Lately, I’ve stopped turning down the chance to do something new just because I might look foolish. It’s not that the odds of embarrassing myself have diminished; I’m as capable as ever in that department. But now that I’ve hit middle age, I’ve realized opportunities might not come around again. Plus, embarrassment isn’t fatal. Otherwise, I certainly wouldn’t have made it to middle age in the first place.
It was in this spirit that I volunteered to be one of the voices of The Dagger on the Ed Norris Show last spring. Little did I know the experience would become one of my favorite Dagger memories.
The Dagger had been invited back on the show after an appearance by Brian in January. Brian couldn’t make it this time so I agreed to join fellow Dagger writer Mark to talk about the news of the day with host Ed Norris and his cool-guy producer, Maynard. I reasoned that since I’m a news junkie and I’ve done some public speaking, I could take the plunge. Almost immediately I realized I’d gone off the deep end.
What was I thinking? This was the real deal: a popular Baltimore radio show during the all important drive time. My fellow Daggerite Mark was a pro; he exuded an air of breezy confidence. But I fretted about all those listeners stuck in traffic doing a slow boil. They would be expecting something entertaining, enlightening and insightful – oh my.
Then I found out we weren’t necessarily going to talk about the issues that fire me up. In fact, Mark and I wouldn’t even know the topics until we got to the studio. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to have opinions on the spot and they had better be worthy of the airwaves. Once I started chewing on that, I noticed plenty of controversial topics prompted in me a lackluster, I-can-see-both-sides reaction. Worse yet, there were plenty of subjects I knew alarmingly little about. Professional talking heads might not view this as a problem, but being a rank amateur, I thought it was huge.
So I started to test myself on stories in the news: Gangs in Shoot-Out with Police. My opinion? Well, this is bad. Yes. Definitely bad. But I know nothing about crime-fighting. All I know is that gangs, violence, and shooting at police are all bad (so that’s settled). Next story?: Some Guy from the Ravens Retires Unexpectedly. OK, I don’t follow sports and I know next to nothing about the Ravens. But by now I can read the purple writing on the wall. It says: if the subject is this Ravens guy, you’re in trouble deep.
The only way to keep my panic in check was to prepare like crazy. I listened to the show, read newspapers closer than usual and googled my head off. Jack Murtha Says John McCain Is Too Old to be President. I looked up the ages of other grey-haired world leaders. O’Malley and Franchot Square Off over Slots. I recalled a NY Times story about how most slots players are little old ladies with disposable income (I’d rather be in their shoes – all they haveto lose is a roll of quarters). I practiced repartee with my book club pals, my best friend and my (suddenly thankfully) argumentative teenage son. And I prayed Ed and Maynard didn’t want to talk sports.
Finally, show day arrived. Mark and I entered a sleek studio, sat in a real green room and waited our turn to put on the headphones and have our say.
I won’t tell what happened next except that when it was all over, I asked Ed Norris for a police escort, which he amiably provided. I was joking of course, but I’ll let Mark explain the rest. For my part, I’m glad I threw caution to the wind to represent The Dagger on the radio. It made for one of my favorite Dagger memories. And in case you’re wondering, that Raven’s guy got to slip quietly into retirement without commentary from Ed, Maynard, Mark and me.