I’m an adult.
Without reservation, I can say that now.
However, when does one know when one is truly an adult? How does one truly know when the line into adulthood has been crossed?
There can be many scattered milestones along one’s path in life that highlight the fact that maturity and responsibility are now the norm and that childish things are in the rear view mirror.
As for me, the road to being an adult has been not so much a path, but a staircase with certain achievements being unlocked at every step.
This is the story of one such step.
In the late summer of 1991, a friend of mine (and we’ll give her the name of Melissa since that is what she likes to be called), who I met six years prior at a program for high school juniors at Northwestern University, invited me to Denver to see Sting in concert at Red Rocks Arena. I had already, through a bizarre and strange confluence of events, managed to miss Sting twice on his tour promoting his latest album, Soul Cages. Having nothing else to do and still living large off of my game-show winnings, I gassed up my trusty steed, my blue Chevy Sprint and its three cylinders o’ pure power, for the day and a half trip to Colorado’s capital city to visit Melissa.
I thoroughly enjoy long drives. There is something quite mind-cleansing when it is simply you, the car, and a straight ribbon of highway. I brought plenty of cassette tapes and enjoyed my favorite musical acts as I motored my way through the Californian desert, the casinos of Las Vegas (where I actually won some money at the craps table), the gorges of Arizona, and the stunning vistas of Utah. I spent the night in the Beehive State city of Green River and the next day motored over the mighty Rocky Mountains.
Melissa was a gracious host and it was fantastic catching up with her and her roller-coaster of a life. I shared my stories of what had transpired in my life since we last met and we aimlessly chatted on what the future held for us after college.
The concert was fantastic but the magic of the music, the light rain, and the delightful company ended too soon. I was back in my Sprint headed back to California and my real life. My travel plan was to drive to Beaver, Utah, and spend the night there. However, I arrived at this destination earlier than I planned so I decided to push on. I finally called it a day in a small town six miles south of the Utah-Arizona border called St. George.
I had dinner at a local pizza restaurant and even enjoyed flirting with the waitress who wore a beguiling perfume. At the motel where I was staying, I took out the phone book and saw that there were four radio stations in this small municipality.
As a reminder for those who do not know me personally, this would be a good time to tell you that my dream at this point in my personal space and time coordinates was to land a job in radio. While in Denver, I had handed out some of my resumes and demonstration tapes from my previous on-air experiences. On this outing, I even drove down to Colorado Springs to hand out more of my material in my quixotic ordeal to find a real radio job. What could it hurt, I thought, to write down the names of the quartet of radio stations in this village and send them my demo tapes.
(Digression: And from the nooks and crannies of the boxes that contain my past, I give to you that actual snippet from the St. George Yellow Pages)
(Disclaimer: Please don’t call any of these numbers. This page is twenty-six years old. Okay, back to the story.)
Arriving back home in Southern California, I dutifully mailed out my cover letter, examples of my work, and resumes to the foursome of media outlets and quickly forgot about it.
Two weeks later, the program director of one of the four radio stations telephoned me. They were looking for an on-air personality to host the mid-morning slot for their adult contemporary format. The station was also looking for someone who could do interviews, anchor a newscast, and write and produce commercials.
Oh sure, I replied, I had experience doing all of those things. Now, I wasn’t outright lying but I was definitely stretching the truth. In my previous radio stints, I had talked to people on the air (“do interviews”), read the news straight from the teletype (“anchor a newscast”), and had written and produced public service announcements, which are like commercials except that no money changes hands. This ability to be able to stretch one’s credentials to fill a certain employment situation is important, and this would not be the last time I would use this stratagem.
I asked when he wanted me to travel over to Utah to be interviewed and the program director said that’s what we were doing right now over the phone. When he asked me how much money I was looking for, I gave my proposed salary at an hourly rate. The gentleman on the other end of the line was silent and I thought I had overshot. As it turned out, he was only doing some mental calculations because he asked, “How much is that on a monthly rate?”
I had never had a job that paid on a monthly rate. It suddenly hit me that this was a real job. I quickly found a calculator and, in my best professional radio voice, gave him my new salary request.
Two days later, the general manager called to let me know that he was welcoming me to his radio family and asked when could I start. My radio career was off and running and the sky was the limit.
Two weeks later, I drove into southern Utah and found myself a house for rent (previously read about here as the back of the business that was a combination baseball card shop / gunsmith / locksmith). Although I never ran into the waitress I had been flirting with, I settled into my new dwelling full of optimism. I had a real on-air job in radio, I was in a new environment, I was going to make new friends, and I was going to have new experiences. My future looked as bright as the red hues bouncing off the buttes to the east of St. George that caught the stunning sunset.
I was adulting.
That’s my story.
Earning a salary that paid on a monthly rate was one of those achievements that I unlocked on the adult stairway. Seriously, there should have been one of those cut-scenes like they do in video games when the player wins a trophy for doing some task.
I am most assuredly an adult, but that doesn’t mean the climb is over. Far from it. There are more achievements to unlock (and more stories to be told).
P.S. As to the “bizarre and strange confluence of events” that prevented me from seeing Sting in concert twice before watching him in Denver…well, those are stories for another day.