Part 39: The Metro Chronicles Vol III

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 39: The Metro Chronicles Vol III

Postby Brian Lord » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:20 am


By Edward Caswell

By her own admission, the only thing Kristina Millman looked forward to at work was playing pranks on her co-workers. Hugely over-qualified and easily bored, Kristina had, however, found kindred spirits in a few of the news personnel at Hong Kong's Metro Broadcasting Corporation, a fact that may well have saved her from losing control of her mind. The job title on her business card stated that she was an anchor/reporter which, translated, meant she was a combination "on-air" announcer and wire-copy editor. The latter entailed re-hashing newspaper copy into radio stories, a job requiring so little thought that it could be done by rote while the former was performed to an audience estimated to number in single figures--or at the most--a sparse enough group as to make the exercise decidedly unfulfilling. Other than the few minutes she spent on the air reading news, the effortlessness required to perform her duties allowed for enough free time to engage in two pastimes: one - talking to her friends on the telephone which she did endlessly, and two - the aforementioned diversion of playing tricks on other members of the staff.

(Kristina, a dazzling blonde with a personality to match had attracted considerable attention around the station. One example: a member of Metro's middle-management staff, Fred Goforth, a tall, rangy person who wore black shoes, black trousers and white socks eventually got up enough courage to invite Ms Millman out for a date. She turned down his offer in a kindly enough manner although privately she told herself she would never, in a month of Sundays, give up an evening's social activity to spend it with this walking Oreo cookie who possessed the personality of a lava lamp.)

Kristina's main associate in the game of playing pranks was Rupert Winchester. Rupert's most difficult task of the day did, in no way, involve his job which was identical to Kristina's, rather it was the effort required to get out of bed in the morning. Upon wakening he would automatically run through the list of excuses he'd need in order to make a quick telephone call, beg off work and go back to bed where he could nurse the hangover he suffered after an evening spent drinking gin cocktails and scotch whisky and smoking joints. What he really needed was 50 milligrams of amphetamine, not a day at work. Rupert was also over-qualified for his job and like Kristina spent an inordinate amount of time on the telephone, mostly with his wife, Susan. In fact they spent so much time on the phone together one had to wonder whether or not they had anything left to say when they got home from work.

But once the lethargy was shaken off, Rupert was more than willing to play jokes on the staff. Like Kristina, he possessed a highly developed--and decidedly sick--sense of humor. For example, he regularly sent one of his fellow newsmen, Edward Caswell, off at the end of the day with long strips of Scotch tape stuck to the back of his clothes... usually his pants... which would catch the attention of people sharing the same route home. One time a young woman approached Edward and asked him if he "worked in cello tape factory?" because "you always seem to have it stuck to your ass."

Kristina, Rupert, Edward and a chap named Douglas George, who was the station's financial-news editor, had been brought into the "Metro News Family" when the Channel Director, Kelly Dean had occasion to expand his staff after being ordered to "sharpen the stations news coverage" by the Hong Kong Telecommunications Commission. The original concept for Metro's English news commitment specified broadcasting a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, all-news format beaming a signal from a communications satellite in space to an area that ranged roughly from the Equator to the Arctic Circle and from Pakistan to Kiribati encompassing an audience potential numbering in the low billions. It never happened. For whatever reason the deal fell through and Kelly Dean told the massive staff who had been hired for the venture to go home. However adjustments had to be made when the Telecommunications Commission, whose personnel cared not one fig for Pakistan or Kiribati, but who's interest in Hong Kong elicited the following indictment to Metro's owner, businessman Li Ka Shing: (paraphrased) "You asked for a license and you were awarded one and, by God, you will give the people of Hong Kong what you promised or you will face a fine so crippling as to reduce you to selling pencils at the ferry wharves just to feed your family".


One day, Douglas George became the unsuspecting butt of a particularly irreverent gag carried out by Kristina and Rupert with the assistance of Edward Caswell. Ed, an ancient radio hack who had drifted into Hong Kong around the same time as the others, performed operating duties in the Metro control room and co-read newscasts. (Ed, as the above "cello tape" incident shows, was often at the receiving end of pranks dreamed up by Kristina and Rupert. For instance one day, during a newscast, Kristina chained him to his chair with a Kryptonite bicycle lock while he was in the midst of reading a news story on the air, affording him no chance of leaving the control room unless he was willing to climb out of his trousers.)

