I needed something to stop the tears after leaving my daughter at college and the rock song of her generation blaring from a nearby dorm made me feel even older, so stopped at the red light and tapped my iPhone music library. The opening lyric, “now everybody’s looking after me,
If I’m dragging by some coat tail“, in front of twangy late 1980s college rock guitar brought on a 26-year-old memory I didn’t realize was there.
“Dude, like really, could you give us a minute! She’s upset!”
I surveyed the uncomfortable situation and didn’t know what to do. With two minutes before my 10th ever freshman DJ shift at the student radio station, I was being ordered out of the studio so some guy I didn’t know could console a crying girl I did know. The room was small, dark, and suffocating with more than two people inside. I tried to please two masters, my radio gig duty and their wishes to be rid of me. I decided to cue up my first record on the turntable next to the girl so I leaned into the thin, pale sophomore named Jule. I suspected her name it was Julie or maybe Julianne and she was reinventing herself like the rest of us social rejects at college. Those were the types that inhabited the University of Alabama student radio station, WVUA, in the fall of 1988.
“Why do you keep doing this to us? Leave us alone for five f**king minutes, a**hole!”
I thought I was a melodramatic bad actor but this guy blew me off the stage. The vinyl record was ready with needle on groove, all that had to be done was push a button and the world would hear staion approved college rock for the top of the hour of 1am.
Before I walked out, I turned to Jule and placed my hand on her shoulder. We’d hung out for a few minutes at a time during station meetings. She was from suburban Atlanta, Georgia like me, but a town about an hour away. I muttered over my shoulder as I reached the door.
“Hang in there, I hope you’re okay.”
The guy started to scream at me again.
“Get the fu…..”
Jule placed one hand over his mouth and pointed to the door with the other. When he pushed away from her and stayed in his chair, she growled, low and intentional.
“The music comes first, here. It’s his shift, you leave and don’t call me, again.”
He got up, threw the rickety black office chair back into the radio console with his butt, then glared at me. He elbowed my chest like a rebounding basketball power forward and cursed into the hallway. I looked at the clock in the studio then at Jule. She wiped her eyes, rubbed her hands on her dirty jeans, then asked.
“What are you starting your show with?”
Her lips trembled. I wanted to ask her what happened. Instead, I just answered.
“Soul Asylum, Cartoon, it’s my favorite song right now, well, you know, until tomorrow.”
She laughed and leaned back in her chair as I pushed the button.
Like my teenager, I had a different life one month into my college career. I owe her a huge thanks for instant recall.