Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sham Pag Nay is the proper pronounciation, I believe

Years ago, I used to appear from time to time on my boss' radio show. Eventually, she stopped paying for the slot, and so my illustrious broadcasting career came to an end.

Or so I thought.

Last week she sent me an email. "Just signed a new deal with the station" it said. "Back on the air. But I am going out of town so I need someone to be in the studio - you interested?"

Now, let's just skip over the fact that she committed to being on the air when she knew she was going to be out of town. And let's forget that I am no longer her assistant, responsible for saving/covering her ass on a day to day basis, in addition to attending meetings she didn't want to go to in her stead, decorating her home and office, driving her to the airport, and taking pictures for her profile. Even when I was tasked with the most self-esteem crushing tasks, she was good to me. She paid me - on time, and very well. She offered me flex time when I had small children. She let me keep working for her on my own terms when I decided I couldn't be her assistant anymore. She was the ultimate at-arms-length auntie to my kids. And besides, it's all water under the bridge - because Daffodil was getting herself some airtime. I just love a big mic and a nice set of earphones, don't you?

I called her a few days before the show. "What are we going to be talking about? Do you want me to make a list of specials to share with the listeners?" I just *love* being on the radio. Oh, I really do. I was excited. I wanted to have an assignment, wanted to prepare, wanted to practice my soft, tinkling on-air laughter and witty repartee.

No, she assured me. Everything was under control. She had a plan. And she was bringing champagne, just like old times. It was her signature to pop a bottle of champagne during the show, just like Robin Leech with his "champagne wishes and caviar dreams". And I may not be rich and famous, but I like good champagne. And my boss always drinks good champagne.

On Friday, I made my much-anticipated return to the airwaves. That morning I received several texts from friends along the lines of "I just heard - OMG" and "I can't believe you are doing this to yourself" and "Are you getting paid for this? Because you should be getting paid for this." At about 10:30 I got a phone call.

"I am on my way to town, I need new tires and they might not be done in time, so there is a chance I'll need you to pick me up and give me a ride to the station." I looked at the clock, did the math, realized there was no way the tires would be on in an hour, and started getting dressed in anticipation of leaving the house earlier than planned.

When I pulled up, she was sitting in a gorgeous outfit,  perfectly made up, next to a stack of tires. Sitting across from her was a really grubby looking old dude, who was sneaking peeks at her cleavage from behind his newspaper. She was perched on a small metal chair, working on her laptop with her phone to her ear. My phone began to ring. Of course. She was calling me. I answered the phone.

"Where are y-" She started to ask.

"Hang up the phone and get in the car!" I hollered through the open window, waving my phone in the air.

We raced through traffic to the station. A few minutes down the road she announced that perhaps she should take some notes in preparation for the show.

"You don't have any notes?" I was beside myself. "You should probably get a handle on that."
"Oh!" She suddenly paused, pen in mid air. "I forgot the the champagne!" She looked around wildly, as though her desperate need for a chilled bottle of bubbly was going to manifest a liquor store. "Are we passing someplace that sells champagne? We must be!"

"No." I said flatly. We were due at the station in four minutes, and I was weaving the Mini through traffic with my jaw clenched. "I'll drop you off at the station and go find some."

"Just go buy some from Tom." she suggested.

I pulled up to the station just as the clock hit 12 noon. She hopped out and ran inside, I tuned in to the show and went in search of champagne. "My sidekick is on her way to the station" she was telling her listeners. "She's not my assistant anymore, so when she was late to pick me up today I got a little nervous!"

I clenched my jaw tighter.

"And now she is off running a little errand for me, but she'll be back soon!" she continued.
"She's bringing her special sparkle!" the radio host chimed in. They giggled. Good god.
"It is our signature," my boss explained "to pop a bottle of champagne at the beginning of each show."
"Yes," the host recalled. "You always had such good champagne."

Then they spent a few minutes strolling down memory lane, reflecting on all of the myriad ways I had been humbled as her assistant in the past, as I sat in traffic, horrified. I pulled into a loading zone, ran in to the bistro and found Tom. I explained what I needed and he fixed me with a level, unblinking gaze. "I am sold out of champagne" he informed me over his glasses. "I sold my last bottle a week ago." I couldn't tell if he was really out of champagne or if he wanted to make a point to my boss that she could not just send people into his restaurant expecting him to sell her a bottle of booze.


He suggested the gas station down the road, and I ran there in stilettos, tiptoing down the sidewalk and dashing straight to the corner where the wine was kept. There was one dusty, foil topped bottle left. Not only was it not champagne, it was on the shelf. Warm, cheap, sparkling wine. I would never in a million years drink it.

It was perfect.

I stomped into the studio 5 minutes later, out of breath and furiously tweeting and texting, with the paper-wrapped bottle clamped under my arm. I was greeted warmly by the host and my boss, and I slid the bottle out of the bag and set it down on the counter. My boss blanched at the label, shuddered, and kept talking into the microphone. I pulled out the slurpee cups I had swiped out of the dispenser near the checkout, and the host covered her mouth, trying to hide a smile.

I unwrapped the bottle and they looked at me nervously. I wasn't gong to actually make them drink it, was I?

Oh yes. Oh MY yes. It's a signature.

"And where did you manage to find the champagne?" my boss asked with barely disguised distaste.
I leaned towards the mic so no one would miss a single syllable and turned to her, leering. "The gas station."
 There was a moment of silence. I removed the wire from the cork.

"Gosh." said my boss, in a chipper tone. "How do you pronounce the name of that brand?"

"You don't." I said flatly. "When you are drinking champagne from a gas station, not only do you not announce the brand, you drink it out of a slurpee cup." I popped the cork and began to pour.

"OH," the host held up her had to stop me "Just a little for me!" I smiled and topped off her cup.
"Oh my," my boss remarked as she took her first sip. "It's, um...."
"It's sweet!" the host chimed in.

Yes. I am nothing if not sweet.

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