How NOT To Go To College
SITTING HERE IN THE CHAPEL at St. Arbucks I am eavesdropping on a conversation taking place at a nearby table. The content is mundane, but one of the men has a voice (and a face) made for radio – baritone with great enunciation and good breath control. It puts me in a reminiscing mood. Let me explain.
Back in the Dark Ages of the mid 1960s I was going to college at Cleveland State University, or at THE Cleveland State University as they insisted it be called.
While there I got involved with the college radio station. It wasn’t a big operation. One Professor and about ten students ran the whole shooting match. I ended up doing a live broadcast every day from Noon until one o’clock. Like any live show it was a case of, “When, not if, something goes wrong.”
In those days we used real turntables. Nothing was computerized. In fact, all of our electronics was built by the students and was often repaired with a firm punch to the side of the control panel.
We had three turntables – two for the vinyl on the air and one turntable cued up and ready to go in case one of the others broke down. Dead Air was not to be allowed.
I was on the air, doing my lunchtime gig one day in early April, playing the Mamas and the Papas or The Association, when I brought one turntable down and brought up the other. Nothing happened. I hit the switch again – Nothing. The table just sat there, unmoving, with Dead Air starting to pile up. As my five minutes of training had taught me, I hit the dial and brought the emergency turntable to life and music filled the airwaves. One problem was solved, but another one was created.
We hadn’t had an equipment failure in quite a while. There was actually dust on the record that was now spinning away. Was this somebody’s idea of a joke, or had we been living on borrowed time?
Here we were in early April. Outside, the weather was very Spring-like and baseball season was once again underway. Then why was the studio and our airwaves filled with, “We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas…?” Oops!
If you have ever worked in radio you learn quickly that one hour of airtime requires about two hours of preparation. Obviously, nobody on the station staff had done any COMPLETE preparation since Christmas – including me. Our Professor/Advisor/Station Manager was not amused. I think several of us were spared simply because it was illegal to kill us.
Despite Fubars like that, I loved the work and, as a result, I began spending more and more time at the station and less and less time in the classroom. Eventually my presence in a classroom became more noticeable than my absence. At the end of the school year I received a letter from the school advising me that I had achieved an almost perfect record – earning an “Incomplete” in all but one class. I failed that one. Well, who can be expected to do well in French class at eight o’clock in the morning?
So ended my Sophomore year on my way to getting my college education. Two colleges down and two more to go before I was handed a diploma and entered The World of the Ridiculously Unprepared.
Yeah, well, so it goes.