I went to work yesterday. It’s something I don’t do much anymore. I retired a few years ago, so I work part-time. This year, I’ve only worked five days out of the whole year. I’m a director for CBS News in New York City and work at the CBS Broadcast Center. It’s a big place. Takes up an entire city block.

I’ve worked there for more than 40 years. These days, I work less and less. Increasingly, I’ve noticed how things have changed at CBS. Not for the better. A few months back I came into work and noticed this billboard in the lobby.

Yeah, we have to point out the obvious these days. But yesterday I noticed this as I was leaving the men’s room.

THE MEN’S ROOM. I went to a few other men’s rooms. They all had deadbolts on the inside, too.

This is the world we live in these days.

A while back I read a story about how a mother went into their bathroom. Her pre-school daughter was standing on the toilet seat. It was so cute she took a picture of it.

Then she asked her daughter why she was doing that. You know what she said? She said she was practicing because that is what you are supposed to do at school when the shooters come.

This is the world we live in today.

Every time there is a mass murder in this country, stocks in gun companies go through the roof. Why? Gun nuts are afraid that we are going to pass gun legislation and they have to collect all the guns they can while they last. This, despite the fact that our government has NEVER EVER passed any kind of realistic gun control laws. Nor is there any indication they ever will.

This is the world we live in today.

CBS has a reputation for overreacting to things. Especially terrorist types of things. After the attack on Charlie Hedbo in Paris, they put electronic locks on every door in the Broadcast Center. Except the bathrooms. For any other room, you needed a coded key card. Even to get into your own office — or anywhere else, for that matter.

My office.

This is the world we live in today.

At this point, I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in myself with this particular post. I usually try to see the humor in the insanity of the world we live in today. But I’m not coming up with anything this time.

Instead I’ll tell you a story. A true story. It happened a long time ago. It’s sort of related. It turns out that CBS has a long history of being worried about terrorism. In the late 70’s I was an engineer for WCBS-FM in New York.

WCBS-FM was famous for creating the “Oldies” format. They are still using it to this day.

That was a great job. I spent 8 hours or more every day playing rock and roll music. The job didn’t suck.

Our General Manager, as it turned out, was ahead of his time. He had a bit of an obsession with terrorists. Back then, there weren’t many terrorist attacks. There was the Munich attack at the 1972 Olympics, but really nothing in America. None the less, our GM was convinced terrorists might attack WCBS-FM. Why?

Nobody knew. Too much Chuck Berry? Not enough Chuck Berry? Didn’t they know they could just call the request line?

Who knows?

Anyway, he instructed our Chief Engineer, a great guy named Torchy, to install a big button on the central equipment rack in our control room.

If you pushed the button, it would shut down the transmitter located at the top of the Empire State Building.Apparently, the scenario he envisioned was as the terrorists broke into the control room and shot me in the back, I would reach up with my blood-stained hand. Using my last breath on Earth, I would push the button and deny the terrorists any more Chuck Berry.

Give me more Chuck Berry!

Torchy explained to the GM how this was illegal. Back then, you needed what was called an FCC First Class License to operate a transmitter. Not everybody in the control room had one. The GM ordered Torchy to do it anyway. So, he did. There it was. A big button right in the middle of the control room.

Now, you have to understand: I was an engineer. My job was — literally — pushing buttons. I wanted to push that button. I really, really wanted to push the button. But, of course, I couldn’t. If I pushed it, I’d take a multi-million-dollar radio station off the air. This would have been frowned upon. So, for more than two years I lived with the button. That God-Damned, untouched button.

Then it happened.

It was Sunday night around 3 AM. I was working the overnight shift. Probably obvious, in that I was there at 3 AM. The private tech phone rang. Which was unusual because I was the only technical person there. Hell, I was the only person there. I answered it. A voice at the other end said he was the engineer on duty over at the transmitter at the Empire State Building.

He said, “Do you guys have a kill button for the transmitter over there?” I said yes, we do. He said, “press it.” I said I couldn’t do that. It would take us off the air.

He then said “Oh for Christ’s sake. Just push the fucking button.” And there it was. I was gonna get to push the button! The forbidden button. The only one I never pushed. I relished the moment. I reached up, and  I pushed the button

The engineer said “Yeah, I didn’t think the thing actually worked.” And then, he hung up the phone.

