Hey Mr. DJ, STFU

Since I turned over the driver’s seat to my permited daughter, I’ve been able to identify the most obnoxious subset of our human species: Radio DJs.

In our family, the rule is: The driver gets control of the radio station. (The driver also has to remember to close the garage door, watch the gas gauge, and not get into an accident, so it’s only fair that there is a perk.)  When I drive, we listen to public radio - classical music during the week days, jazz at night, and on the weekends Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and whatever Garrison Keillor is calling his show these days. Sure, it’s square, but it’s my own brand of audio nirvana and who wouldn’t like that?

When I handed my daughter the car keys and agreed to 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, I said goodbye to soothing strings and those NPR-announcing horns and hello to a headache. Mainstream radio DJs are constantly SCREAMING at us on our way to school now, in those raspy smoker’s voices that make the girls sound like they’re 60 and wearing too much eyeliner, and in those short choppy sentences that end so abruptly you’d think they were shot dead. Might I remind you that it’s early. In the morning. They bark out too many words with hard consonant sounds and party as a verb and booty and rack and Jello-O shots. I am being asked to come down to the (Fill in the blank with a bar name) tonight and party with people who can still stay up past 10 o’clock. As if.

Carl Kasell, where are you? I’ll be back. I’m just taking a 50-hour break.

When I was in high school and in control of my mom’s white Nova’s radio, we listened exclusively to WHOT, 1330 on the AM dial.  Youngstown’s Top 40 station was home to Boots Bell (“Yes indeedy doody daddy!”), A.C. McCullough (“Get your rear in gear!”), Casey Martin, Dick Thompson, Jerry Starr and at night, Big Al Night, who was rumored to be just a guy’s voice on a tape. (But weren’t they all?) Also Smoochy Causey, who was actually my friend Terry’s dad but I didn’t know it until he left the station and I was too old to be a DJ groupie. We never knew what any of the dads did for a living, but that one I would have liked to have known. I wonder what the other dads did that we never knew. Drummer for Pink Floyd?  Key grip for Paramount? Stunt double for Mannix?

There was an easy listening station for our parents, Stereo 99, which played instrumentals of Perry Como and Andy Williams songs, as if the vocal versions were even too hip. But WHOT wasn’t so bad for an old person. My mom listened to it and never complained when we put it on the car radio. Plus I think even my mom was too with-it for old people radio.

I’ve got about another month and a half before my daughter gets her license. After that, she can drive off, radio blaring, and leave me at home, headache-free and listening to Joshua Bell and Oren Lavie on Pandora.

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