It was a painfully slow night in the restaurant business tonight. It was the kind of night where the hours drag on and the mood is so dismal that even passersby seem to sense it and are compelled to keep walking even though they are hungry.
There is an old adage in the food service industry that goes, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” Which is true on most nights, but not tonight. It had been so slow for so long that there was literally nothing productive left to do. Everything was stocked, all the tables were set, all the chairs were neatly aligned, and all the surfaces were as clean as they could get. There was nothing left to do but wait for a customer to come through the doors and watch the streetlights change.
On nights like these I find myself paying extra attention to the soft murmur of the radio which, tonight, was set to MIXX 96.1, the local soft rock station.
I use the term “local” somewhat loosely in this case. Geographically speaking MIXX 96 is as local as anything can get. Their broadcasting headquarters are a scant four blocks from my place of business in the very heart of Downtown Olympia on the corner of Washington and State less than a block and visible from the bus depot. But despite their physical proximity they seem oddly distanced from Olympia itself. In a town where everybody seems to know everybody else and is constantly aware through word of mouth of just about everything that’s happening, news worthy or not, MIXX 96 seems peculiarly aloof to their immediate surroundings. They purvey no sense of participation in the community even though they are located at its very core. The most glaring example of this came last April during the Procession of the Species.
The Procession of the Species is an annual parade that takes place on the first day of ArtsWalk. Each year hundreds of citizens dress up as animal in elaborate home-made costumes that are painstakingly crafted and worked on for weeks, sometimes months, in advance. It is a grand and unique spectacle that draws thousands of people to the downtown streets to witness the pure and selfless commitment to artisanship that defines this city, and the parade route goes right past their front door.
But you would never know it listening to MIXX 96. Not only was the Procession not mentioned, or even acknowledged, their tired playlist didn’t miss a beat. Here was this grand celebration consuming the whole town and happening right outside their front door, and the soundtrack they provided was some inane phony babbling about love by some American Idol winner followed by Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney and a commercial for a weight loss program.
None of it made any sense to me, but who am I to judge? MIXX 96 has been a successful radio station for at least as long as I’ve lived here and probably longer having outlasted 97.7 the Eagle, their classic rock counterpart.
It’s hard to argue with any measure of success in these dark times and as I put up the chairs at the end of the night I hear what sounds like Tracy Chapman, or at least the equivalent; some sort of mid-nineties coffee shop melancholy that should have been forgotten, but somehow managed to linger on instead of dying a dignified death like Fruitopia or Nu Metal.