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Please, take our money, and shut up

Some of you recall that our local Four Corners Public Radio station held its semiannual fund drive a week or so back. You know you recall it if you still opt to listen to commercial radio out of fear that turning the dial to hear All Things Considered will instead result in a couple of guys who apparently just left a Trappist monastery and desire nothing more than to make up for a decade’s long vow of silence they’re now breaking.

“Nice, blue sky out there today.”

“Very blue. Almost as blue as the tiles in my bathroom.”

“You have tiles in your bathroom?”

“Yes. They’re very nice. They make the sound of chirping sparrows when my shoes squeak on them.”

“Do you like shoes? I like shoes.”

“Yes, shoes are nice. They keep my feet warm in the winter and they have a simple lacing system to keep them tight on my feet.”

“I like shoes, too. Sometimes, they’re required to enter stores or restaurants, you know.”

“Well, those and pants and a shirt, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Sometimes, a jacket and tie as well.”

“I don’t like neckties but sometimes they’re fun to wrap around my head so I can look like a pirate.”

“I like pretending to be a pirate. Can you talk like a pirate”

“Aye, matey. Argh!”

“Argh!”

The pirate talking then becomes the high point of the conversation as they hold us hostage during their following half hour of inane prattle, threatening to disembowel a beanbag chair and count the contents of its innards if we don’t call in with a pledge of money.

There has to be a better way. I don’t know if some of you experience the same dilemma as me during those week-long torture sessions — do I make a pledge or do I freeload? — but my inclination is to punish the boorish behavior with a lock on my checkbook.

Saying that pledge drives are interminable bores is rather like saying, “Mosquitoes annoy me,” chatterboxes droning on for hours on end about how fanfreakingtastic the programming is and isn’t it wonderful that we have Public Radio way out here in the boonies?

“Yes!” I scream, “I love it, I feel so privileged, how on Earth could an insignificant leech like me be worthy of such excellence?!? Please, please, PLEASE, keep humbling me with your stellar shows, news and music but, for God’s sake, SHUT YOUR POWDERED-DONUT HOLES AND GIVE ME BACK SOME OF THAT PROGRAMMING YOU KEEP REMINDING ME IS SO WONDERFUL!!!”

I get the pleading and I have, throughout most of my adult life, agreed to forgo the spinning rims on my fly ride in order to pony up some pocket change in order to support Morning Edition, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Le Show, Car Talk, American Routes, World Cafe and the Putamayo World Music Hour, even if some of my meager donation pays for a dose of Garrison Keillor’s botox or, worse still, applies another layer of lacquer to those wooden indians on E-Town.

What I don’t get is the decision to bring “friends of the station” into the studio to have them bloviate on whatever pet issue they’ve decided will kill more brain cells than a five-day jug wine binge.

First of all, who decides that those jackanapes are “friends of the station” and what have they done to earn that distinction? Wiping spittle off the studio microphones? Sitting in the stations window boxes to act as potted plants? It certainly isn’t due to their scintillating conversation or their depth of intellect.

For example, my morning commute ended with a failed suicide attempt (my car careening through several Lake Hatcher lawns, taking out a plastic birdbath and a deer cleverly fashioned from a log attached to tree branches) as I attempted to escape the misery of some imbecile going on and on and on and on and on and on about his experiences on the slopes of some not-Wolf Creek ski area (for which the station had offered up lift tickets as incentive to pledge at the “this-or-that level” — it’s always some “this or that level”).

“There’s nothing like taking the Methedrine Lift up to the crest of Tidy Bowl when the wind is shredding the skin off your face and then leaping into oblivion, knowing that every bone in your body will be broken at the end of the run. I especially like having my hospital bed pushed down the Predecay leg of Wreckless Endangerment for my last run of the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished the day with the ski patrol scrambling up the slopes to gather up all my severed limbs and sundry vital organs. I really have to hand it to those folks, they do a great job of keeping a crash test dummy like me coming back, year after year, for more alpine-level stupidity, the agony of defeat.”

Conveniently, he failed to mention during his hour-long yack-a-thon that getting stuck on a lift with some unfortunate listener inevitably led to his being impaled (multiple times, no doubt) by a ski pole.

