Every time I get into my car and go for a drive, I have six friends who always keep me company. They’re small enough to fit in my front seat. In fact, they live permanently on my dashboard. They are my six AM preset buttons. But here’s my plea: I need more of these little guys; maybe another six. I am greedy when it comes to my presets. I am downright rapacious.
AM radio and I have a love/hate relationship that is rekindled every time I step into my car. I love AM radio for its variety of programs and voices, not to mention the up-to-date news/weather/sports. I love the endless flavors of talk radio: financial advice, political banter, consumer tips, etc. I can get lost in any of these shows while the world passes by at 65 mph.
The “hate” side of my relationship with AM radio deserves more explanation. In a nutshell, only a fraction of a given hour of AM radio goes to the program at hand. The rest of those minutes? Commercials, promotions, and other blah-blah-blah designed to keep you tuned in instead of choosing another preset. The moment a program moves from substance to advertisement, one of my other presets cries out, “hey Dave, choose me! I’m not advertising anything right now!” Alas, certain times of the day every one of my presets misbehaves and I have no good choice. They are all in advertisement mode.
One of these days I will endure a single AM preset for a full hour. I will sit there, stopwatch in hand, and I will stop the timer every time the broadcast moves away from the actual program. “Click” when a commercial comes on”; “click” when the hosts thank their sponsors; “click” when the government steps in to test the emergency broadcast system. My guess is my stopwatch will report a measly twenty minutes or less of actual “program”.
Here are some radio habits that really irk me. Talk show hosts have taken up the baton of advertising. Instead of a “we’ll be right back” or “stay tuned for these messages”, the host switches gears from one sentence to the very next. You’re listening to the program and suddenly the same voice is telling you about the best brand of energy-efficient windows for your house. What? Or here’s another one. News show hosts like to tease you about what they’ll tell you later. They’ll say, “Coming up after the break, how tomorrow’s storm will affect your evening commute”. Really? Why not just tell me now?
Candidly, I need to be a little less rapacious about my radio preset buttons. I need to accept that radio stations require their constant breaks to fund the very programs I want to hear. But most importantly perhaps I need to remember I have another twelve friends collectively referred to as “FM radio”. Those presets are all about music instead of talk; surely a better tonic for the soul of this restless driver.