I was in shock. I went behind the rack and looked at the back of the button.  There were no wires hooked up to it! The next day I told Torchy about what happened. He said “I told the GM it was illegal. He wanted a button, so I gave him a button. I knew nobody would ever test it.”

True story. Really happened.

Those were the days. No deadbolts on bathroom doors. Little girls didn’t stand on toilet seats. Big buttons which didn’t do anything solved our problems.

That was the world we lived in back then.


    1. Boy oh boy, I really didn’t want to think about that situation, but instead, looked for the “funny” in Tommy’s blog. That picture of a kid standing on a toilet seat way before she should be worried about mortality, was a sad, sad shocking look at the society we live in today. Our whole nation is standing on a GIANT toilet seat, these days, and not necessarily from threats outside our borders.., but from within, due to an irresponsible government. How did we get here???

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I keep asking myself that question.. We are all on a giant toilet seat. If God ever decides to give America and enema, the Oval Office is ground zero for the tube’s entry point.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Well, you did it again Tommy, but you said you couldn’t think of anything funny? turns out that the whole “button” story is hilarious. It reminds me of the producer volume knob we installed in one of the studios where I worked. This one particular producer was never satisfied with the levels at which we were playing his stuff back, so we installed a special volume control on the “Producers Desk” far from the actual console level control. His was attached to nothing, but magically when turned, it changed the volume, or so it seemed to this idiot. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but his was gone way before he entered the studio. Sometimes I could swear I heard a change as well.., oooh boy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I had special buttons and whole parts or my console dedicated to what ever director I was working with. “Sound better now?” Yeah much better! One actually caught on. So I had to install a module that had blinking lights. That one he bought.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. now, if we could only find a way to disconnect the Red Phone (you know the one) in the Oval Office, and replace it all with dummy wires. Lord knows I’d sleep easier for that. Then again, maybe someone already has…
    I do love the fake button.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And Murphy’s Law will ensure that the ONE time the Big Red Button REALLY needs to be pressed someone will have cut the wires to make sure the Idiot In Chief did not ever get to use it.!!! 😦


  3. Sadly now we’ve elected a ‘big button that does nothing’…well aside from release a lot of smoke and hot air. It is sad that now children are being taught to stand on the toilet to avoid the shooters. In the day (before my time) it was hide under the desk so the reds wouldn’t be able to kill you with a bomb (as I understand it anyway). Which was really stupid. In my day nothing of any sort was taught at all. No hiding under desks or scampering to the toilet to hide in the stall. I feel rather cheated…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were called “Duck and Cover Drills”. Sometimes we would jump under our desks when the teacher said DUCK! We thought it was a lot of fun. And then a few times a year in Grade school we would have school wide drills. We all had to go out into the hall, single file and sit cross legged with our coats over our heads, facing the wall. It was very important to NOT SIT NEXT TO A WINDOW!! Why? Well if a nuclear bomb went off, the flying shards of glass could put your eye out. Not a joke. Real explanation. I will never forget, one time in sixth grade we were doing the drill and one girl stood up and started yelling “What is wrong with all of you??? If a atom bomb goes off we are all going to be vaporized!! Why are we wasting our time sitting here with our coats over our heads.?! You could see the light bulb going off in all the kids heads. Everybody started crying and screaming they wanted their Mommies. They tried to suspend the girl. Fortunately her parents were both College professors and were having no part of it. I don’t know if they kept doing the drills after that. I left to go to Junior High School.
      true story


  4. Well Tom, you succeeded in turning a lamentable situation into an amusing situation in the “unwired button”.
    I’m glad they are teaching the children how to protect themselves. Sad that this is necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was one of the most fascinating reads of the day, perhaps month. I was completely involved and loved the pics to go with it. And yes, you got to the humour too, because that button, omg, I was roflmao. Holy cow! What an amusing tale that was. More because it was true. Yes, the world has changed, not for the better in my opinion. I also agree about news coverage, blah! Anyway, thanks for the write up because I completely enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I stopped myself from hitting ‘like’ on at least three comments to this post because i can’t bring myself to imply i ‘like’ the underlying insanity and evil in the world at the moment that made this post necessary and very, very apt.

    High standard blogging Tom!

    Any thoughts on Mike Flynn? Can we call the drip drip drip as a pipeburst yet?

    I might get a chance to see some of your work direct now CBS have bought out one of our 3 failing commercial TV networks (Channel 10) down under.

    Liked by 1 person

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