why ‘those’ callers matter…
So I’ve just had a real come to Jesus experience on air. We’ve just run a Whirlwind Wedding promotion here on the Breeze and we’ve been high fiving each other about how well it did. Record facebook engagement, Stuff news coverage, Waikato Times, happy clients, emails from head office yadda yadda yadda. Yesterday while we were praising ourselves for such a great job we had a call from Phil.
It was during the 7.30 news. Phil was calling from Waikato Hospital. To be honest, our eyes rolled a bit because Phil was one of ‘those’ callers.
Phil would always ring asking for stuff, just a wee bit more than seemed right. He’s been ringing me for about 15 years, and has done fairly well out of the radio stations I’ve worked on. He loved movie previews and won so often there was always that awkward balance between him seeming grateful and seeming to expect tickets for his long service. So when Phil rang, you were ready for him to ask for something.
Well earlier this year I moved to the Breeze and was inundated with a wall of callers who had all come over from Classic Hits. My ego was soaring with the cries of ‘we missed you Bunty’, ‘We’re so glad you’re back on air’, and ‘we can’t stand those other two’….. and Phil rang.
As if on cue, he announced he had cancer, and was coming in to ask me something. Would I mind if we ran an appeal for him to build him a new kitchen. Over the next few months he’d call telling us about his cancer and chemo and almost seemed to be trading on it to win stuff. We would feel a bit cross with ourselves for him for thinking uncharitable thoughts about a guy with cancer – but we started to feel cross with him for making us have to feel that way. How messed up is that? Not saying he milked it, but we were struggling not to feel like he was.
So in the euphoria of the biggest promotion we’d ever pulled off Phil called during the news and we silently groaned. Of course we weren’t rude to him, but he sounded a bit worse than normal. We said kind things to him and signed off as quickly as you normally do to callers that call you with only a minute to go till you’re due to open the mic and tell people how great you are. We could’ve held him over and carried on, but we were so focused on being tight with forward momentum we didn’t have time to dilly dally on yakking off air with a regular winner.
Phil died an hour later. We found out today that he’d contracted pneumonia and the nurses had gotten so worried they’d called the family to come say goodbye. They couldn’t get there on time, so Phil had asked to call us to cheer him up.
So if there’s anything I beg of you from this it is to remember that on the radio we’re someone’s mate. Things aren’t always what they seem and please please PLEASE treat every phone call from a listener as if it’s the last time you’ll ever talk with them.
Thanks for reading this far. A very humbled Bunty.
About: Mark “Bunty” Bunting
Mark makes up one half of the Breeze Breakfast Show with Camille Guzzwell. He’s a local radio legend in the market and spent the best part of his radio career in the mighty Waikato, after starting out as The Rock’s very first breakfast host in 1992.