Friday, 1 August 2014

Not a Mushroom, but a Fun Guy


I wanted to take a moment, in between whining and moaning, to assure readers that I am not an overly negative person. Most of the time the people I work with, and those I encounter at random, find me the bright spot in their otherwise dull and dreary days.

Putting smiles on people's faces help me feel better, too. Simple things like a smile or an inoffensive joke make the world a brighter place.

When I'm working I put my all into the task at hand. I'm not one to sit idly by when a job needs doing and I'm not in it for the praise. Things out of place or half-finished annoy me. (Don't worry, I'm not about to go off on a rant.) If you are there to do a job, do it to the best of your abilities. If you can be of assistance to someone else, lend a hand without looking for a reward.

That is not to say that I don't have my mischievous side. (Just ask my wife. "I wasn't plotting anything," I'll say not-so-innocently. "Uh huh. Then why are your eyes shifting?" Is her usual comeback.)

When I was a student at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, I had occasion to startle the Dean of Broadcasting. The studios were set up in a block of four with the AM station facing the FM station. The newsroom was beside the AM station and beside the newsroom was the production studio. They were all arranged in a neat square.

One day I took it upon myself to tie the end of a reel of tape (from the days when we used reel-to-reel tapes) around one of the doorknobs of one of the studios. Then I ran rapidly around the block of studios, winding them in tape.

My dashing took me past the office of the then Dean of Broadcasting, Ray Cunnington. The blur and activity caused 'the Silver Fox', as we called him, to make his way to the Radio Master's office where Ray took out his key, opened the door, and proclaimed to Bryan Olney (my Radio Master), "Bryan, I think one of your students has gone insane."

I knew this was coming, so, with one quick cut of my handy razor blade (we used to edit our tapes with razor blades in those days) and a hearty yank, all the tape (and thus the evidence) was neatly snatched out of sight. So when Bryan bolted out of his office, there was nothing to see.

You've probably heard tales of people lighting news reader's scripts on fire. The trick is to light the top so they burn down the story, thus causing the reader to pick up the pace to finish the story. Only amateurs lit the script from the bottom.

Another favourite jape is the use of what is known as the 'talk back' button. The talk back button, or switch, is used to speak directly into a person's headphones. This way instructions can be given without said words going over the air. The fun part is in hiding so the person on the air can't see who is talking to them. Start with just one word, say, 'beer'. Wait a few seconds. Then repeat the word, 'beer'. You can keep this up for a bit then finish with (in as drunken a voice as possible, if 'beer' was your word) 'we need more beer'. It helps if you know the person well enough to know some 'inside jokes'. These play very well. This was particularly fun to do to news and sports readers, especially if there were any last minute funeral announcement that had to be read live.

But everything is on a computer screen now and the engineers have probably put in kill switches for the talk backs. So, those pranks are just memories of old radio days.

I have plenty of other stories from radio's days before digital that I might share with you some time.

It just seemed important at this stage to point out that I'm really more of a fun guy than a mushroom (you know, kept in the dark and covered in sh**).

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