Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the Radio Whoa-oo-oo

One day I was listening to my local NPR station, WHYY, as I am wont to do. Fifi spontaneously asked, "Mommy how does a person's voice get on the radio?"

At first I considered delivering a lecture about certain laws of physics, the history of communications and the life and times of Guglielmo Marconi (whose first name I had to "Gugle" just to know it). But the truth of the matter is I haven't the slightest idea. So instead, I gave her the vaguest answer possible mingled with lots of erudite jargon like "air waves," "microphone" and "sound." She had stumped me, that little vixen.

“You know what?” I finally said. “Why don’t we send an e-mail to the radio station to see if they would give us a tour.” That sounded good to her, so I sent the e-mail.

A few days later Fifi asked, "So when can I go sing in the microphone and be on the radio?"

I realized two interesting things at that moment: 1. I had misunderstood her question. 2. She had misunderstood my response.

But when the guy from WHYY e-mailed me back to schedule a tour, I thought it would be fun anyway. And it was.

At the studio, our tour guide, Craig, let my kids have a hands-on introduction to the world of radio and TV. As Fifi sat engulfed in giant headphones, he pointed out a bunch of things and gave us some information about how the place worked. It was odd to me how Fifi just stared at him blankly. The man then encouraged her to talk into the microphone. All she did was look at him like he was an alien. I couldn't figure it out, it was so out of character for her. Sure, all kids get nervous around strangers, but they don't usually get this particular look on their faces. It was only after we prepared to leave the room did I discover that the headphones were on. The entire time Craig spoke to her, all she could hear was the radio. Ha!

We continued on, looking at different control panels and electronic systems that confounded me. I felt a mite starstruck as we walked through the news room and I saw name plates which echoed the voices I hear every day on my radio. (I won't nerd you out so much by listing them...but I did see Marty Moss-Coane as she was talking on-air!)

We ended by checking out parts of the television studio. Our tour guide, who by now knew his audience so well, took out a camera and let the kids be on TV. They hammed it up a little bit, but the high point of their performance came in the form of a loving embrace. Two points! Not only did my children not embarrass me, they actually acted pretty darn great.

Since that studio tour, there has still been some talk of being on the radio. Fifi has been planning the speeches she'd like to deliver over the air waves when she's a grown-up. They mostly entail messages she'd like to deliver to one very specific person or another. I think she might be confusing the radio with a telephone. Did she learn nothing from this field trip?!

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