In the radio broadcast industry, food is king.
If you want to say thank you to a DJ, drop off a box of donuts or cookies.
If you are holding a media conference or promotional event and you want the media to show up, serve food. In fact, set up a roped off media area and put food in it to corral your reporters.
Food is king.
Following are several food stories from my years in radio.
All are true.
I didn't realize just how much food played into my (I hate) radio experience until I started writing.
The first story was my first lesson in radio food.
It's the world's most perfect "radio food" illustration.
Now, after having spent years in the industry working with many different personalities at multiple radio stations, I don't know how I ever could have expected anything different to happen to my pizza.
The shift I held at my first radio job was 5pm to midnight. While everyone else was heading home to dinner, I was just starting my work day. Some days I would grab a bag of drive-thru on my way to the studio and eat it while I worked, but a lot of nights I ordered from a local pizza/sandwich place that delivered anything on their menu. I called them so often that they knew by heart the specific way I'd order my sandwich. And they'd sometimes draw pictures on the box.
One night, I ordered a pizza.
"You must have company," the sandwich guy remarked over the phone.
"Oh. No, that's just the radio you hear in the background."
"No, it's not that. You just usually order one sandwich. I thought maybe you had friends today."
"Oh. No. Just me. I felt like pizza. I probably won't call tomorrow though, because I'll have pizza leftovers."
I think that was the night it dawned on me that I had no friends.
The pizza arrived.
I enjoyed several slices and put the box of leftovers in the breakroom fridge.
The next day, I bypassed the fast food places knowing I had most of a pizza already waiting for me.
But when I got to the studio, the pizza box was missing from the refrigerator.
It was crushed in the trash can. Empty.
I searched the fridge thinking someone had put the leftover pieces in another, smaller container, but I could find no trace of my pizza. MORE THAN HALF a leftover pizza.
I grabbed the office manager before she left for the day.
"Hey, I left a pizza in the fridge last night..."
"Oh! That was you? Thank you! It was delicious!"
"I... what? You ate it?"
"Well, we all ate it. It was there." Matter of fact. The same way you'd say, It rained; of course the ground is wet.
"But, I bought it. Did anyone leave me money?"
"Honey. If you leave food in a radio station, people are going to eat it."
It was a sh!t answer, but I would witness time and again that it was absolutely true.
At the second radio station that hired me, there was a soda vending machine. It was unique because it was built like a chest freezer rather than a stand-up model. You had to lift the lid to view your choices, and the can was dispensed sideways to an access panel where you could lift it out.
Every morning, I'd lift the lid to find a Diet Coke sitting on top of the display.
Diet Coke was not one of the options available for purchase, but there was one can there every day.
I ignored it for a good long time, however one day I really wanted a Diet Coke, and it was still sitting there when I opened the machine. So, I left my coins where the Diet Coke can had been, and I took it.
The next day, there was a memo about the soda machine and how employees were not allowed to take cans that weren't for sale.
As I read the memo at my desk, the guy at the next desk leaned over and quietly told me that the office manager had come into our office the day before and had seen the can of Diet Coke opened on my desk.
According to him, she had been livid. Apparently, she brought Diet Coke from home everyday because she couldn't buy one in the machine. She always put it in the vending machine to keep it cold.
1) She didn't need to write an all-staff memo. She had seen the can on my desk. She knew I had taken it. She could have and should have just talked to me about it. Personally. And right away rather than a day later.
2) If she wanted to keep her soda cold, she should have put it in the staff refrigerator and/or put her name on it.
I walked into the break room and found a fellow co-worker pawing through a plastic grocery bag filled with loose Easter candy.
"Anything good in there?" I asked.
"Well, considering it's Easter candy and it's close to Halloween, I'm not sure what you'd consider 'good'."
"Yet, I apparently have no problem eating it."
"Yes. Radio people will eat anything that's free."
He pondered that for a moment and remarked, "You know, if you wanted to take out an entire media company with one fell swoop, all you'd have to do is leave tampered food in the break room."
"That's why no one eats the homemade cookies that the one listener keeps bringing."
"Oh. Those get eaten, too. Mostly by sales people who don't know what listeners are like."
