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Paul W. Hankins @PaulWHankins
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When I was a younger man (prior to having joined the Navy), I worked in radio (106 WKHQ). One of my roles at the station was that of "producer" of the KHQ Morning Zoo with "The Captain" Bill Vogel. I learned many life lessons at the "helm" with Bill in the "captain's chair."
In the early 90's, our music and commercials and comedic bits were on a one-track cassette (like an 8-track cassette for those needing a reference) called "carts." These carts would play and then rewind themselves in the player for the next time they would be played or "aired."
One morning, The Captain was on a tear about something that was happening and he wanted--all of the sudden--a particular comedic bit that he knew was in the studio. He needed it now. I went scrambling into the turnstile racks to find the bit he was seeking. I couldn't find it.
With my back turned to The Captain I feverishly went looking for the cart and I could hear with each thirty-second commercial that finished that my clock to find the cart was winding down quickly. He would go into the next segue without that bit. I could feel the coming wrath.
That wrath came early and was manifest in a cart now flying end over end like a plastic, squarish boomerang that cracked against the back of my head. In that moment, I felt all of the failure one could feel in the submissive position to one who was a real artist of the airwaves.
All I could do was mutter an apology. And by mutter, I mean muffle. And by muffle, I mean murmur. Very quietly, I said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't find it, Captain."
And, then, he told me something I might share with you a quarter of a century later.
He said, "Paul, this is radio. We are live. We are in a moment. In the moment that has now passed, we needed something that your apology now cannot replace. It was something we needed that will not matter later on. Try to do better next time, will you?"
Friends. Books. Books can be and are our "carts." They have not changed for their squarish appearance and their ability to play through and rewind upon the reader or the next reader's going back to the first page to begin again a story that might be needed in that moment.
Now, our 2018 sensibilities will keep us from throwing said books end over end to reach our intended targets. But, don't we hear them saying, "I'm sorry." Over and over again. But, can they find that book the next time? Can they find it now. For us? For Them? For readers?
Do we know--in the moment that calls for it--that author? That book? That one that fits in the hole that has just opened? The one that fits the lock that has just snapped shut? The one that moves the barricade? The one that amplifies the voice that was just bidden to be quiet?
To me, there's too much "I'm sorry" and not enough "I'm reading and I'm sharing" today. Even when we feel we are doing enough, a moment can come and set us back to rewind. Back to the default position. That starting place: "Here's something we might read and consider together."
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