Radio Static

“Other times, the AM radio in my bedroom, when I was listening very quietly to music late at night in the winter, would have intermittent bursts and pulses of static noise. I’d noticed that the heat would come out the vent in the room at the same time as the bursts. This sound would drive my sister crazy. But I assumed this was connected in some way with the electrical pulse of the thermostat on the heater, go turn down the wall thermostat in the hall, and this noise would eventually stop. That seemed to fix it.”

– Barbara Flaska, Frequency Modulation

Static was literally an integral part of my experience listening to the radio as a kid. We lived in London, Ontario, but my parents were addicted to Toronto media (the big city, roughly 200 km eastward): not only did we have subscriptions to the two major Toronto dailies at the time (Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail), my parents refused to listen to any radio station other than Toronto’s CFRB, 1010 AM. It was the world’s worst playlist to my ears — full-on old-people’s easy-listening dreck, Ray Conniff Singers and the like (it also broadcast Toronto Argonaut games, the main draw for my father). But said radio was situated right on the kitchen table, and every morning, eating my Cheerios before school, and every evening eating dinner around the table with the rest of the family, it was like listening to 40% actual legible voices and music, 60% noisy crackle (the comical part was being implored by dad to adjust the antenna, like that was going to make a difference for more than a few seconds). It was an annoyance, but you lived with it and after awhile it became second nature; it’s not like changing the station was an option, anyway. I’ve since come to realize that the weird thrill of hearing static on the radio (especially AM radio, late at night on a highway far from your destination) is knowing there’s a chance you will eventually find your way to a clean signal.

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