Free Shit And Silence

Enrolment Day. The locust-swarm in lego-factory sounds of a hundred thousand keystrokes per minute multiplied by the echo in a large hall is the only sound aside from some murmured small talk and the nervous rustling of papers. The kind of serene pseudo-silence of ultimate bureaucracy in action. I take a moment to enjoy my hotdog. Free shit, especially food, is about the easiest way to get me to walk towards anything like this unless my job requires it. Today my job does also require it, and i ponder momentarily that i am in fact making a profit from eating this hotdog, surely making it the greatest food article i have ever ingested. It’s well cooked to boot, and i make a point of taking full advantage of the generous help-yourself-to-sauces routine. 

With all the absurdity of the classically black-and-white Hindenberg passing through a Monet painting, A white four wheel drive with eyesore blue and red decals covering most of its flank pulls silently into the courtyard adjacent to the hall. Emblazoned in large red (slightly crooked) letters over the drivers side door is a logo reading the frequency of a local commercial radio station. It stops and a pair of females, one shorter and brunette, the other a taller and more rotund blonde, get out, open the fold-out boot and begin to unpack flimsy white trestle tables. 

It seems our friends in local Clear Channel distribution have taken the opportunity to venus fly trap a few young people with the time-honoured tradition of mobile radio promotion. It makes sense in principle, but the assembled crowd of enrollees are hardly the target market: at least half are mature age students and at least a third are fairly new to the English language. The rotund blonde goes to the front seat of the all-terrain selling vehicle and reaches for the controls of the car stereo.I chew thoughtfully on the begristled end of my sausage/bun combination. This is going to ruin my pseudo-silence.

It occurs to me that the job these girls do is probably the sort that requires one to display Pep (apparently with a capital) during the interview process. Whatever Pep these girls displayed during said interview is nowhere to be seen, and they work with all the enthusiasm of minimum-wagers on the receiving end of a shitty summer job, which they are. On closer examination the blonde is stoned. 

Like a bass-enhanced fumigation grenade through my happy little lego factory/insect plague audioscape, one of those radio ads that relies heavily on cheesy sound effects and voice acting (universally poor) in an attempt to communicate visual comedy roars at an obnoxious volume across the courtyard/hall and environs. A few heads turn, but few enough that if the station’s head of marketing were present he would probably do some quick calculations on wages and the rising cost of petrol and reconsider coming here again. Most students have spent an hour or more staking out their spot in line, so nearly nobody approaches the freshly assembled merchandise stand.

I ponder returning to my duties at this point, slightly fuller and with the satisfying aftertaste of sausage and mustard to distract me from my labor. Then something grabs my attention on the flimsy white trestle table. Free shit. In this case no-name brand energy drinks and leftover Australian flags with those plastic clips to go onto your car from that West Australian promotion. I am interested only in the energy drinks. I wonder how many i can get in a single patronage to their goods table.

As i approach the veritable smorgasbord of taurine-derivative products, i notice something interesting in the back of the car: a slim white Vaio brand laptop with mounted webcam. The screen is displaying a webcam feed of what appears to be the current announcer* in the studio, slouched back on a brown leather chair looking at a computer monitor i can only guess is displaying the webcam feed which i am now probably in the back corner of. With the bare minimum required amount of eye contact and communication i accept my one (pah!) can of bland-looking energy drink and move only two steps before casting a cursory glance at the ingredients and cracking it open. 

As i take an initial sip i phase out slightly. This happens from time to time when i’m trying to focus on my olfactory senses. The energy drink resembles original Mother in taste in a way i find rather unsettling. I resolve to finish the drink only out of commitment to my caffeine addiction. As i click back into reality, i notice that the obscenely loud sound has stopped. I look around me just in time to see the brunette turn on a small wireless microphone. Her voice suddenly bursts to life with that Pep i suspected she had to fake to get the job as she beings talking to the microphone. I realise that she is on the air, doing that little callout thing they do between songs. The sound has been cut to ensure none of that irritating two-second delay effect that happens when you stand near something playing the station you’re currently talking on. 

I am about to step away from the table when the brunette finishes her spiel then looks directly at me. I notice for the first time that she is actually rather pretty despite her apparently questionable notions of what is acceptable humanitarian behaviour. 

“So sir” she addresses me into the mic. My blood runs cold. “What song would YOU like to hear?” That emphasis on YOU confirms that we are still on the air. She points the mic towards me and rolls her eyes in a way i decide i like, as if apologizing for her behaviour on air. Time stops.

I am trawling my brain for responses here. Commercial radio is far too easy a target to make a snide or elitist comment and snub her off. I decide i have to ask for something here but what? Time unfreezes, then an indeterminate period of it passes.

“Can i hear…” I begin, a smile appearing in the corners of my mouth as I do so “… Girls Of Porn by Mr Bungle?”


*Note – I don’t even consider DJs (well – most DJs, MixMaster Mike is an exception) to be musicians, but i still know the difference between a DJ and a radio announcer/button monkey.


~ by montaguedross on February 4, 2009.

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