Many of the people in my industry are...not in my industry anymore.
When it comes to broadcasting, syndication has replaced your local DJ and your local program host. Budget cuts have reduced radio and television newsrooms to one or two-person operations. And that's for the stations that even bother with local news.
Internet technology has replaced production specialists and both audio and video editors. A radio station that's staffed with local DJs, local reporters, local news anchors and local program hosts is certainly a rare and special thing anymore. The loss of local media harms local communities, but it is a sign of the economic times.
I always try to keep these realities in mind because, for some reason, I'm blessed to have two radio jobs and one of those includes my producing and hosting a television show. I'm no more deserving than hundreds or thousands of others, but I have the opportunity and I'm taking it.
The television show is recorded in the St. Louis area, at Lindenwood University. It's just under four hours of driving, one way, from my Grandview home, twice a month (we record three or four shows at a time). That's a lot of driving. I crunched the numbers and it's actually cheaper in the long run for me to just rent a car for the trips.
I actually enjoy that because, in the wise words of Mama Gump: "You never know what you gonna git" when it comes to a car. Most of the time, I get a basic sedan. I always reserve the cheapest car possible: economy in order to save money. I've never been hung up on driving the coolest car. I like my '97 Camry because it's dependable and gets good gas mileage and I don't care what car I drive back and forth on I-70, as long as it has cruise control.
I don't need to impress anyone and my car is paid off. I REALLY like not having a car payment.
Today, though, I found myself falling into that guy stereotype. The one about guys and cars.
I walk in to the Enterprise office in Grandview and the rental agent says "Mr. Ferguson, we actually have an economy car this time. Or we can upgrade you, if you don't like this one. It's a FIAT."
I wasn't even sure what a FIAT economy car is and told them, it's ok, I don't need to look cool. I'll take the economy one.
That's when another rental agent offered (insisted) that I take a look at both. I learned what a FIAT economy car is: a box that is slightly larger and barely heavier than the Hot Wheels cars I used to race on little plastic tracks in the 1970's.
G.I. Joe would fit inside this thing.
I was worried that a bird would land on the roof and crush it. If that happened, the firefighters wouldn't need the Jaws of Life to save me; they'd need a can opener.
Then, he tells me " For six more dollars, we can put you in this..."
THIS is a brand new Dodge Challenger with less than 6,000 miles on it.
Um, yeah. For six bucks, I'll take the challenger and it's muscle-car looks, unnecessary engine power and cool factor in which I'm out of place.
I don't know what came over me. Mr. Save-every-penny and Mr. Get-the-best-gas-mileage who is also Mr. I-don't-care-if-I-look-cool suddenly jumped at the chance to, well, look cool. Hey, fake it till you make it.
Here's the funny thing: you don't just feel like you look cooler in a car like this. You do look cooler in a car like this.
It's really been interesting today. I pull into the gas station and get stared at, almost reverently, once I step out of the Challenger. I pull through the drive-through and the female employee, after looking over the vehicle slowly, thoroughly and almost sensually became the friendliest food server I've ever experienced.
There was a line of cars behind me in the line but she wanted to strike up a conversation. About anything. With a lot of eye contact and giddy smiles. As long as I didn't drive that car away...
I'm not used to getting much attention from women but that car and I sure caught some eyes today. I've even had complete strangers walk up in parking lots, praise the car while just wanting to talk to me. This is in one day.
Are people that shallow that a person's appeal is judged by the car they drive? Well, yeah, maybe, but I'm not going to harp on it because I'll admit I ate it up. Not only did a piece of machinery change how people looked at me, it changed how I projected myself to others, knowing they were looking at the car.
I don't know why, other that it's been fun. I know I'm not a high society guy and I'm never going to be rich (and I'm ok with that) but getting a little taste of what it's like has been a hoot.
The car goes back to Enterprise on Tuesday, and I go back to being just me, with an old car. I'm ok with that, too. The real Mike still doesn't need a car to define who I am.
But I'll take the Challenger for an extra six bucks again next time, if offered.