Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not a Pollyanna Post

I promise.

WUSF-FM honored its volunteers today. That included those for its Radio Reading Service, which included me. The Radio Reading Service broadcasts readings of newspapers, magazines and other literature to blind and otherwise disabled people. People request the special receivers needed to pick up the signal.

I haven't been active lately but I had accumulated more than 100 hours of service over a couple of stints and I got a certificate for that.* I've read everything from the Tampa Tribune and Esquire Magazine to TV Guide and the National Enquirer.

The Radio Reading Service gets a lot of its programming from syndicated services now. The Internet has replaced satellites as the means of receiving the off-site programs, which cuts its cost greatly.

Volunteers still go in early each weekday morning to read the St. Petersburg Times and what remains of the Tribune. A popular item now is the grocery store ads.

The reading service is the perfect outlet for someone who loves the sound of his own voice as much as I do. Even reading something like TV listings, which I know sounds as boring as counting blades of grass, is enjoyable because you know someone is hanging on every word you say. You're doing something every broadcast wants to do — giving people information really important to them.

They held the event at the University of South Florida's Alumni Center. (WUSF is located on the campus.) The building did not exist when during my first stretch living in Tampa in the late 1990s. A large banner hung on a set of double doors read "Doormet," which I first mistook as "Doormat." It was hanging on a door.

I learned later that Doormet was pronounced "dor-may" and that it's a south Tampa restaurant that catered the lunch. It was good, but I'm going to pay for that mega-chocolate chip cookie later. At least I ate only one.

Almost the entire WUSF staff was there, from the general manager on down, smiling and shaking hands. Name tags let us match the strange faces with familiar voices.

I particularly wanted to see the station's early afternoon host Bethany Cagle. I have never heard a voice like hers. Bright, elegant and delicate. It sounds like a smile. I'd happily sit in traffic listening to her read the phone book.

After the event I approached her. I just wanted to hear this voice as it came out of her mouth. I almost said that but thought it would sound dumber out loud than it did in my head. She looked at me expectantly. When I didn't speak she introduced herself.

"Nice to meet you," I told her. "You have a magical voice."

*100 hours is relatively little. Two people earned recognition for exceeding 600 hours of service! "Six hundred?" I said to the person next to me. "Did he get a DUI?" Kidding! Am I still allowed?

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