Remember the era when everybody had a Panasonic transistor radio with a built-in cassette player? Or maybe an 8” by 6” Panasonic mono cassette player where you had ta strain your ears to catch the music over the squeaking of the tape? If the tape jammed, you simply slammed the player with your fist and it started again. Panasonic, a household name once – first, National Panasonic and then, sometime in the late 70s, the ‘National’ was dropped and it became simply Panasonic.

I have a transistor radio at work that has been there for a lightyear – maybe three, four decades – nobody knows who brought it in. Definitely not Jacques Plante, the guy who had my cubicle before me. Jacques is still around, though he has moved to the Diffuser Stress Lab.

Of course, even if it had been Jacques’, he wouldn’t have taken it with him. Nobody moves a radio here, even if he owns it. Once you bring in a radio, it becomes virtually the department’s property. You get transferred to another department and sure enough your desk there has a radio on it, brought in by someone else, maybe long dead and gone. Jacques has one on his new desk now, an Aiwa. Gets his favorite 95.8FM and that’s all that matters to big Jackie.

The radio on my desk is not a Panasonic, but some crummy brand I never heard of, called Bulova. She has been there so long, folks in the department began calling her Bu. Yeah, transistor radios are definitely female.

Here’s the thing about Bu – she is like one of our workstations – always on. Come in on any shift and she’ll be on some channel or the other. Of course the years have atrophied her ability to catch far-off places, but she still can get CBC Radio or CHOM 97.7 Rock 24/7 and that’s all that matters. As for me, I am always on the American public radio channel – NPR, by far the best radio channel anywhere on earth.

Oh yeah, the US border being just 40kms away from here, you can get clear reception if you are listening to NPR – just as my Pakistani friend says he used to get Star TV and Doordarshan at his home, in Lahore. He just had to go up to the roof and tweak the antennae a bit.

When I was new to First-Off (the department that does first article inspection), there was a cold war raging over Bu. If I left her on my desk at CBC-1 English, I would find her on Serge’s desk the next morning with 107.3FM (a French music channel). I felt offended that anybody would remove Bu from my desk, even though she didn’t really belong to anybody, definitely not me. Leaving her with the channels flipped sounded like an intrusion into my privacy.

Took me a while to realize that Bu was there for everyone ta enjoy. There are actually hundreds like Bu where I work. You see, music is one thing that my employers do not disallow and virtually every desk in every department has a tiny radio on it that is specially designed to be effective only within a few feet (like alpha particles from a Pu-210 tablet). If I have Bu on, the guy in the next cubicle can have his on and you won’t hear each other’s channels, I swear. I guess it has ta do with the background noise that pervades any factory.

And here’s the reason why there are some many radios here – folks bring in their personal radios to listen to music while they work, but can’t take them out due to security reasons. Ours being an American defense contractor, security is tighter than a virgin’s…well just too tight, that’s all. If you bring anything into the company, you had better be prepared ta leave it behind. The paperwork involved in taking it out again is stupendous, so no one bothers.

New guys don’t have ta bring in their own radio – there’s one already there, left behind by the dude who occupied your space before you. Radios have kept accumulating at my workplace, turning it into one massive repository for antique electronics. If you’ve blown a valve in yours, I might be able ta help you get a replacement, though I’d have ta sneak it out and risk ending up at Guantanamo.

Guantanamo is not a bad thing in itself, though. I look at the brighter side – given Barry Obs’ pledge, I might end up in the US – the land of the free and the emancipated – as its guest for life, lodging and boarding – free and ample sex, with a group of beefy roughneck inmates making me their love toy. Ooooooh!