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A Kind Word to Holiday Airstaff

So, you poor blighter, you got stuck having to work Christmas. I don't know if this is your first time or 20th time, but welcome.

Memo to managers and engineers: This column is intended for those hardworking folks assigned to airshifts on Christmas Day. Please clip and leave in the main studio for all to see. Thanks and Merry Christmas.Al Peterson

So, you poor blighter, you got stuck having to work Christmas. I don’t know if this is your first time or 20th time, but welcome.

This is supposed to be the happiest time of year for all, but I know exactly how you feel: cheated, lonely, perhaps a little angry and a little sad. Same as the folks at home who were counting on you to be around and will remind you every chance they can how your job let them down, especially if all you have to do is sit there and watch the main computer keep all the stations on the air.

It is especially hard if you are a new broadcaster and this, most likely, is the first holiday you will miss with your family.

Been there. Hated it. But stay with me a few moments – I might make you feel a little bit better about things.

When I was in college radio back during the Bronze Age, I got the bad news: I had to stay on campus to run the newsroom Thanksgiving Day. My plans were upset, my parents were horrified, my grandparents were insulted and my girlfriend wanted me dead. How dare I wreck all their holiday plans?

So I did my four hours and made it home for the celebration, but I never shook the memory. Nor did they.

My first year in the pros, I was 360 miles from home on Thanksgiving. After a late six-hour airshift, my dinner was taken alone in a dim yellow booth at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant somewhere on Route 104 West in Noplace, U.S.A. I was all of 22 years old and felt lonelier even than Adam.

The telephone voices of my family telling me how much they missed me were not angry that time but sad, and even a little reassuring; knowing I was pursuing a passion and getting paid (very badly) in the pursuit.

I was alone, but I was working.

In subsequent years, I have had to pull holiday shifts. Even when I made it to program director a couple of times, I ended up doing shifts on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

I missed a lot of fun, but I was working.

It stung me every time I had to tell those around me, “I have to go in for five hours on Christmas.” But I loved what I did for a living, and few others around my table could honestly say the same.

In 1989, tired of feeling sorry for myself, I volunteered to be a cook and server for a mission house after my shift ended, serving Thanksgiving dinner to folks a lot worse off than I could ever expect to be. It was the most stirring and memorable holiday that I ever had to pull an airshift.

Buck up, Bucko

It is little consolation to be hearing this from me, but my friend, you are working.

Look at the number of your friends and co-workers who ended up out of a job once the Attack of the Killer Voicetrackers commenced. Look at other friends who have jobs they despise who quietly envy your passion for your work.

Okay, you have to work the holidays, enduring the scorn of family members who wanted you home, demanding someday you grow up, find a real job and stop “playing radio” already.

The point is, you are still in the game. You are gainfully employed in a career you are passionate about while others not as dedicated, talented or lucky have fallen by the wayside.

I am sorry they tapped you to work Thanksgiving, Christmas or both, but you are working, providing your family with the rewards the season has to offer and getting better at what you do, paving the way for greater rewards down the road. Hopefully someday they will see beyond the tinsel and understand.

Maybe you are one of the luckies that gets to open the mic every 20 minutes between Christmas songs to read some maudlin liner. Hardly worth the effort, right?

Perhaps not to you; but to your audience, you are providing the soundtrack to their happiest times. Every song going over the air brings back a cascade of memories for them: the lean years, the successes and maybe even the time that they, too, had to work Christmas. You are the anchor, the linchpin, holding together that flood of memories. Today they smile nostalgically at them, as you will too someday.

It’s a stretch, but take some comfort in the fact that your performance is being appreciated, even if you are not running all your boffo bits and nutty humor. Your listeners had a choice of dozens of stations, yet on the holidays, they still came back to you.

You heard it here first

You won’t be hearing this from your intimate circle of family members or even your workplace superiors, but you will hear it from me: Thank you for working on the most difficult days of the year. Try not to let it get to you.

Remember, you are joined by emergency medical people, fire and police professionals, television crews, newspaper employees, restaurant staff and the poor convenience store clerk who probably feels lower than you do.

It is easy coming from me, as I do not have to work the holidays this year. Someday, you won’t have to either, but in the meantime, know that it hasn’t been such a long time ago for me that I have forgotten what it feels like.

Be pleased and proud you are doing what you love for a living, even if you have to do it on days you would rather not. Lots of out-of-work jocks would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

So crack that mic or drag that mouse. Either way, have a great show. Watch out for those booby-trap spots that say “Thru 12/24,” and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

I hope, at least, the boss gave you New Year’s off.