Mack’s Craic

Racing Uncertainty

Racing Uncertainty

“You’re actually quite BORING in real life, aren’t you?” That’s what a listener to my radio show told me over lunch once. When he said that, I was hurt. I couldn’t understand why someone would say something so insensitive to my face.

This all happened over ten years ago and now I think I understand exactly what he meant and why he said it. Before I explain, let me tell you about that day, which was the first and last time I saw this bloke.

The environment was formal. It wasn’t a pub lunch in a rowdy, town centre watering hole. This was the poshest silver service restaurant at the local racecourse on a race day. I was wearing a shirt and tie because you weren’t allowed in without one.

I was uncomfortable because I realized during the lunch that I’d failed to prepare a proper exit strategy. I’d mistakenly agreed to meet him at his house then we’d traveled to the racecourse together in HIS car. There was no way I could make my excuses and leave when I wanted to. And it wasn’t just a meal; it was an entire afternoon of racing. This was a hostage situation.

Back then, I was presenting an edgy Breakfast Show on a commercial radio station in the Midlands. It was a show where we’d blown things up in a microwave, made prank phone calls and on more than one occasion had naked people in the studio. That morning like every other week-day morning, I’d got up before 4am, presented four hours of live on-air chaos, then sat through two lively meetings planning crazy stuff for the next day. A nice relaxing afternoon with someone who I thought would be interesting to listen to really appealed to me. This bloke was a successful businessman who used to be a professional footballer. I was expecting HIM to be the life and soul of the party, after all he’d invited ME, not the other way around. I was expecting tales of great business deals he’d done and sporting anecdotes from years gone by. I felt more than a little bit ripped off myself! I wanted to tell him how boring HE was, but I was too polite. As I now realize, it was my restraint that was the actual problem.

I was on my best behavior because that’s how we all are with people we meet for the first time, especially in a formal environment. We only relax with friends and when we’re in comfortable situations. The older the friendship and the more comfortable the surroundings are, the more badly behaved we become. If a stranger tells you it’s their birthday and how old they are, you congratulate them. If a friend tells you, you’ll more than likely make fun of their age and make a joke about how they look much older.

When I’m on the radio I behave as if the listener is a close friend. To me that’s exactly what they are. It goes beyond a “suspension of disbelief”, I have to truly believe I’m talking to a friend to be able to do what I do. I’m comfortable in a radio studio and talk on the air and to callers the same way I do with my closest friends, sometimes I’m not very polite on purpose.  Radio is an intimate medium, it works by making people believe that we have a close connection that doesn’t really exist.

This bloke must have bought into it completely. On that day he couldn’t work out why his “friend” was treating him like a stranger, that must have hurt.

Craic on!

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