An old schoolmate of mine asked me the other day how I manage to remain so calm on air even when a barrage of four-letter expletives is clearly called for. Well, in case you also wanted to know, the answer is hell I’m not calm. I only try to appear so. (In case you’ve been dead for a while, I present the current affairs phone-in show the Front Page on Joy FM on Fridays. It’s approximately two hours after the news at 8 in the morning. End of commercial!)
I’ll tell you what my on-air pet peeve is: when someone phones in, you put him on the line and he complains why he was on hold.
He says: “Why did you keep me on hold for such a long time?”
I say: “I apologise, Sir, I really didn’t mean to.” But what I really want to say is: “You’re in a bloody queue; don’t you know that?”
He says: “But you allowed the caller before me to speak for too long.”
I say: “Perhaps you’re right; I should’ve interrupted him earlier.” But what I really want to say is: “I let him speak because he was saying something intelligent and you can’t compete and you’re starting to irritate me.”
He says: “I’m on a mobile phone and it’s expensive.”
I say: “I understand, Sir. I apologise. Could you, please, go on and make your point now, then.” But what I really want to say is: “You could’ve sent a text instead. May your bills rise — electricity, water and all!”
He says: “You’ll pay my bill (laughs).”
I say: “Of course, Sir (I laugh too).” What I really want to say: “Don’t waste my ears!”
He says: “Anyway I want to contribute to the topic.”
I say: “We’re waiting eagerly, Sir, for your gems of wisdom.” What I really want to say is: “That’s obvious, for heaven’s sake! I really want to come over where you are and kick you down there where your unborn children incubate!”
After his contribution he says: “Anyway, I really like your programme; you’re doing a good job. Keep it up.”
I say: “You’re very kind. Thank you, Sir.” What I really want to yell is: “I don’t care. Ko tie Peace!”
You see, on-air professionalism doesn’t mean that somehow or other your emotions have been dismantled and locked up in cold storage. It’s about communicating a sense of calm in spite ofclear and present irritation. It’s about maintaining a barrier between what you’re really dying to say and what you actually utter, without a hint of the former.
Discipline isn’t about the absence of temptation; it is keeping focus in spite of it.
It’s not easy; and so everyday I try to work at it.
So now you know.