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August 2008

ON ERR, LIVE. (TO AIR IS HUMAN)

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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.

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