by Chris Fabry
I saw the principle of second chances at work early in my radio career. I was hired in high school to work at a small station in West Virginia that had a limited audience. It was the perfect starting point and also the perfect place to rebound.
When someone from a bigger station would fall, whether it was a mistake they made on or off the air, the place they would land was our station, Country 16. Our manager, a kindly older man who reminded me of a turtle, would take these radio misfits in and give them another chance. Whatever their infraction, you could make a new start at Country 16.
At first I only looked on these announcers with pity. What was it like to work at a larger-market station and fall so far? I could only see the loss for them. And then I got a taste of the kind of transformation a second chance can give.
For some reason — a firing or someone quitting — I was given the morning show one summer. I got up early, was at the station before sunup to sign it on, and did the morning drive show. It was a kick as a teenager to be given that kind of responsibility because the morning show and the afternoon drive show paid the bills for the station.
Then — and the specific circumstances escape me at the moment — I stayed out late on a weeknight and didn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning. I knew I shouldn’t go to sleep, but I set my alarm and put it on the other side of the room and took a nap for an hour.
I awoke to a ringing sensation and saw something strange out the bedroom window. There was light streaming in. Strange. I ran to the phone and it was the station manager’s brother.
“Chris? What happened?”
I don’t think I’ve ever driven so fast in my life. I got to the station, where my morning sidekick waited. (For some reason they hadn’t given him a key.) And I fretted the rest of the morning waiting for my manager to arrive and yell at me and perhaps fire me.
Finally the turtle walked in and paused by the control room window and gave me a look. His doctor had told him he couldn’t smoke cigars any longer, but he still chewed on them. This one was down to the nub and he stuck out a bony finger and beckoned me to his office.
I sat in the chair and stared at him, wondering if I should apologize profusely before he said anything. I didn’t get the chance.
“Out late last night?”
“Don’t let it happen again.”
I stared at him. That was it? Yes, that was it — he was giving me another chance. And my guess was, he had been in this chair before with someone else. He knew what it was like to make a bad choice and sleep through his alarm. And he had the wisdom to know me well enough that all he needed to say was “Don’t let it happen again.”
It never did. I worked my way through college at that station before moving on and I never forgot the lessons I learned from the misfits who fell from on high and landed at Country 16. And I never forgot the kindness of the man who gave us all second chances.
About the Author
. . .
Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. A graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.
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