I think people who work in the broadcast industry are a mischievous bunch. During, this past New Years Day weekend TV has been horrible. Not because there are only reruns of movies that where smash hits when we were all much, much younger or leftover Christmas specials that couldn’t be fit in to the schedule when Christmas was actually here. No, its horrible because of the lousy transmission signal. The picture falls to pieces of thousands of tiny blocks, or, the picture freezes in place, sometimes for several minutes at a time. Which I found particularly terrifying watching Larry King Live. (I sometimes doubt that live part.) Other times the program skips and replays the last 5 seconds of entertainment in case you missed it the first time. Worst of all, unless its TLC, entire channels vanish leaving nothing but a screen of blackness. You ‘d think that this would upset and frustrate me to no end, but, it doesn’t. I see the horrible things happening to my picture quality and I laugh, because I know what is going on behind the scenes. Somewhere, at that moment, someone is having fun, being mischievous, and I have to laugh. Trust me, I am the last person with any right to complain or give someone a hard time for being mischievous. It has been suggested that my last name, Locke, may have been derived from the ancient viking name for the god of Mischief, Loki.
So what kind mischievousness is actually going on behind the scenes? Let me relate a story, my late uncle once shared with me. About fifty years ago, working at the local CBC radio station in Grand Falls, he was alone in the studio on a Saturday night. His job? Playing records for the musical pleasure of the many radio listeners that evening. This was the time when music styles were changing from the sounds to which our great-grandparents listened to that stuff that our grandparents would enjoy. So not every song that was played that night was pleasurable to all listening, especially one elderly lady in particular who was quickly on the phone to my uncle, at the station, demanding he stop playing the bad music and put the good music back on. He tried talking with her to ease her concerns but there was no appeasing this woman. She grew more insistent, more loud and more shrill. When she threaten to report my uncle for playing bad music, he had enough. He told her that if she didn’t stop complaining he would shut her radio off right this moment. She snapped back saying he couldn’t do that from where he was.
Her radio went utterly silent, and so did the woman.
My uncle sat there and waited as the woman realized that no music, either good or bad, was sounding through her radio. “You turn my radio back on this instant!” She demanded in a panic. My uncle said he would turn it back on this time, but, if she didn’t agreed to behave and stop complaining he would turn her radio off permanently. Not willing to risk losing her radio broadcasts forever she reluctantly agreed and when the music returned over her speakers she hung up.
As my uncle was laughing and smiling for the remainder of his shift. As he was doing that, the elderly, rock and roll hating woman, spent the rest of the evening wondering how that little punk at the CBC had shut off her radio from back at the station. As she was doing that, it was a different question puzzling every single listener of CBC radio in central Newfoundland that night. Why had there just been two minutes of dead air? They didn’t know my mischievous uncle had shut down the entire station, removing it from the air, just to trick an irate listener into believing he had the power to control her radio.
I once told a friend, who had a summer job at another local radio station, that the next day I was leaving on a trip and was worried that I would sleep through the alarm and be late. The next morning, as my clock radio, tuned into that station sounded, I was unsuccessfully trying to find the snooze button. As I was slapping at the air, I heard his voice on the air, saying, “At this moment alarms are sounding and people need to get up or they’ll be late getting where they’re supposed to be going!” Then the song ‘Wake Up Little Suzi’ started to play. Morning mischief-makers can be a pain.
In collage, a fellow dorm mate, who would someday become Dean of Men at the same institution, had a part time job at a local radio station. One night, late getting home, he missed curfew. He tapped on my window and pleaded that I help sneak him in past the night watchman in order to avoid a deportment. I agreed to help my mischievous friend and that simple act of kindness resulted in the walls of the dorm being repainted, four in the morning with socks, in a desperate attempt to hide the damage that shaving cream and baby oil had done to those walls in the time between.
I was once a member of an award winning boy band called the grade four boys trio. One of us went on, after graduation, to get a job with the provincial TV station. To prevent him from getting into trouble I’ll change his real name and call him Lindsay. It was about twenty-five years ago when he invited me for a tour of the station and when we reached the master control room he happily answered all my questions about what things did and how things worked. He reached out and flicked a single switch. As he did one of the tiny TV monitors built into the console before us, showing Bob Barker’s Beauties modeling some prize that people had actually ‘come on down’ for, now displayed the TV test pattern instead. “Power”! My former band-mate grinned. ” At this moment, everyone in the western half of the province from Grand Falls out who was watching the Price is Right, now sees this.”
I am fairly certain that mischievousness must be a requirement for any applicant interested in the field of media broadcast. That’s why I think all the trouble I had with Rogers Cable these last few days was not because of technical difficulties, but rather, the mischievous crew they have working there. It must have been a wild party and they have been having way too much fun ushering in this brand new decade.
It makes me smile. But,come on guys. Yes, fun is fun, but four days? Really? Its long enough now. Time to get back to work again.