GETTING MORE TALE #780: Radio Friends & Exes
I’ll always be grateful to radio for giving me a start. I won’t rehash the whole story but I used to be a call-in contest winner and then became a semi-regular guest. Radio is a lot of fun, though I don’t really listen to commercial stations anymore like the one that got my name out there originally. (I still appear on Rob Daniels’ Visions in Sound, and I’ll be back there in December at the latest to talk about new Star Wars music.) One thing that hasn’t changed is that I have met so many solid people through radio.
There’s Jolene the Jays fan, always raising money for good causes. Or Greg, the contest winner who seems to have free tickets to offer to me all the time. I met one of my best friends, Jay, through the radio. He noticed I was talking about Transformers one day and next thing you knew, we were buddies. And let’s not forget about Jamie, an old-school rocker who was writing articles for Access magazine under the tutelage of Keith Sharp back when I used to read it! It used to be that we listened to the same radio station, but in 2019 I was honoured to be a guest at Jamie’s wedding.
I’m very happy and proud to have met such good people thanks to radio. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that radio stations and their personalities are often very active in the community. They bring people with similar interests together, while making the city a better place.
Of course, like any platform, it’s not exclusively good people. There have been some seriously weird fucks that I’ve come into contact with thanks to the airwaves. Like Dean, the conspiracy theorizing anti-vax, bike-riding vegan. Or amateur wrestler turned far-right radio mogul Raymond. A few Proud Boys. The usual assholes.
I have fresh wounds from another radio listener. I never met him. He moved out to Alberta for work. He was one of those guys who would periodically have serious life problems and post them all over social media. Then he’d disappear a while and come back a few months later. His latest problems involved a workplace injury. He needed antibiotics and was short $28. He sent me a private message.
I thought about what my old man has said in the past. “If you loan somebody money, consider it a gift because you’ll never get it back.” And my dad is right; I’ve helped people out in the past and don’t usually get repaid. Sometimes it’s because I said “Don’t worry about it, you need this more than I do.” But usually it was just people stiffing me.
For whatever sympathetic reason, I sent the guy $30. He even sent me a picture back of the medication to prove that’s what he spent it on. I have no reason to disbelieve any of his story. He asked me for money again a few weeks later, promising to pay back the original $30. I said no that time. Then he asked for $20 for bus tickets. He caught me on a good day that time. A few days later he needed $25; I sent him a final $30 and said this would be the last time I could help him out. I left it unambiguous: this is the last time I can help you out. “Man I love you!” he responded.
One weekend in late September I heard frantic messages on my phone. I checked and it was him, needing $44 urgently. He was being evicted and was short $44 to rent a U-Haul van to move his stuff. He sent screenshots of landlords that owed him money. He sent screenshots of his bank balance in single digits. He showed an angry message from a landlord explaining that he already had three days’ court-ordered notice to pick up his stuff, and it would all be taken to the dump on the weekend. I was getting all these messages while my wife was recovering from a humiliating public epileptic seizure. I told him that I was very sorry, but I could not help him. The messages continued through the night as I was dealing with my own shit. He was promising me $88 in return for $44, within 24 hours.
I sat there, thinking to myself. On one side, I felt for the guy. Assuming he was being honest with me, he had only a few hours to raise $44 and move his stuff in a U-Haul. He was going to lose all his possessions that day. I felt terrible for him. I was already down $80 so what’s another $44? On the other hand…is there nobody else he can ask for help? Somebody who lives in the same province as him? Somebody who’s actually met him in person? Friends? Family? Not a stranger that he used to listen to on the radio?
Sunday afternoon my wife had another seizure. I heard my phone dinging but I didn’t answer it. I had bigger things on my mind. Later that evening, I checked my messages. His belongings had been taken to the dump.
“This is the point I’m done with social media,” the message began. From that I gather he’d been asking other Facebook “friends” for money. “Needed $44 to save thousands, got zero. Will be lucky to maintain an empty apartment on my wife’s money, my tools are gone so I can’t contribute.” Guilt trip time? I couldn’t believe this guy. Why should Facebook, or me for that matter, be responsible for you?
“Likely never hear from me again. I’m out.”
This one I responded to.
“Likely never hear from you again…even though you owe me money?”
I felt terrible the whole time I wrote this, but it had to be said.
“I told you last time, I would not be able to help you again. I don’t even know you. We have never met face to face. And now you are guilting me and threatening to rip me off?
“I am sorry but at this point I have no choice but to block you. I will never see my money again, I know that, but I refuse to be guilted when I have already been so generous.
“I hope whatever your problems are, you sort them out, but I cannot have this in my life.”
Alternating between feeling the guilt that I said I wasn’t going to let myself feel, and wondering what the fuck this guy expected of a total stranger, I went on with my night and worrying about my own wife. But what did he expect? I gave him money three times before. Small amounts, but I knew I wasn’t going to be paid back, and I told him on the third time that was it. Did he think we were…actual friends? Because he knew my voice on the radio, and because I write about my life in public, did he think we were…friends? He also wrote things about his life, but I tried to stay out of that. He seemed to be having problems with his job, his wife, and his sexual identity and I wanted nothing to do with a stranger’s problems. I have plenty of my own, believe me.
I tried to be a good person. I feel like I was a good person three times, but had to draw a line somewhere. The day that my wife was in the hospital having a seizure seemed like the right time to draw that line.
As for lines? The bottom line is that I have made some amazing friends through the radio, and I wouldn’t change that, ever. But you always have to have your guard up for the problems that come with it.