Mondays Observer Column

Here it is as promised!  Enjoy 🙂

The One on the Right Was In the Middle…

As they say in the Phantom comics, ‘For those who came in late…’  I shared an account of my first night as a volunteer phone jockey at a small radio station in Brisbane, taking messages for ‘Right Wing’ Chuck, while he pounded the airwaves of the city with his extreme views.   

The next day I rang the station manager to enquire about a safer place to park my car during next Monday nights’ show.  He thought I was ringing up to quit, and after assuring him that I would be back, his response was a mixture of relief and curiosity, “You’ll be back?” he said, sounding incredulous, “you did actually listen to his show didn’t you?” 

“Yes, I did.”

“And you agreed with what he had to say?” he asked carefully. 

“Hell no!” I cried, “The man’s insane, but we seemed to hit it off in spite of our differences, and I gave my word that I’d help out.  Besides, I don’t think you’ve got a lineup of people wanting to work with Chuck have you?” 

So, the following Monday night when I fronted up at the station, Chuck was delighted to see me, “Hey, two weeks in a row, well that’s a new record!” he said, shaking my hand.  We made our way to the tearoom where I noticed a sheet of plywood had been nailed over the window, cutting off the view of the unit across the lane.  Sitting down next to the phone I said, “Tell me Chuck, about the opinions you expressed last week, you know horsewhipping graffiti vandals, and…”

He raised his hands and grinned, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say, but honestly that’s just my radio persona.” 

I smiled back at him, “Well, I’m relieved to hear…” 

He cut me off again, “In reality, my views are much, much more conservative, I just tone them down a bit for the show.” 

He disappeared into the studio, leaving me sitting alone next to the phone in a state of shock.  Moments later his voice crackled to life over the little speaker above my head, the show was on again.  This week Chucks’ opening item was a plan to deport all striking coal miners to Russia, and refill their positions with homeless folk who would be herded up off the streets of Brisbane and trucked westwards. 

The abusive phone calls came in thick and fast, and I had my hands full for the next half hour listening to insults, taking down notes, and relaying them to Chuck in the studio.  After the show, I sat once again in a state of stupefaction while Chuck went over the highlights, and re-read some of the more outraged notes from callers, and having a bit of a snigger at their expense. 

Eventually he turned to me and asked, “Tell me Greg, what do you do for a living?” 

“Well Chuck,” I said, “I’m a fitter and turner from the coal mines, and a union delegate who also happens to think you’re a lunatic that should be taken off the air as soon as possible.”  I was certain that this comment would mark the end of our short relationship.    

He looked stunned for a moment, but to my surprise, he started laughing.  He laughed until tears flowed down his face, but after a little while he calmed down, then leaning forward, he placed a hand on my shoulder and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “You’re a really funny guy Greg, but you should be very careful about what you say in this place, because not everyone around here is as broadminded as I am.” 

I couldn’t disagree with him, as I’d suddenly lost the ability to speak.

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