Radio affects most people intimately, person-to-person, offering a world of unspoken communication between writer-speaker and the listener. That is the immediate aspect of radio. A private experience.
– Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964
When I was in junior high school, towards the end of grade eight, I started to deliver the Halifax Daily News. Every weekday morning, I was up and out the door by six, to have my route done by seven.
For my birthday that year, I asked for and got a small radio walkman. I still have it. And I listened to it every morning for the three years I delivered the Daily News. Through the week, the voices of Don Connolly and Elizabeth Logan kept me company. On the streets near my parents’ house in Lower Sackville, I fell in love with CBC Radio.
Honestly, I can’t remember the details of a single interview from those years. But I do remember how listening to Information Morning made me feel. Though I was technically alone delivering papers, it didn’t seem that way. At 13, was I that interested in traffic reports? Or city council? I doubt it. But I listened.
When I moved to Toronto two years ago, I didn’t know anyone here. For the first little while, I spent a lot of time alone, listening to the radio. I sat in my dorm room, listening to countless episodes of This American Life. I listened to Andy Barrie in the mornings; Metro Morning helped shape my ideas about the city. Again, though I was, I didn’t feel alone.
People sometimes ask me what I love about radio. It’s not necessarily about what I’m listening to or working on. I understand that radio has utility — to inform, to enlighten, to entertain, to stimulate — but to me, its greatest power, and what I love most about it, is how makes me feel like I’ve got a friend when I’m all by myself.
Lately, for the first time in a while, I’ve felt lonely when I’m alone. And I don’t want to anymore.