On the subject of listener food...
One of my listeners had a mad crush on me and was not swayed by the very public fact that I was married. One day he brought a Subway sandwich to the station as an excuse to meet me.
The receptionist tracked me down and insisted I come to the front desk and talk to the man to get him away from her. So I went, politely accepted the package and thanked him for it.
"Aren't you going to eat it? Sit down for a minute and have lunch with me!" (He hadn't brought a sub for himself.)
I explained that I couldn't visit because I was in the middle of an on-air shift. I would have to eat it later. He was crestfallen, but he said he understood.
After he left, I dumped the sub in the trash.
Sorry. There's nothing more suspicious than someone who looks that excited to watch you eat something that he's not going to take a bite of.
The afternoon news woman had accepted a pretty cool job across town doing public relations for a charity. On her last day at the radio station, there was a giant "Good Luck, Beth" cake.
That's right, there was a giant cake.
By the time Beth came in for her afternoon shift, all that was left of her going away cake was an odd shaped piece that said, "Beth".
"Uh. Gee. Thanks for the cake." She did air-quotes for "cake".
What a shame cake is a breakfast food that couldn't have been brought in later in the day, like, say, after lunch when Beth could have actually felt it had been for her.
At one radio station, the program director often invited my morning co-host to lunch, but they never invited me along. When I mentioned that I'd like to be included, they explained that my schedule rarely allowed me to go when they wanted to go. For some reason, going at a time when I was free never occurred to either of them. Sometimes they'd bring their food back to the station and eat it in front of me.
I suggested, "Hey, the next time you're going to bring food here, I could give you money to bring me something." So... they stopped bringing food back to the office.
One day, the sister station's program director invited me to lunch.
He said he and my PD and my morning show partner were all going to Dairy Queen. "You should meet us there when you're done with production."
Awesome! Yay! I get to go to lunch!
After my work was done, I hopped in my car and drove across town to the Dairy Queen. On my way, I saw a car that looked like my program director's car at another restaurant on the strip. As I passed, I saw the three of them sitting at a table in the front window. On my way to Dairy Queen.
I turned around, drove back to this other restaurant and went inside.
"Hey! There she is! We didn't think you were coming!"
"You told me Dairy Queen."
"Oh yeah. We changed our minds."
It's really hard not to take some things personally, you know?
Same radio station.
I'm on the air when my program director comes around and says the boss is buying everyone sundaes. Do I want one? Yes, I do!
I do a chair dance while the music plays, and after a time I spy the boss carrying bags of sundaes through the building and co-workers following him to the breakroom. The program director walks past the studio window and gives me a "Hey, look!" gesture. And I nod back.
No one brings me a sundae.
Finally, I line up a string of music and run to the breakroom. Everyone is sitting around a table filled with empty sundae cups. "Hey," I say. "I wanted one."
The PD points. "There's yours. We were gonna eat it because you didn't come for it. But it's melted and no one wants it anymore."
"I thought someone would bring it to me. You know, because I was working."
When I finally quit that job, *I* was the "bitchy one".
I wonder why.
The Husband and I worked mornings together for a while in a small town station located in the middle of a cornfield. One day as we drove along the dark country road, I wondered aloud if any of the muffins that a client had brought the day before were still left in the breakroom. (Yup, they had been a thank you gift!) The Husband said I should go look first thing when we got to work and if I'd bring him one, he'd get our show prep started without me.
We were the first people to arrive every morning, so the building was dark when we got there. The Husband headed for the studio, and I walked to where the fridge and microwave were lined up on one side of the widest part of a long hallway. The light switch was on the far end of the hallway, but I knew my way around well enough I didn't need it. In the dim morning light, I could see the package of muffins on the cupboard.
Moments later, when I entered the studio, The Husband eagerly wanted to know, "Were there any left?"
"Yeah," I told him. "There were half a dozen. But when I reached over to grab a couple, one of them jumped down and ran behind the fridge."
It had been a mouse.
I threw the whole package away.
I guess radio people *do* have some standards.
Friday, July 01, 2016
In the radio broadcast industry, food is king.