Friday, February 10, 2012

“Opposite Day”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Funny things happen when I stay up late at night, drinking coffee. Fantasy and reality become difficult to separate. What follows here is the product of one recent adventure into the long hours after dark.

Social networking has redefined how we interact with each other in the 21st Century. The benefits of this connectivity are numerous, and well documented. But my own participation in the global community of Facebook delivered a recent prize that was completely unexpected.

I landed a job interview at Cleveland’s most notable radio outlet, WTAM 1100.

Preparation for the meeting grew more intense with each passing day. I copied my resume, writing samples, and various articles published over the last thirty years. Added to this stack were letters of recommendation, and a copy of the current Maple Leaf.

The game plan I devised was simple - to overwhelm their Program Director with evidence of a long and productive career.

But on the night before our chat, I happened to see a familiar rerun of the 90’s sitcom ‘Seinfeld.’ In the episode, George Costanza approached a young woman with the most unlikely of pickup lines:

“I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”

His strategy of doing opposite things yielded new success. As I watched, a stunning realization occurred. For many years, my habit had been to seek out opportunities and offer traditional tidbits from my portfolio. Yet the result was always predictably unchanged. I had to continue working as a retail manager to pay the household bills.

Costanza had offered light in my under-employment darkness.

It was time to try something completely different.

I arrived for the interview dressed in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, jeans, work boots and a baseball cap. A bubbly Clear Channel receptionist seemed to giggle when I approached her counter.

“Are you here to fix the telephones?” she warbled through dangling curls of hair.

I was caught by surprise. “What? No, I am here to see Ray Davis, your Program Director. About a job.”

She frowned with disbelief. “We haven’t been able to transfer calls since last week. It is such a headache! And all they do is complain about the budget. No money to hire a repairman.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I said.

“You really aren’t here to fix the phones?” she asked again.

“No,” I repeated. “Ray Davis, please.”

The receptionist turned in her chair. “The paging system doesn’t work, either.” She put a jeweled hand to her mouth. “MR. DAVIS YOU HAVE A VISITOR AT THE COURTESY DESK!"

“Umm… you need to unplug the system,” I observed, suddenly.

She rubbed her tired eyes. “What did you say?”

“Unplug the entire system,” I explained. “For at least a couple of minutes.”

“Aha!” she shouted. “You ARE a repairman!”

“Nope,” I laughed. “We have the same system at my supermarket. Any kind of power surge makes it crazy. You have to reset it.”

The receptionist silently followed my instructions. After a pause, the intercom sounded.

“Claire, can you hear me?” a male voice intoned.

“Mr. Davis!” she cheered. “Your nine o’clock interview is waiting out here. And he just fixed the phones.”

“SEND HIM TO MY OFFICE!” Davis shouted.

I entered his sanctuary with an armload of manuscripts. “Opposite,” I thought quietly. “Must do the opposite today…”

Instead of offering the material for his approval, I dumped my collection in the waste can.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he barked.

“My name is Rod Ice,” I said dramatically. “Thank you for seeing me today.”

“Yes,” he gasped. “Okay… you’re a newspaper writer as I recall?”

“That’s right,” I said.

“So, those files in my trash can were examples of your work?” he asked.

“Yes,” I agreed. “I’ve been a freelance writer for thirty years.”

“And you threw everything in the rubbish?” he said with confusion.

“Yes,” I answered, proudly.

He reached for the trash. “C’mon, now. I’d be glad to look at your columns.”

“No, that stuff is basically worthless,” I confessed. “Forgotten like yesterday’s breakfast. Let me be honest with you today. I manage a grocery store for a living. Writing is my first love, but it doesn’t pay enough. I am overweight, middle-aged, and a social dropout. Basically one step above Dick from Dayton, who calls Mike Trivisonno or Bob Frantz all the time.”

Davis was stunned. “You know, I’ve never had an interview like this!”

“Your biggest radio star is a blue-collar guy with no professional experience,” I proclaimed. “People love Triv because he is genuine. Well, I could bring that same kind of ‘street cred’ to your station. Think about it – a regular guy from Geauga County discussing news of the day. I have no life. All I do is listen to the radio.”

“Geauga?” he snorted. “You mean the home of maple syrup and Amish buggies?”

“Hey!” I interrupted. “The Bainbridge Township police just arrested a 29-year-old woman for driving at speeds up to 128 mph on Route 422. She was inebriated, and wearing a slinky fishnet top and bottom, with clear heels.”

Davis sat up in his chair. “Now that’s more like it!”

“Or how about this,” I continued. “In 1957, a UFO landed near Montville. Local resident Olden Moore saw the craft and was later interviewed in Washington, D.C. under a cloak of secrecy.”

“Yes!” he agreed, loudly. “Ratings! Gotta get those ratings!”

“Remember Rick Gilmour?” I wondered aloud. “He had that same kind of everyman style. You need more off-the-wall personalities on WTAM.”

“I loved Rick,” Davis whispered.

Boldly, I extended my hand. “So, let’s strike a bargain here. I give you this promise - every minute I am on the air will be one-hundred-percent entertaining. As Mike Trivisonno would say, ‘trust me when I tell you!’”

Davis pounded his desk. “This will be ratings gold! Yes, I say! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Postscript: I woke up around four o’clock in the morning. Everyone else had surrendered to the night. But I had one question left to ponder – should I send this column to Mr. Davis himself, or not? The answer was obvious - I should do the opposite and delete my column, immediately.

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