or read on….
I’m in the middle of preparing breakfast, juggling the eggs, tomatoes, cheese, onions, potatoes, butter, jam, biscuits, so that they are all ready to eat at the exact same moment—what we old broadcasters used to call backtiming everything.
Backtiming? Here comes a memory:
Let’s go way back to the days before computers: as a radio announcer, I need to end my music show at exactly 8:59:50 pm, so that a nine-second station identification and “time check” can be performed precisely one second prior to ”hitting the network,” meaning that my sentence has to stop one beat before the network newsperson begins reporting news. It has to seem effortless to the listener, but as any professional performer knows, you have to work hard to look effortless. So, how do I make that musical piece end at exactly 8:59:50 pm? Well, I check the length of the final song on the program. Hmmm, it’s three minutes and 21 seconds long. So, in order to end perfectly, the record must begin at 8:56:29 pm. That means that what I am ad-libbing right before the record starts has to end at exactly 8:56.28pm, but sound easy and natural to the listener. The entire hour is pre-determined this way, working backwards and then proceeding forward. Thus the term backtiming. Everything has to be backtimed.
Do this backtiming thing a few thousand times and you never again have trouble making things end at exactly the right instant. It’s all done with computers these days, so announcers no longer need to know this stuff.
Back to the kitchen and making breakfast.
I’m not a good cook, but I do know how to make everything happen at about the same moment. The oven has to be preheated, biscuits laid out and ready to insert on signal, the onions and potatoes are sauteeing nicely, starting just early enough to time out with the eggs and sausage, the tea must be made and ready to go, the utensils and plates and napkins appear just in time…everything has to be hot and presented together, or my little show will be ruined.
I do pull it off, and you’ll have to ask Liz whether the whole thing is worth it.
I am now father and grandfather to several good cooks, but I recall how they, too, had to learn to backtime, even though they never heard the term. Margaret, for instance, used to cook for the family one night per week when she was a pre-teen. Having never heard that magic word, she at first took several hours to get everything ready. She merrily prepared one course from beginning to end, then began the second course to completion, then the third. After a while, she caught on to the fact that if the courses existed in parallel universes, they could be put together simultaneously and dinner ready in less than an hour. This is something you teach yourself, and to this day, she’s an efficient and wonderful cook.
So why did this whole subject pop into my head? Well, like much of my writing, it started out as an essay on the memories that inanimate objects contain, but my fingers wrote something else. Maybe I’ll get around to the inanimate-object thingy next week.
Stay tuned for station identification
(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed
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