Public radio helped me survive my divorce. But first, some back story.
The very first time I donated to public radio – before I was married – I was stuck in my car on highway 35E North, attempting to go from a southern suburb to Minneapolis during winter rush hour. Anyone who knows me knows I hate driving. What most people don’t know is that it also bores me to tears, which means I’m constantly on the verge of falling asleep sitting behind the wheel. Such was the case that eventful evening.
This was in the days before smartphones, so I had no one to sext with. In an attempt to stay awake, I called everyone I knew, but no one picked up because they were also stuck in rush hour and didn’t want to jeopardize their lives while navigating ice and passive aggressive Minnesota drivers. I sang to myself. I rolled down the window and let the cold air shock me into consciousness. I slapped myself in the face. Finally, in a desperate attempt at human interaction, I called Minnesota Public Radio.
Anyone who listens to public radio is familiar with its persistent fundraising efforts and tonight was one of those times. The sonorous voices of pleading reporters filled my lonely ears, asking for money over and over again in dulcet, radio-friendly tones. I started to doze off again, but then it occurred to me that it was within my power to stop the fundraising, to engage my brain and prevent a self-inflicted accident. It was within my power to put the news back on. On my 1999-era Nokia candy bar phone, I dialed their 800 number. I donated to public radio.
Fast forward seven years. While going through a painful divorce (is there any other kind?), I would turn on Minnesota Public Radio as loudly as my cheap portable radio could bear, the voices of reporters and governors and teachers and police officers swelling up in my now empty condo, multitudes of faceless voices filling the void that formed when my husband and dog moved out. The truth is, binge-watching “The O.C.”, building furniture, and listening to public radio got me through my divorce. Having MPR on nonstop meant that I felt like I was surrounded by nonpartisan people who cared. I should have donated again that year, but I was broke and felt like getting something for nothing.
As I was walking briskly to meet my friend for happy hour last week, the pathetic, imploring voice of Tom Crann bled into my ear: “There’s one hour left for this member drive. You use Minnesota Public Radio everyday, maybe it’s what you listen to on your long commute home; it’s how you get the news. Maybe you use our app. Help keep Minnesota Public Radio alive.” Like any good Jewish person, in that final hour of need, I let my guilt coerce me into doing something I thought I didn’t want to do. After a 12 year hiatus, I renewed my membership.
I arrived at the coffee shop before my friend, turned off the Minnesota Public Radio app on my phone, sighed a heavy sigh of defeat, and called their 800 line. With 50 minutes left to go in their member drive, I once again became a sustaining member of MPR. I’m giving $5 in perpetuity. I told them not to send me any gifts. The app, the constant talking, the in-depth news coverage – it’s all music to my ears, even after all these years.