In many ways, the radio is old timey technology. A throw back of simpler times, when air waves weren’t modulated and a slight hum was tolerable, as was fumbling with the dial to bring the station in clear. Nowadays, I only listen when I’m alone driving in my car.
In that closed interior, with the world just beyond my windshield, I’m comforted to hear a voice other than the one in my head. I tire of reminders, conflict in my schedule, errands that I need to run and I things left undone, like the shirt that requires my attention and the button I keep forgetting to sew back on. The radio’s DJ is friendly, almost bubbly with idle chatter, pertinent today, and boring enough so I don’t have to focus all of my attention, half-listening and half being indifferent and non-opinionated.
This is pure technology, copper wire and vacuum tubes, transistor radios, soldered circuitry that’s also portable. Radio reaches people in a way that television never will, because there’s no visual accompaniment to distort one’s own self-image. Without product placement, without luxury and without perfect abs. Instead we’re captivated by a voice, the radio personality’s enthusiasm and a distinct annunciation of words. In between commercials, there’s a nice mix of music. I like singing along, belting out a Frank Sinatra song or absent mindedly humming along to Billie Holiday’s August in New York.
Ironically, I always have perfect pitch when no one else is the car, my inner ear comes out. And then, the very best part of radio, is during the “goldie oldie” moment, when that one long forgotten song comes on and miraculously, I know the lyrics! And soon the warm feelings return, the powdery fluff of nostalgia. It makes me smile to myself, as I drive along the road. And I’m reminded again that simple technology, like the radio has a powerful control over me.
Yesterday, a DJ invited listeners to call in with their stories. One woman called in excitedly, she had recently lost 150 pounds. Her happiness oozed from the radio’s airwaves. This stranger made me smile. Like her, as a kid I too had been teased, she plagued by obesity and me with my big nose.
Now, here she was on the radio sharing the fact that she carried an old photograph and called it a “Fattie-Selfie”, a reminder of her former self. And that was it, the radio personality acknowledged her achievement, told her that she was beautiful! And then thanked her for calling in, made an off-handed comment about the telephone lines being lit up and took the next call.
I blinked, the era of stringed pearls and frilly aprons forever gone. I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror. Like the radio caller, I too was now comfortable with my looks, I seem to have grown into my big nose. Or I wasn’t as self-conscious, perhaps a result of being too busy to take notice. Still, I recall what it felt like, to not resemble the models in any of the fashion magazines. When I was a young girl, fairytales always made me think being powerless was okay, by taking away the option of having power, as if by design.
As I pulled into an empty parking space, I saw a group of little girls eating ice-cream laughing, and enjoying their silliness. They were at that perfect age, when looks don’t matter and eating has nothing to do with disorders. That being self-sufficient means she can tie a good knot in her shoelaces, as a preamble to running wild and free.
The radio DJ introduced a new song, it was upbeat and a perfect segue from the girls back to my reality. I reached over to cut the car engine off and thought those little girls will make their own shiny suits of armor; I hope it fits them well.