RADIO. On-air radio! Where mistakes happen and hordes of people hear it! Where the wrong button pushed or lever pulled can mean that dreaded and dreadful: Dead Air.

I follow his instructions to the T while trying to curtail my questions — and panic amid his Go! Go! Go* urgency and my lack of training and knowledge of even these simplest procedures. “Just be quiet and listen and do exactly as he says. He’ll get you through this.”

I have the text for the announcement. I record it. I stumble over a couple of words. I try to play it for him over the phone but don’t have the volume up. Where’s the volume lever?!

Oh, there it is. I play it again. “You stumbled a couple times. Re-record it.”

“How do I do that? Oh, OK, I got it.” I re-record. No stumblings this time.
Whew!

Go! Go! Go! The pressure’s on!

He instructs me on how and where to save it. How and where to insert it into the programming.

All the while: Go! Go! Go! This is a flash-flood warning. People in certain areas need to move to higher ground – now!

I need to get this alert out: Now!

Yiiiiikkesss!

I manage. I get it done. Thanks entirely to my all-seeing all-knowing radio guru. Who truly phoned it in!

I return to my regular chair at my regular post and immediately jot down the sequence of steps in my notebook for future reference.

And think: Whew! And wow! That was fun!

And spooky. It truly is like he’s in the room, standing behind looking over your shoulder, instructing: “Open this. Now push that. It’ll say C. Choose yes. Now select that. Push this. Choose this function. Open this channel. Bring down this lever. Now bring up that lever. Turn this knob halfway up. Now turn that knob on the right off.”

On it goes and on it flowed. Fun fun fun! And spooky being expertly guided by a radio guru who’s in the room — but not. A hundred bucks says he’ll be continuing it from the grave!

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