All Alone With The Microphone

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The distinguished author and lecturer, and moderator of The People’s Platform and Invitation to Learning , recalls a terrifying experience for a tyro political analyst back when radio was young.

For those who are interested in the development of radio, I think this incident will be amusing. Once in the early days I was in the studio talking into the microphone. There was only one other person, the engineer, placed so that I could hear anything he said. Things were extremely primitive; it was in an old hotel. Somebody came in and said to the engineer, “Bill, do you know that you’ve forgotten about your car? You know, the last time you parked it down there, you got a ticket. You better move it.”

And Bill said, “Well, I’ve got this man on the air; I can’t go down there and move my car, it might take me quite a little while.”

He said, “Aw, go on, you can move it. How much time has Bryson got left?” And they figured I had seven minutes, so he disappeared. I was alone in the studio facing an open mike and it certainly is a contrast to today—there was absolutely nobody else around but me and an open mike. Well, seven minutes went by and no Bill and I ad-libbed for three more minutes and no Bill, and I recapitulated for about seven more minutes and no Bill! I stood there with the sweat pouring down my face for something like twelve minutes ad-libbing after I’d exhausted all my material, keeping that mike going. Then Bill got his car parked and came back.