Somewhere during my childhood, I became obsessed with my local Top 40 radio station. I spent a lot of time calling DJs to make requests, chat during the wee hours of a slumber party (the fact that they were willing to talk to a group of 11-year-olds at 2 a.m. now strikes me as creepy) and trying to convince them to let me announce the Number One song on the “Hot Nine at 9.” I was also forever trying to win one of their contests. Never mind that I wasn’t 18, that my parents wouldn’t let me go to half of the concerts I was trying to score tickets to, or that with a rotary phone, I was unlikely to ever be the ninth caller, I kept trying.
One contest held me hostage in the house for nearly a week when I heard about it. The premise was simple: Be the ninth caller when the station played a certain four songs in a row. Although I can only remember one song on the list today, I clearly remember carrying a portable radio with me to every room in my house in order to catch this musical event when it occurred.
“Julie, take the radio off the dining room table,” my mother ordered as she brought in the pot roast and mashed potatoes she prepared.
“No problem,” I turned off the portable and flipped on the bigger stereo unit.
My father sighed. “You do realize that they could play these four songs in the middle of the night when you are asleep, don’t you?” He asked.
I hadn’t considered this, but it seemed unlikely. “They won’t,” I told him, silently planning to smuggle the radio into my bedroom at night just in case.
I skipped outings, no longer biked with my friends and turned down a McDonald’s run in order to stay close to home and my precious radio. Finally, as I played with my Barbies in my parents’ basement, I heard the first song…and then the second…this was it!!! They played the first two songs in succession three times to give the listening audience a heads up while I went nuts waiting for each song to be played. At the beginning of the final tune, I raced over to the phone we kept by my father’s desk and began dialing.
It took 30 seconds to make each call and naturally each time I finished, I was met with an unpleasant busy signal. Undeterred I kept trying thinking my persistence might prevail but eventually, I heard the DJ announce the winner’s name over the air.
“It’s not fair,” I told my parents later. “I gave up everything and got nothing out of the deal.”
With my parents unwilling to purchase a push-button phone, my career as a contest winner was limited, but I didn’t care. In an era where there was no participation prize, I had to take my lumps and realize I would lose more than I would win. There was no point in getting “hung up” about it.
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