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Telephone Cables Make a Good Snack

John Decker on remote broadcast during 5 hour Car Talk marathon, 1998.
kpbs file photo
John Decker on remote broadcast during 5 hour Car Talk marathon, 1998.

Who knew that telephone cables make for a good snack? Apparently, this is an unspoken truth among the greater San Diego rodent community. At least that’s one of the many things I learned one fateful fall morning.

The great thing about radio is that you can do it practically anywhere. All you need is a microphone, a couple cables, maybe a pair of headphones... And viola, you’re live! Ah, the magic of radio. And so in 1998 our fundraising team had the bright idea that we would do our breaks live during one of our (in)famous 5 hour Car Talk pledge marathons remotely -- that is to say, outside our comfortable, controlled studios. It was not unusual for one of these marathons to generate nearly 25% of our campaign goal, so we were under a fair amount of pressure.

You can tell by my posture in this picture that things were not going well. Our remote location was in the parking lot of a popular coffeehouse in Hillcrest. We were plagued by a host of technical problems, with the most damage done by a dumpster rat who decided our telephone cable made a good snack. Arg!!!


We stumbled badly through our first breaks until we managed to work everything out. I remember one of our hosts saying “We’re trying something new... And it’s not working very well. Just turn off your radio and call this number to make a pledge.”

I learned a lot that day. I learned that the ability do radio can go anywhere...but to do good radio, well that isn’t so easy. I keep this photo pinned to my wall as a reminder to prepare for the worst. I also like to remind myself to not make the same mistake twice. Risk-taking has its rewards as long as we learn from the bad along with the good.