Back in the mid 1990s, I worked at a country radio station in Flagstaff, Arizona. I am a skinny, skinny guy with a big nose, from Chicago. I am not 100% country. Yet, after college I moved out West and got this job at this radio station as their “Promotions Director.” I had no fucking idea what I was supposed to do or why they gave me the job.
I sat at a cubicle in the same space where the sales team sat. I understood what the sales team did. They sold ads for the station. They would arrive at 9 or 10 and then leave and be gone all day, presumably to go sell stuff to people. Then I’d be in the cubicle bank all alone.
Down the hall was “The Booth.” “The Booth” was where the DJs would play country songs. To people. In Arizona. There was a window so you could watch them doing just that. There was also a light above the door that said ‘on-air’ so you knew when they were talking into the microphone using big voices. I understood what they did, too. After the sales team left, I would wander down the hall to talk to the DJs who thought it was hilarious to have a skinny, skinny guy with a big nose working at the station. One of the DJs also had a big nose, but that was from drinking whiskey all the time, so it wasn’t the same.
On the other end of the station building was where the station manager and station owner had their offices. The station manager had an office with a lot of records on the wall, like you would see in a famous record producer’s office. However, in this instance, I think she just nailed actual records to the wall, records that would otherwise have been thrown away. She also had a shelf with a lot of knick-knacks on it. Most of them were stupid.
Her job was the only job that I understood less than my own.
Next to her office was the owner’s office. I completely understood what his job was—to own the station. Period. He did his job when he bought the station back in the 70s, and, until such day that he sold the station, he would continually be doing his job. He could literally do his job in his sleep. He also wore a powder blue suit and cowboy boots. Last, but not least, he wore the worst, stiffest, starchiest wig I have ever seen on a man’s head. I have no idea what the recommended maintenance is on a man-wig, but I guarantee you he did not perform any upkeep. And when he bought the wig, it must have also come with a set of fake eyebrows, which he glued onto his face each and every morning. Sometimes he would get the alignment slightly wrong, which gave his face an unintended range of emotions that were not actually there. Some days, the crooked eyebrows said, “inquisitive.” Other days it could be “angry” or “surprised.” One time he just looked “retarded.” Eyebrows aside, though (which they sometimes were), he seemed to be a pretty nice guy. He just had bad eyebrow aim.
I worked there for about a year, being the “Promotions Director.” When I decided to move back to Chicago, they took me out for drinks and the old alcoholic DJs enjoyed getting me really drunk. The station owner looked really sad, but I think that was just his aim problem.
It has been 17 years since I worked there, and it has only just now dawned on me what my job was--I was their mascot. I was their humorous, ironic mascot. I was like the ferret that gets his picture taken and put on the fraternity’s composite picture. The DJs got a kick out of introducing me to the bar owners with the huge asses and acid washed jeans; enjoyed watching me navigate my way around the rodeos we sponsored. I didn’t do much, but I don’t think I was supposed to do much except be incongruous and bewildered.
Being an ironic mascot is great work if you can get it.