Michiana Chronicles: Victims Of Our Own Success

Mar 4, 2021

Nobody’s getting rich working at WVPE. But, we have the satisfaction of knowing that our work matters.

Maybe we are victims of our own success. We are trying to not be noticed being noticed. We are trying to be noticed by not being noticed, “ motionless in time / As the moon climbs, ” like a good poem, according to Archibald Macleish. Zen and the art of radio station maintenance.

The station, that’s what I call it, the station, WVPE. That’s what I’m talking about. Our success can be measured by the degree to which you, the listeners, take us for granted. Maybe we are victims of our own success.

It’s been a year since covid hit. March 6 is my brother’s birthday and that Friday was what turned out to be the last New Prairie retired teacher breakfast, so I remember the day. That was the day the first case was reported in Indiana, in Indianapolis, and the day Governor Eric Holcomb declared a health emergency. The next day Judy and I took a hike at the Indiana Dunes Lakeshore and then we watched the Adams-Culver Military basketball sectional game at a packed gym in LaPorte from behind the Adams bench. The last weekend of normalcy.

An east side Indianapolis woman was the state’s first fatality, the next Friday, Friday, the 13th. The difference between one day and the next begins to melt away after that.

Over 12 thousand Hoosiers have died from COVID-19 since March 6. Sixteen-thousand in Michigan…half a million in the United States of America. Two and a half million total. You most assuredly know at least one of them. I am sorry for our loss.

Credit Sid Shroyer

In late March, I guess it was, on my way out the door to go home on one of those melted days, when no one else was around, I took some pictures of the darkened WVPE hallway because I really thought I would not be coming back. I’d been exposed. I wasn’t feeling well. I thought the station might have to shut down.

“What happens when you get sick?” I asked Tony Krabill that day. Tony’s title is operations manager. Tony’s job is to keep the station on the air. “What happens when you get sick?”

“We’re screwed,” is the closest I’m allowed to come to repeating what Tony said.

My daughter-in-law’s grandmother died of COVID in Michigan. My daughter was horrified, working at Mt. Sinai hospital in Manhattan. I couldn’t get tested because I never had a fever and tests then were in short supply. "I’m staying home," I told Tony.

"I understand," said Tony. "We’ll figure it out."

Michael took Tony’s shift…. Tony took mine. In a couple weeks I felt better. We did not go off the air.

It is tribute to us if it did not occur to you that we might. There were a thousand things that had to be handled every day to keep WVPE on the air at exactly the time we most needed to be. Little do you know. It is a tribute to everybody around here that we did not quit broadcasting. Vanessa and Tom and Tom and Kris and Karl and Anthony and Michael and David and Diane and Jennifer and Gemma and Kent and Justin and Annacaroline and Bob, the community that supports us and, yeah, me, too, Sid, and Tony.

Tony Krabill. I could rightly tell a story of everybody I just named, but I’d like to focus on Tony.

NPR is going live with impeachment coverage, but we don’t know exactly when, and there’s the Iowa caucus and the State of the Union address ….and then somebody in the building tested positive … And the Wait Wait promo isn’t here… and somebody in the building tested positive …. Who’s gonna cover the weekend…..The governor of Michigan has just now decided to hold an urgent press conference in 45 minutes at the moment of the already scheduled governor of Indiana press conference and in the moment where I know my response would be, ‘Well, we can’t do both, now can we?’

Tony is patiently explaining to me precisely how we can, in words and in pictures. Twice. And we do.

I’ve seen that repeatedly since last March and so when I was a little inconvenienced by all of it, there’s Tony with twice my headaches, working twice as hard as I am for twice as long. It was hard not to pitch in when I could and do a little more. Tony’s doing a lot more.

And you the listener? You have no idea. As well you shouldn’t. You only notice when something isn’t right. "Why has the power gone out, but only on my radio?" “Why is that music playing?”

Maybe we are victims of our own success. We’re trying to be noticed by not being noticed.

Nobody’s getting rich working at WVPE. What we have, though, is the satisfaction of knowing that our work matters.

Maybe we are victims of our own success. We are trying to be noticed by not being noticed.

The station, that’s what I call it, the station, WVPE. That’s what I’m talking about. Our success can be measured by the degree to which you, the listeners, take us for granted.

Maybe we are victims of our own success.

It feels like maybe we’ve made it through this. The station has never been better. Maybe it’s crass to say it now, but I hope you appreciate it.

Poem: “Ars Poetica” by Archibald Macleish


Music: “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders