The year before, as a senior, I’d had the pleasure to edit an edition of a college guide. With the book coming out, I was asked by the publisher to do a radio tour for the book.
(Hang on. I'm dating myself by describing the publicity that this book received. This happened during the early '90s. It now seems stunning that there would be a radio tour for an annually published college guide. Right? Those were the days.)
Of course, I’d never heard the term “radio tour” until the week before it happened. The publisher sent me for a couple hours of media training with a nice woman in a very tony apartment on Central Park West in the 60s. She tried, in 120 minutes, to cure me of ending every sentence with a rising lilt, as if I were asking a question. She told me it made me sound unsure of myself. (But I was unsure of myself.)
Anywho, on the morning of the radio tour, I reported to a midtown office tower, where I was parked alone in a conference room with a telephone. The interviews were scheduled at ten minute interviews, and I’m pretty sure I was there for the entire morning. (Again… can you believe the publicity? That’s like… 18 radio hits in a single day.) Each interview connection was dialed for me by an assistant in another room, and then I’d hear the station’s broadcast through the phone until the DJ picked up my call.
"Hello Sarah! You're on Merv-in-the-Morning! Tell us about this college guide! Are my boys at Michigan State in there? Go Spartans!"
Yet each interview quickly became two or so minutes of sheer terror--because the DJs would ask me the most peculiar trivia questions. As in: “which college has a duck for its mascot?”
I began to sweat. Beats me, dude.
This was an 800 page college guide written by 75 different people. I edited every one of those pages… but I didn’t memorize them. It was embarrassing, and I flailed.
But the questions kept coming. “Which college has its own bowling alley underneath the dining hall?”
How the hell should I know?
And then the questions began to repeat themselves.
Finally it dawned on me—the DJ’s had received a press release about the book, complete with oddball trivia questions. But nobody had told me that the press release existed. And they sure hadn’t given me a copy. I was 21 years old. I’d never read a press release before. I didn’t know to ask.
Then, each time a DJ asked me one of those awful questions, I’d write down his answer. Then it got easier. And eventually I was given a ten minute break, during which I found a human being to ask about the press release. By the end of my stint, I finally had my hands on it.
There's a lesson here somewhere. I think that lesson is: don't do any radio when you're 21 and very, very naive.
Just for the record: Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey has a duck for its mascot. I can finally say that without flinching.