Worse still was the self-righteous blowhard, featured the next morning and embodying every trope and stereotype of public radio listeners, who shoved Malabar gourds into my ear canals as he catechized the rest of us on his superior dietary habits, chastising pretty much everyone for not eating in his sustainable, eco-friendly, socially-responsible and wholly irritating way.

“THOSE pee-puhl whom (his use of “whom” might have made him think he was cultured or educated but merely identified him as a reprehensible dumbbell) go to those chain, mega-corporation grocery stores and (sigh) BUY their food. Well, don’t they realize how they’re destroying the world (sigh) and tearing down the glittery rainbow that I’ve erected for myself (sigh) and all the fae folk I employ in my pursuit of a happy, tune-filled planet? If those pee-puhl (sigh) would only, like me, graze in organic gardens and immerse themselves in the aroma of dirt and fertilizer (sigh), bartering God’s Eyes and wind catchers, that I make myself, using only recycled materials I harvest from the bounty of the La Plata County landfill (sigh), we would all be living in blissful harmony, dancing and holding hands and singing songs we all love and eating only food that we grow (sigh) but those pee-puhl (sigh) are just selfish, earth-hating, angry, unenlightened pee-puhl not-like-me (sigh).”

I could be way off base here but it seems to me that if you put some boring, supercilious scold on the air expressing contempt for anyone not torturing themselves with his sclerotic fidelity to palaver, you risk listeners turning the dial and saying, “Um, no. Not one thin dime for this numbskull.”

As I said, there has to be a better way. Those “friends of the station” sucking up all the oxygen and chewing up the carpet aren’t getting me to break out my credit card with their hour-long pointless stories or guileless guilt trips, they’re making me slap in a CD or switch to another station.

The thing is, whatever they need is never accomplished and whatever it is, it’s never enough; the begging and pleading goes on and on no matter what goal they set and meet.

If they said, “We need to reach a million dollars this hour before we stuff socks in our mouths and return to our magnificent programming we know you all love and are dying to hear instead of our incessant blather,” and I broke into my solid gold, diamond-encrusted piggy bank to snatch out one of the million dollar coins from the stack, then called to say, “I made your goal, now shut gob,” they’d be back after a commercial break — one in which the ghost of Marian McPartland threatens to visit in the middle of the night and tickle your ivories if you don’t contribute — to ask for more.

“Jim McKeegen, er, MacGiggles … sorry for the pronunciation … from Pagosa Springs made a pledge for a million dollars. Thanks Jim, we appreciate your donation and not only can you pick up your copy of the latest Hippie Dippy Geriatric Granola Eaters String Band AFTER WE GET THE CHECK but AFTER WE GET THE CHECK you’ll be entered into our drawing for a fabulous, all-expense paid, weekend for two in Heater, Arizona to see the mummified corpses of the entire Little River Band kind of performing at the Wee-Nee-Wankum Casino and Bowling Alley, a package that includes two night’s lodging, bus fare and a set of cardboard luggage. It’s an excursion that one lucky listener this hour will qualify for if they pledge their support at the $75 level, the drawing to be held later today, well after everyone has tuned out in utter disgust so that no one will actually know who won!”

Listen, public radio: You get my support even though you not only insist on playing the Grateful Dead once an hour (usually followed with a cut by some burn out covering a Grateful Dead tune on a Pan flute) but feature an entire show of Grateful Dead, even if Hugh Felt causes me to go looking for engineer caps, gray ponytails and Birkenstocks in order to satisfy my homicidal rage, even though you schedule Sound Opinions in the 7 a.m. Saturday morning (a time when any respectable rock and roller is either sound asleep or too wrecked to listen), I’ll continue to listen and contribute.

However, for the sake of my sanity and the loyalty of so many others in the Four Corners area, I have two suggestions, just sayin’.

First of all, give us your dollar amount and give us the incentive to meet that goal as quickly as possible. Just say, “We need $110,000 this time around and the sooner we get it, the sooner we’ll shut our stupid faces.”

Secondly, lose your “friends of the station” and just use your on-air personalities to pander and panhandle. Those folks aren’t “friends” anymore than are the GOP dimbulbs who seek to cut federal funding of public broadcasting because of the tendency towards objective reporting rather than the shameless propaganda.

Thank you, public radio, for all you do, my life is richer with you to fill small spaces of my day.

Now, shut the hell up and get back to the programming I love.

jim@pagosasun.com

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