Who Packs Your Parachute?

Posted on October 20, 2011


In a recent post I suggested that every host should take the time to thank their audience for listening. Not just in a cursory way but actually saying it like you mean it.

Then my wife, who’s the traffic director at WGN-AM here in Chicago, shared an email from the Traffic Directors Guild of America (yes, that’s a real organization, click the link if you don’t believe me) that included this story:

Captain Charles Plumb, a graduate from the Naval Academy, whose plane, after 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam, was shot down. He parachuted to safety, but was captured, tortured and spent 2,103 days in a small box-like cell.

After surviving the ordeal, Captain Plumb received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts, and returned to America and spoke to many groups about his experience and how it compared to the challenges of every day life.

Shortly after coming home, Charlie and his wife were sitting in a restaurant. A man rose from a nearby table, walked over
and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

Surprised that he was recognized, Charlie responded, “How in the world did you know that?”

The man replied, “I packed your parachute.” Charlie looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up, and said, “I guess it worked!”

Charlie stood to shake the man’s hand, and assured him, “It most certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today.”

 Charlie could not sleep that night, thinking about the man. He wondered if he might have seen him and not even said, “Good morning, how are you?” He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t know.

There are a lot of people whose jobs are part of packing an airtalent’s parachute.

They make it possible for you to have the fun, high-profile and often quite lucrative job of radio host.

Traffic directors, promotions people, interns and account executives all play a role in making it possible for you to screw around in a studio and get paid for it.

Remember to thank them too.