I don't go looking for stories with the idea of wrongness in my head, no. But the fact is, a lot of great stories hinge on people being wrong.
Dominic Yun is in my sound booth.
He knows it's my sound booth. He's been here four months, and there's no way he doesn't know it's my sound booth. It's on the station's shared calendar, the one connected to our email, in a blue bubble that reads BOOTH C: GOLDSTEIN, SHAY. REPEATS MONDAY-FRIDAY, 11 TO NOON. ENDS: NEVER.
I'd knock on the door, but—well, a sound booth's defining feature is that it's soundproof. And while I'm certain a list of my faults could fill a half hour of commercial-free radio, I'm not quite so awful that I'd storm inside and risk screwing up whatever Dominic is recording. He may be Pacific Public Radio's least qualified reporter, but I have too much respect for the art of audio mixing to do that. What happens inside that booth should be sacred.
Instead, I lean against the wall across from Booth C, quietly simmering, while the red RECORDING sign above the booth flashes on and off.
"Use another booth, Shay!" calls my show's host, Paloma Powers, on her way to lunch. (Veggie yakisoba from the hole-in-the-wall across the street, every Tuesday and Thursday for the past seven years. Ends: never.)
I could. But being passive-aggressive is much more fun.
Public radio is not solely filled with the kind of honey-voiced intellectuals who ask for money during pledge drives. For every job in this field, there are probably a hundred desperate journalism grads who "just love This American Life," and sometimes you have to be vicious if you want to survive.
I might be more stubborn than vicious. That stubbornness got me an internship here ten years ago, and now, at twenty-nine, I'm the station's youngest-ever senior producer. It's what I've wanted since I was a kid, even if, back then, I dreamed of being in front of a microphone instead of behind a computer.
It's eleven twenty when the sound booth door finally opens, after I've assured my assistant producer Ruthie Liao that the promos will be in before noon, and after environmental reporter Marlene Harrison-Yates takes one look at me and bursts out laughing before disappearing into the vastly inferior Booth B.
I see his shoe first, a shiny black oxford. The rest of his six-foot-something body follows, charcoal slacks and a maroon dress shirt with the top button undone. Framed in the doorway of Booth C and frowning down at his script, he could be a stock photo for business casual.
"Did you say all the right words in the right order?" I ask.
"I think so," Dominic says to the script instead of to me, completely serious. "Can I help you with anything?"
I fill my voice with as much sweetness as I can. "Just waiting for my booth."
Since he's blocking my path, I continue to scrutinize him. His sleeves are rolled to his elbows, and his black hair is slightly mussed. Maybe he dragged his hands through it, frustrated when his story didn't turn out precisely the way he wanted. It would be a refreshing contrast to his recent stories dominating our website, the ones that get clicks because of splashy headlines but lack any emotional depth. During those fateful twenty minutes he spent in Booth C, maybe he grew so fed up with public radio that he's on his way to tell Kent he's so sorry, but he wasn't cut out for this job.
He's barely been here long enough to understand the nuances between Booths A, B, and my beloved C: that the headphones in Booth C are perfectly broken in, that the weight of the faders on the board makes them easier to manipulate. He doesn't know the significance of Booth C, either—that it's where I mixed tracks for the first show I produced entirely solo, the one about being fatherless on Father's Day that tied up our phone lines for hours. Listening to those stories had made me feel, for the first time in years, a little less alone, had reminded me why I'd gone into radio in the first place.
I'd say it's not just about Booth C, but it's also possible that I've formed an unhealthy attachment to these twenty-four square feet of wires and knobs.