tuning out

When I lived in my aunt and uncle’s house in Ottawa, the radio was always playing. The only time the living room speakers ever fell silent was late at night, once everyone had gone to bed.

The first week I moved in, it only took a couple of days before curiosity got the best of me and I could not help but ask my aunt, “why the steady hum?” With a steaming cup of tea in one hand and the Globe in the other, she glanced up at me from the other side of the breakfast table and said, “because otherwise the dogs get lonely.”

For years, she told me that the dogs would accompany her to work every Monday through Friday. Except once they reached the age when travel was no longer an option, she had no choice but to leave them at home. Fearing they would be lost without someone to talk to, she flicked on the radio each morning before she walked out the door. Eventually, after enough time had passed, she said, it just always stayed on.

In less than a month living under her roof, I knew every radio personality from six am to ten pm. I would wake up extra early each weekday, just to listen to the morning show. And in the afternoons, once the all 80’s lunch was over, I would call in to request a song or enter one of their contests. I am proud to say that in my time listening, not only did I win coffee mugs and roses for the entire office, I was also a semi-finalist in the “Cook dinner for Soul Decision” competition. Sadly, I never got to serve Mr. Trevor Guthrie my smoked salmon, but I still have hope.

After a year had passed in the nation’s capital, I moved back to a modest apartment in the middle of the prairies. Less than 24 hours into life at my new place, I found myself scrambling to find the cord to plug in the stereo. The silence of living without it drove me to panic. Running back and forth and around in circles, I finally understood what my aunt meant that first day she looked at up me over the breakfast table. Desperately tuning to the nearest station, I drowned out the fear of being alone that I suddenly heard buzzing in the back of my head.

Since then, from one apartment and roommate to the next, wherever I have lived, the radio has always played in the background.

The last three weeks living here in Vancouver, I have searched and searched for a station with new voices to replace the ones I left. Having absolutely no luck, I turned to the internet to solve my problem. Typing in the address of my favourite light jazz Winnipeg radio station, I clicked the button that said “Listen Live,” and moments later I felt right back at home.

The only problem with my quick-fix is that I keep thinking it is two hours ahead, and although it is pouring outside my window, every ten minutes they tell me it is thirty-degrees and sunny.