“Who're you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?”—Richard PryorIt was in his last column, I believe, that my colleague over there on Page 5 wrote about listening to some God-awful God-radio. I read it and thought, Jesus, Decker is losing it. Who listens to the radio anymore? And then I felt something in my eye. It was my contact, which had managed to fold in half and lodge itself somewhere up under my eye-lid, but at that point it might as well have been a log.
Driving to my job (which is on life-support, by the way) last Thursday morning, I'd had just about all I could take of KPBS' Dwayne Brown stammering during the… uh… news… where, uhhh… news… uh... matters. The first thing you learn in Speech 103 at City College is not to say “uh” in public speaking. A beat or two of silence is better than an “uh”—I don't care if your voice is like warmed honey-butter on cornbread. C'mon! Is it really that hard to read your lines? It's the news. It's traffic. It's call numbers, for Pete's sake. Move over and gimme that microphone.
I have the option to program 12 stations on my car stereo, but I lost interest after setting four. And so I toggle from left to right: Jazz 88, KPBS, KCRW and Magic 92.5. Jazz 88 was spinning hard-bop that morning, which isn't my thing. And KCRW wasn't playing music. So I settled on Magic 92.5. Sometimes, if I'm lucky enough to avoid the commercial part of commercial radio, I can roll into the office with a little Marvin Gaye-inspired tingle. One song can change the trajectory of an entire week.
Last week, though, I happened to tune in just as DJ Power Couple Jagger and Kristi™ were introducing their special segment called “War of the Roses.”
If you're not familiar with this bit of radio shtick, you're one of the last people on the planet to clue in, according to certain Yelpers. But “War of the Roses” wouldn't be the smash hit it is if everyone knew about it, because once everyone's in on it, the jig will be up. This thing has a shelf life.
The premise behind the segment is this: At the behest of a suspicious woman, one of Jagger and Kristi's minions, posing as a representative for a new flower shop in town, calls an unsuspecting sucker at his office. The unsuspecting sucker is told he's the lucky winner of one dozen free roses, to be sent to anyone of his choosing as part of a special promotion. All he has to do is give the name of the woman to whom he wants the flowers sent, and a short message to go on the card. Every one of the several (and accidental) times I've caught this show, the stooge has given the name of a woman other than the one waiting breathlessly on the eavesdropping end of the line.
If you cringed while reading that, you really ought to tune in to this show to get the full impact of just how uncomfortable a morning drive can be. Dwayne Brown's word-fumbling is like a hot-stone massage by comparison. But once the sound of a phone number being dialed comes through your speakers, you can no more change the station than you can believe Toyota has a sticky-floor-mat problem.
The latest episode I caught involved a mild-mannered woman named Maria, who was mystified when her new flame, Romero, spent Sunday washing his car instead of hanging out with her. As if this weren't enough, he didn't call her that night like he'd said he would. Now, I'm no Dr. Drew, but this chick didn't need a prank to figure out her guy wasn't all that interested. But dammit, she needed proof. Public, humiliating proof.
So radio minion “Leonardo” called up Romero, and when it came time for Romero to dictate his love note, he told “Stella” that he just loved spending more and more time with her. And that's when Jagger and Kristi™ delivered the somber news that, Romero, you are on the air with a trademarked husband-wife team who, after all these years, have miraculously not divorced and/or resorted to punching each other in the face, and, well, Romero, you are in la niche du chien.
At this point in the show, the jilted lovers usually maintain a state of calm disbelief only to become progressively enraged to the point of FCC-necessitated bleeping. Every time, without fail, there are the I-knew-its and the You're-so-pathetics. Last year, one of the spurned women was all, “Oh my god. I can't believe I did your laundry last night!” You could practically hear her smack her forehead with her palm.
But this Maria girl, this sweet thing—who agonized over why her man didn't want to see her on her day off in a maybe-I'm-making-this-up kind of way—she lost her shiznit immediately. You bleeper! she hissed.
And poor Romero. At first he played dumb: What? Who is this? Maria? What's going on? And then he lied: I don't know what you're talking about. And then he got real: I went out with my boys and forgot to call you. Stella is my ex-girlfriend. And then he laid out the silver lining: “Here's the cool thing! I stay friends with all my exes.”
You bleeper bleeper! Bleeping bleeper bleep bleeeeeeeeep!
And maybe he is, maybe he isn't. Maybe he really wanted to rub his car more than he wanted to rub Maria. And maybe he really did need to go out with his boys on Sunday night. Or maybe he was rubbing Stella and rolled with his boys. Who knows? All I know is that every single time I get sucked into this program, I am sympathetic with the targets. Because any woman who can't walk away from her man without the validation of radio-show entrapment deserves to be cheated on. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.