The Wrong Box

When I went to college, some 40 years ago, I didn't know what I was doing. I had no real career plans, wasn't all that socially adept, and didn't know what to expect from campus life. In fact, I was so unhappy with campus life, not fitting in, that I almost decided to drop out. I don't know what i would have done, but I was thinking about it seriously.

When I returned for a second term, I discovered the joys of campus radio. This rag-tag group of music enthusiasts loved to play DJ and share their music, programming a radio station that could only be heard on campus, in theory.

There were five stations scattered among the two dozen dormitories, but one was considered the largest and most prestigious. It never went off the air, and formed the network of the group of amateur stations. I frequently would listen to their DJs because they did live remote broadcasts at the student bookstore, and grabbed my attention. They also would give away movie tickets, prizes and pizzas, and I got more than my fair share.

One Sunday evening, I heard an attractive female voice that had a lot of confidence and charm. Her name was Ellen Batell, and she seemed to play a lot of progressive bands, and was unhampered by any format restrictions. Her sultry voice was unmistakable, and I enjoyed listening to her free-form comments. Eventually, I thought I'd meet her. I began calling in requests and was referred to as her Hubbard Hall fan on the air. There were other regulars as well, and it seemed there might be a friendship with the student program director too.
All these were background competitors that encouraged me to invite her out.

One day, after hearing about an Alfred Hitchcock series of movies being shown on campus, I got the courage up to ask her to a movie. She agreed to meet me at the campus radio station and we would walk across the green to see the film. When I got there, I waited in the lobby, and identified myself. This small slip of a girl showed up in a red plaid shirts and blue jeans. She had wiry black hair and that same voice. I was stunned cause she looked nothing like I imagined. This was my first experience with the illusion of radio.

Second, she only seemed to work Sunday afternoon and evenings. This also was a clue, though i didn't know it. As we walked across campus, I asked how she got into campus radio and she told me they had had a high school radio station back home in the suburbs of Detroit, and that the program director had come from the same school. Since she knew him, she had followed his lead to get involved, and that was the only slot that she could find right now.

I think I asked her major, and found it was sociology or something else seemingly obscure and unrelated.

The movie we were going to was an early black and white by Hitchcock featuring a very young Henry Fonda. It was a case of mistaken identity where the wrong man was accused of a crime and identified by witnesses as the perpetrator until a near double is discovered and brought to justice. It was based on a real story, and called, "The Wrong Man".

We sat in the semi-darkness of Olds Hall, the psychology building. It was an awful venue as there were hard surfaces all around, and the sound system was terrible. The rise of seats in this auditorium was steep and the steps were all made of concrete. The seats were an uncomfortable, un-padded wooden old-school variety.  In short, it was dreadful.

We didn't talk much, as we had to strain to hear the movie dialog in this audio wasteland, and nobody wanted to distract your neighbor. The movie was well attended, but I was quite disappointed.

When we walked back to her dorm, I discovered she lived in the basement of one of the older dorms on the circle drive...near where my parents had lived when they had gone to school way back when. (They had met on a blind date, and I supposed that I might meet someone the same way.)

When we got to her room, Ellen invited me in to see it and talk. She pushed open the door, there were these large stuffed pillows to sit upon, with no back support. There was a futon to one side, and perhaps a couple of study desks. Large printed and tie-dyed sheets hung from the walls, giving it a very counter-cultural look, and I felt I might be at a crash pad or a Greenwich Village loft or something. In short, I didn't fit at all.

I asked about her roommate, and she reported that she'd be gone until Monday morning. So, we sat and tried to make conversation, but it was awkward. I'm pretty sure that she was waiting for me to make a move on her. It might have been the perfect seduction scene, complete with pillows to lay on and a private location with a  willing female who obviously was not the raging beauty I had imagined but a real person. If I had tried to make a pass, I might have gotten laid. But it just didn't feel right to me.

I had the sense that she was the program director's girl, and I shouldn't try to cross him. But she gave me no indication that I shouldn't try. If anything, she had said 'yes' to a date right in front of him, and now that I thought of it, he had been in the station when i picked her up. I thought I should clarify.

I asked her about him, and she said they had dated a little but that it was nothing serious, nothing regular. I began to wonder if he had installed her in her radio shift to have "a little action on the side". It was a mean thought and totally at odds with her obvious appeal on the air, but it came to my mind. Somehow, I saw her as a loose woman who could get me in trouble, luring single lonely young men into her web of sexual immorality, and I wanted no part of it.

I made my excuses and prepared to leave. She asked if I didn't want to stay and get a massage, but I said I had to be getting back to my dorm. We stood, she came up to only my chest, and I gave her a hug and a peck on the forehead, and I left. I felt she was lonely and felt rejected as I slipped out.

Whenever I heard her on the air after that, it wasn't the same. I could see the same cocky attitude and hear her eclectic interest in music being aired. But there wasn't the allure that I had once felt toward her. I had learned that many people find homes on the radio when they sound good, but were real people behind the mike.

We never dated again.
studfinder studfinder
56-60, M
Jan 10, 2013