Before coming to Metro, Douglas George had worked in the newsroom of a radio station in a small town in Northern Canada where for ten months out of the year, ninety percent of the news stories had something to do with snow. He was fastidious to the point of being prissy, and decidedly secretive, a combination which led his co-workers to wonder whether or not his true social motivation lay deeply recessed at the back of his bedroom clothes closet. He gave out personal business cards which read: "Douglas George, Canadian. Healthy. Available Immediately". All his pencils, pens and note pads were neatly sorted in his desk drawer, that is until he stepped out of the office whereupon Kristina or Rupert would mess them all up. And he took his job seriously. He even had a small gadget for taking messages--a mini voice-recording devise that allowed a caller to leave Doug his or her telephone number.

One day Kristina and Rupert got hold of this object and when Doug was absent, recorded a short message, the most noticeable content being the last word, "GOOF", spoken in a loud and forceful manner. Of course Doug was used to such antics and he didn't really think it was funny, but he had no recourse other than to take it in stride. However, that was not the end of this gag, not by any stretch. Kristina and Rupert had taped the message on a cart in a continuous loop so that the final product was "...mumble mumble GOOOOF"... "mumble mumble GOOOOF"...mumble mumble GOOOOF"... repeated endlessly. They then gave the cart to Ed Caswell to be broadcast on Doug's hourly business report, but with one big difference; the message would never actually be heard over the radio. Ed adjusted the control board so that it would run on an alternate channel and be heard only in Doug's earphones and over the control room monitor. Doug, of course would THINK it was running on the air.

Doug enters the control room.

Ed: "Got any cart's Doug?" (Knowing of course that Doug does have a cart and that Kristina and Rupert had switched the labels on it so that Doug would think he was running Jack Wang at Chung Kong Holdings)

Doug: "Yup... just this one, I'll cue ya"

Doug then proceeds to read his business 'cast while Ed loads the 'real' cart in one machine and the 'Goof" cart in another. Kristina and Rupert stand outside the control room and watch through the picture window behind Doug.

Doug: (reading) "... but we can expect better news tomorrow according to Jack Wang at Chung Kong Holdings...”... points at Ed to start the cart and hears in his earphones "..mumble mumble GOOOOF, mumble mumble GOOOOF, mumble mumble GOOOOF..."

He immediately throws his arms into the air, his face, drained of colour, contorts into a rictus, a combination of fear and rage. Speechless--because he doesn't know whether his microphone is on or not--he stands half out of his chair, pointing at the cart which is cycling "mumble mumble GOOOOF, mumble mumble GOOOOF..."

Ed: (dead calm) "What is this Doug? Go ahead, man, you can speak, your mic's off"


Ed: (looking at the cart label) "No it's not, Doug... it's the right cart... Wang at Chung Kong it's the...”

Doug: "NO... IT'S NOT... IT'S NOT... THAT'S.... JEESUS, ED... TURN IT OFF... THOSE TWO... TURN IT... ("..mumble mumble GOOOOF, mumble mumble GOOOOF...”)

When Ed makes no move to stop the tape, choosing instead to stare inquisitively at the machinery, Doug leaps out of his chair ready to make an end run around the control board and yank the thing out himself but at that point Ed throws a switch and presto--the "real" cart is playing. Doug stops dead... a look of utter incomprehension slowly turns to one of complete understanding... and he exclaims "you BASTARDS..." Of course Kristina and Rupert are outside doubled over with laughter just watching this display without even being able to hear it. Doug stumbles through the rest of his 'cast, snatches up both carts and storms out of the control room to face his two co-workers who, eventually, in a good-natured way, manage to get him calmed down.

One would think that this sort of tomfoolery would come to the attention of Metro's supervisory staff. But it did not. For one thing, nobody ever "told" on anybody. And for another, Kristina Millman and Rupert Winchester were far, far too smart to ever get caught at anything, anytime, ever.
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Re: Part 39: The Metro Chronicles Vol III

Postby radiofan » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:49 am

Great stuff as always Brian. The practical joker brings back a ton of memories of pranks pulled by Mel Hoyme at CHQR in Calgary. Our paybacks were always fun, especially the April Fools day that
we had him arrested during a fake staff meeting.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: Part 39: The Metro Chronicles Vol III

Postby Steve Sanderson » Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:28 pm

As always, very entertaining Brian!....Keep them coming!
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