(If you\’re wondering how I came to have my own live TV show during my college years, you can find out here.)
The end of my junior year in college was full of angst. On top of preparing for finals, I was having to write the textbook for the televised Conversational Spanish course that my mother had signed me up to teach that summer. Worst of all, I had just broken up with a boyfriend, felt sure that life was basically over for me, and was weeping copiously into my books several times a day.
I got through finals somehow, and handed a tear-stained manuscript of the textbook to the TV station manager. A couple of days later I was summoned to the studio for instruction. Here is what I was told: start talking when you get the signal, look at the camera, stop talking when we tell you. And don\’t wear prints–you\’ll look fuzzy. A couple of days after that, I was on the air.
Was I nervous? What do you think? Since the show was aired live, I was well aware that any mistakes would be seen and scoffed at by the invisible multitudes watching the show. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to time my final sentence to end exactly at the off-air signal.
Soon after the first show, my parents departed for North Carolina, and I moved into the dorm. Bliss! No house to clean, no dishes to wash, no grocery shopping, no babysitting my sister. Just classes and homework, and the TV show once a week. I quickly regained my joie de vivre.
Nevertheless, even after I lost the worst of my nervousness about the program, unpredictable things happened, like the time I had to abandon my car in a flood on my way to the studio.
The campus was all the way across town from the TV station, and I used to drive there in the afternoon in my little car. It was a dark blue Renault Dauphine, with the charm of all things French but made, I think, of papier mache , and with all the power of a lawnmower.
One afternoon I was driving to do the show when I got caught in a horrendous rainstorm, right in the middle of downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The intersections were underwater, the traffic lights were dead, and cars were being abandoned right and left. I could feel my little Renault swaying, but I had to get to the studio (I was supposed to go on in fifteen minutes) and I would never make it if I had to walk.
Eventually, though, I had to pull into an alley and abandon the car. The water was up to my knees. I had ten minutes til show time. I found a telephone booth and called the studio, and they splashed up in a huge late 1950s Impala and rescued me.
I ran upstairs to the set and sat down at my desk. I was panting, and soaked to the skin. Someone handed me a towel and I wrung out my hair. The music came on. I kicked off my sodden shoes and looked into the camera. \”Buenas tardes,\” I said, with my best smile.
(To be continued.)