Saturday, June 5, 2010. I’m buying sunglasses from Julie Kubsch at Specs Around Town. I mention that I heard about her store from listening to GLT (the local NPR member station). She gets that look in her eye, like, “oh, boy, have I got something to tell you.” She asks if I’m a fan of Ira Glass, host of This American Life. I say that I’m a fan of just about everything on GLT, that I have trouble trying to turn it off a lot of the time. She tells me that her store is sponsoring a show next March (which is, at this point, more than nine months away): Ira Glass is coming to the BCPA.

Now it’s August. I get an email from someone at GLT, asking me to record a promo for their upcoming Fall Fund Drive. It’ll only take a few minutes and it’ll help them raise more money. Naturally, I go in and do it. They ask me about why I like GLT, what I listen to, when and how I listen. Pretty typical stuff. I answer their questions. It’s over before I know it. Quick and painless.

I don’t hear my promo leading up to the fund drive at all. I wonder if they just didn’t like my voice, or if I didn’t say anything good. After all, the other listener promos sound great and have compelling messages. I didn’t say anything that bad that they can’t air it, did I? Must have been my voice. I guess I do have a pretty weird voice.

I volunteer at the pledge drive phones a few times. The GLT staff is super-friendly and awesome, as expected. I guess I can’t blame them for not liking my voice. I mean, they did let me answer phones for them. I guess they don’t think my voice is as weird as I do. Not broadcast-quality, but good enough to sic on people who’ve already made the decision to donate.

 

For the next several months, I hear the Ira Glass show promoted, repeatedly, almost ad nauseum, on GLT. I look it up online to see if I can go. It’s $40. I can’t go.

See, to me, $40 is, like, two weeks’ worth of groceries. And I’m pretty careful with my money. I’m not a complete cheapskate, but I can’t afford to throw it away on stuff that isn’t completely necessary at this point in my life. It’s basically not feasible to go to this thing without fasting for 13.5 days. And that’s not happening any time soon.

And, yet, I’m a big fan of This American Life. It’s one of the eight or nine podcasts I subscribe to, which says a lot about how much I love it. But it’s probably the one that I look forward to the most, which I think says even more. So I keep hearing this thing promoted, that I think is gonna be awesome, but every time I’m like “no; it’s not gonna be awesome, ’cause I can’t go. It’s too expensive. It’s $40.”

 

Fast-forward to this week. I see on GLT’s Facebook page that they’re giving away tickets to the show, at random, to one person who writes on their wall that they listen to This American Life. It almost seems too easy, so I do it. I get excited, ’cause there aren’t too many other people on there, which means I’ve got a chance. And then I don’t win.

That afternoon, one of my friends from college writes on my wall and says that he was listening to GLT and he heard me. I’m taken aback. Wait, did they finally decide to use my recording for something? I start getting really excited every time I think a promo is about to start, whenever I’m listening to GLT, in the hopes that, one time, I’ll hear myself. I’ll find out, once and for all, how weird I sounded.

At this point, I could care less about the Ira Glass show promos. All I think about when I hear a promo on GLT is, “is this me talking? No? Okay, what’s coming up next?” I feel connected to this radio station in this really awesome way. It’s almost exhilarating, like I’m a burgeoning celebrity waiting for the first episode of my new sitcom to air, but I’m so excited for it to happen that I’ve gotten rid of all of the clocks and unplugged the VCR and blacked out the windows so there are no distractions at all when it comes on. The downside to all this is that I have no idea when it’ll come on, so I’m just watching nonstop throughout primetime.

I also got a letter in the mail on Monday asking me to volunteer at the phone lines again during the spring fund drive. I don’t hesitate, even for a few seconds. How could I not? My voice, it turns out, apparently isn’t that bad.

I finally hear my promo on Wednesday morning. My voice is pretty weird, but I get over that pretty quickly ’cause they apparently decided to air it anyway. I guess it’s probably one of those things where I’m being more self-critical than others would be of me. But, still, I’m pretty sure my voice is really weird.

 

I have a meeting with a client that afternoon. When we get to the meeting room, we find someone sleeping, sprawled out on a few of the chairs. We decide to go to a room downstairs instead. As we’re walking, the client asks me if I’m planning to go to the Ira Glass show on Saturday. I’m reminded of all of the $40-related heartache and the nine months’ notice. I blab on and on for what felt like ten minutes, but was really probably more like ten seconds, about how I really, really wanted to go, but I just couldn’t afford it at $40.

The next day, we’re meeting again, this time in a larger group. At the end of the meeting, she pulls out an envelope, thanks me for all of my hard work and hands me the envelope. It’s a ticket to see this show. The one I’ve been wanting to see since before some current infants had been conceived.

 

It’s the kind of moment when a mere “thank you” cannot even come close to expressing how awesome you feel. This week has wrapped up so many loose ends in your GLT-listening life that you’re like Leo DiCaprio in that scene on the front of the boat. You feel like everything is right with the world, like your client really understands the pains you’ve gone through to get the job done, like the radio station you were almost on the verge of feeling disconnected from, even though you still listened every single day, really didn’t mind your voice, like they weren’t taunting you with an awesome show you wish you could go to but you really couldn’t afford it.┬áThis envelope, it turns out, was a significant turning-point for me.

We’ve all had that moment, when, suddenly, everything, finally, just feels good. Most of us have probably had that moment a few times. We all love that moment, we dream of that moment, we see it happening in so many different ways that never really happen. And, chances are, they never really could happen, ’cause we see them all wrong.

The way I see it, at least, these moments can only come up and surprise us. We can’t expect these moments, ’cause if we could, we could plan for them. If we could plan for them, they’d become less meaningful, less real. We need to cherish these moments as they come along, in whatever final form they may take.

I never would have dreamt that I’d get this envelope and it would make me appreciate the whole world anew. But I did. And I’ll take that.

The show, as expected, was incredible.

3 thoughts on “Storytelling

  1. John Meuser says:

    I really enjoyed reading this story. Not only was it told well, but the experience itself was done justice by the story teller. After reading this I was moved to introduce a little Ira into my podcast list. Keep blogging and I’ll keep reading.

  2. Matt says:

    Great story! I LILed several times. Also congrats on the win!

  3. Inmee Johnston says:

    I’m so happy for you Michael! How wonderful. Life is good, isn’t it?

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