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TAKING THE PLEDGE

7 February 2003

When I began working for Dr. G, there was a radio in the office and my predecessor kept it tuned to a soft rock station as background music for the patients. Now, I will be the first to admit that my musical tastes stopped somewhere in the mid-50s and most of my knowledge of music from then to now comes from Peggy, but along the way I’ve picked up an appreciation for some types of more modern music and so I enjoyed—up to a point—having this radio station on in the background.

However, I discovered quickly that the station had a very limited collection of CDs and while I may enjoy listening to Celine Dion’s heart going on, I really don’t enjoy it when it goes on and on and on and on and on 6 times during the course of a work day.

After a few months, I switched over to classical music on public radio and while the selection here isn’t as great as one might find in a larger metropolitan area, a symphony lasts longer than a pop ballad, and so the repetition tended to be during the course of a week rather than in the course of a morning.

It made a nice atmosphere for the office. Soothing music when the patients arrive, and since the waiting room has more the appearance of a living room than a doctor’s office, complete with flowers fresh from Dr. G’s garden each week, the music was a nice touch.

But my problem is that somehow, over time, even music that I love takes on the characteristics of white noise for me and I find that even the most soothing of music makes me begin to get tense. I can’t concentrate. Plus the fact that our telephone is abominable, so that no matter what is going on behind you, whether street noise, conversation, or low background music, you absolutely cannot hear the person on the other end—or it’s very difficult, at best.

So I began to turn the radio off after a few hours and then I just wouldn’t turn it on from time to time, and finally I stopped turning it on altogether. (If I’m alone and don’t expect any phone calls, I might bring in one of Steve’s CDs and play that—but that’s a different story).

But today was rather low key and I decided that music would be nice, so I turned on PBS again.

Wouldn’t you know I found myself smack dab in the middle of pledge week.

I realize pledge drives are necessary to keep public television and radio commercial free, but sometimes I think I’d rather hear a few jingles between musical numbers than a week or more of pledge pleas. It is particularly bad on radio. At least during pledge week(s) on television, you can watch the 1,000th showing of the concert version of Les Mis or listen to Susie Ormand tell you how to become rich and famous. There is something interesting to watch when Rick Steeves runs his new video series and is there to talk to you about travels in Europe.

On radio, there is just some guy reading stuff about why you need to send them money.

Over. And over. And over. And over. Give me Celine Dion’s heart going on again, please!!!

The problem is that pledge drives are aimed at the people who don't contribute, and the people who suffer are those of us who do. In San Francisco, there are so many supporters that they often can meet their goals just by promising not to do a pledge drive. Not so lucky here, where they struggle to meet goals of something like $500 per pledge break.

The only time pledge week(s) can be fun is when you are actually participating. We worked two different pledge drives, I think. We were supposed to be in costume (since we were representing the Davis Comic Opera Co.). Some of us were on camera, sitting at the desks and taking phone calls. Others were in the background watching us work.

What people watching pledge drives don't realize is that all of those phone calls aren't necessarily real. The job of the off-camera volunteers was to call the on-camera volunteers when things were slow, so that it sounded like there were lots of phone calls and that would encourage home viewers to be part of the fun.

Amy Patton was a lovely, talented actress who played many of Gilbert & Sullivan's older women roles. She was one of the off-camera volunteers on this particular night and given the task to place calls to those of us on camera when things got slow. The thing was that you never really knew who you were calling and when the phone rang the on-camera volunteer never knew whether the call was coming from a "real" subscriber or from one of the off camera shills.

Things were slow and Amy placed a call. One of the volunteers picked up the phone and she put on a voice and started to make a pledge. He was writing it all up just, thinking it was a genuine pledge. When he got to the part about payment, she said she'd pay by credit card.

"OK--and what's your number," he asked, cheerily.

"3," she replied.

"3?" he asked

"Yes, dear" she said, in her best little old lady voice. "it was one of the very first ones..."

By this time everyone offstage was standing around giggling at the joke.

Amy died several years later and the whole theatre company banded together to help her children close up her house. There was a gigantic garage sale and a crowd of people was busy moving things from the house out to the front yard for the sale. One of the volunteers carried out a large vase to put up for sale."

"Don't sell that!" cried one of her children. "That's my mother!" (It was the urn for Amy's ashes.)

Maybe they should have donated it to the local PBS station--probably could have gotten some good donations pledged with that as one of the bonus gifts!

Quote of the Day

The appreciative smile, the chuckle, the soundless mirth, so important to the success of comedy, cannot be understood unless one sits among the audience and feels the warmth created by the quality of laughter that the audience takes home with it.

~ James Thurber

Today's Photo

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Congratulations to Jimmy and Steve on the nomination of The Big Voice for the
LA Drama Critics Circle award
(for Best Musical Score)

One Year Ago
Lost People
...when you have someone with whom you are comfortable and with whom you can pick up almost in mid-conversation, though you may not have seen each other for years, that is very special. Those are the relationships to be treasured.

Two Years Ago
Product Loyalty
I’ll buy Aunt Jemima pancake mix, pour on Mrs. Butterworth syrup, sit back with a cup of Folgers and think about how daring I’ve been to make such huge changes in my life. If I can change shampoo brand...who knows what else I can change...I might open up a whole new world for myself. Kinda scary.


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Pounds Lost:  75
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On the Odometer

URL Total 741.6
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2003 YTD Cumulative:  120.6

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