By Michael A. Nettleton
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of time travel. I think it might have started with reading the H. G. Wells story and reinforced by watching Peabody’s Improbable History on Bullwinkle. Weekly, the brainy dog and his boy Sherman transported themselves back to another age in the Way-back machine.
Recently, I’ve been reading Jodi Taylor’s delightful series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. It centers on a group of historians who use time travel to go back and observe and record historical events, with the proviso that they do nothing to interfere with or change anything. What could possibly go wrong, right? (Spoiler: Plenty)
We all know you shouldn’t muck about with the past. The butterfly effect and all that. But what if you could go back and visit your own past? At least to answer the question “What the hell was I thinking there?” There are pivotal events in our life stories that affected what happened for the rest of our lives. What if you’d made a different decision? What if that girl who jilted me decided I was Robert Redford in the flesh and had called to apologize the same night? What if . . .
I got into the radio business, because I was a bad actor. Not horrible, you understand, but when I announced to my theater teacher at Southern Oregon College that I intended to go to New York and pursue a career on the Broadway stage, she got a look on her face that was a cross between a deer trapped in the headlights and “Oh, dear God, I’ve got to tell him”.
Kind lady that she was, she gulped and said “Well, you’ve got the voice for it, but you move on stage like a hippo emerging from his wallow.” Or words to that effect. She suggested I go talk to Dave Allen, who had started a student radio station because “You’ll need a way to support yourself while trying to find acting jobs. And there are already enough waiters in New York.” So I did, and 40 years later, retired from a semi-rewarding career in radio. But what if I’d ignored her and hitchhiked to New York and started auditioning? Could I have become a big star? Had my own entourage? Or at least found a job waiting table at a nice restaurant?
Or . . . I could have gotten discouraged and found an entirely different profession. But, what? I know I wouldn’t have gone back to my home town and signed on to pull green chain at a lumber mill. I’m butt lazy and needed to find a way to pay my rent without breaking a sweat.
The second moment I’d like to revisit involves an on-air phone call. I was doing an afternoon on-air shift at a station in Eugene. Because I often engaged my mouth long before firing up my brain, I shared a newspaper blurb about the local nudist colony, The Willametans. They invited people to an open house on Saturday. Glibly (code word for stupidly) I said; “Volleyball is nudism’s national game. It’s a little known fact that we have one of the world’s best nude volleyball teams right here at (station call letters). That would have been a fun throwaway, (move along, nothing to see here!) but the phone rang. In another moment of temporary insanity, I put the call on the air. “Hi,” a friendly voice said, “This is Tim, the social director of the Willametans and your team is officially challenged. One pm Saturday. Bring a gallon of sun screen.”
I still could have saved my ass. All I had to do was laugh, say “I was just joking,” and go on with my life. Instead, I piped up “You’re on!” My death wish once again trumped any common sense I may have possessed.
So, I was forced to recruit some of my co-workers to go and play nude volleyball the following Saturday. Oddly enough, a great number of them agreed and we were able to field a team. We lost the game, (I did play by play on-air),gained some new friends. I also earned myself a rapid job search as the evangelistic general manager didn’t find my antics even remotely funny. On the plus side of the equation, I fulfilled one of my ongoing fantasies. I got to see my program director’s most excellent girlfriend naked.
peek at Darla.