I went down into the sauna that is WLFM tonight in order to do my own radio show, ON PATROL WITH PETER RAFFEL, and found that the station was inexplicably not working (this is not the first time that this has happened, to be fair). And, after spending the past week writing for my program – a hefty in-studio guest spot, along with an interview and countless monologues – needless to say, I freaked out. After spending forty minutes attempting to get the darn thing working, I finally gave up in a exclamation of steam and ran furiously from the station.
I am not, by any means, a technological man and perhaps one with the right training could have fixed the board and done his or her show without any outbursts. I am, however, an angry man and the anger flowing through my body drove me to go back to my room, get a swimsuit, go to the pool, and dive in furiously, swimming two laps before stopping, realizing that working out is horrible, and leaving. And then, as I stood in the shower, pondering whether or not to ask the chubby boy to borrow some of his shampoo (my main though was: “He’s more afraid of you than you are of him”), I asked myself the penultimate question: Why did I care so much? Why did I care that the station wasn’t working, that I couldn’t do my radio program, that a week’s work that included writing a bit that involved a thing called Fart Library, had gone to waste? Thoughts started to swim through my head (no pun intended): No one listens anyway, there’s a million people doing a million shows in the world, and none of it really matters – and, with all of this in mind, why was I so upset?
I also work at WLFM (I’m the co-temporary-station manager, as well as the Top 200 MD – if that means anything to anybody), and apart from that I do relatively little on campus. I don’t partake in any clubs that deal with public outreach or environmental issues or human rights, as many of my friends do – I spend the week sorting through CDs and Digital Downloads and constant emails from somebody asking me to play an artist called KAOS777 – which I’m pretty sure isn’t even a thing. And not only was I wondering why my show mattered, but why did any of that matter as well. And why did ANY of radio matter at all, for that matter? Because cars exist?
We live in a generation that needs things constantly or else they’re not satisfied – Tom Scharpling said it best last week on my show when he noted that people just don’t take the time to take in entertainment anymore; they don’t even have the patience to listen to the 30 second iTunes sample of a song before deciding that it’s awesome or it’s awful. And I’m no better: the majority of my job is looking at album art and deciding whether or not it’s worth my time – and I’ve got all the time in the world. Going further, I’m a guy who had to start watching Breaking Bad three times before finally giving it the time it deserved – now it’s my favorite show. So, if people aren’t willing to take the time to listen in, enjoy something, and become a fan, why does radio matter at all? So why does WLFM matter?
Because it does. Because I realized that although it might not be working with people in Darfur or teaching people about recycling, it’s teaching everyone something just as important: that we all matter. That we all have a voice and that we all have something to say, and that even if no one is listening, it still matters that we’re saying it. For some people, that means talking Lawrence on the air, for some it means simply playing music and letting that speak for them, and for some it means writing a radio play called Major Grotto about a Navy Captain who gets turned into a merman and has to fight crime in the underwater city of Atlantis (that one’s me). And even though some radio people are sitting in a basement, and some are changing the face of entertainment all together, we all matter.
But it’s even more than that. It matters because the human voice is something that can’t be replaced by anything. You can watch an episode of Jersey Shore and have a few laughs, but I bet if you sat any of those cast members in front of a microphone and told them to talk, you’d see who they really were. There aren’t any masks on the radio – it’s just you and your voice and that’s the only thing that matters. It’s not what you’re wearing or how you look, it’s simply the things you have to say. And if radio has taught me anything, it’s that the things people have to say are more interesting than really anything else in the world. I look to the heroes on this matter: Scharpling (of course), Jesse Thorn, Ira Glass, Marc Maron, and more, who are showing us that the things that people say can move us more than anything else: more than an event or picture – just the person.
The time we live in is one that seems a lot more excited about the next thing than they do the current thing, and that’s probably why we spend most of our time on the computer rather than with each other (don’t worry, I’m bringing this around). And what WLFM does is tells you that even though it’s important to connect and see and do every amazing thing we can do, it’s also important to listen. It’s important to listen to what someone has to say or what they have to play, or what weird sounds they want to make – it’s important to listen even if you think that person is an idiot. And for me, it’s important to talk. That’s what I do. And tonight I didn’t get to do that, and it sucked.
So next time you’re sitting there, plugged in to whatever you’re plugged into, maybe listen to WLFM. Or even listen to any radio station. Or listen to your friend. Or listen to anybody. Or listen to something. Just listen, for two seconds, because whatever you hear might change your life. It might not – I doubt Major Grotto is changing anybody’s life – but then there’s always something else that will.