Monday, May 18, 2015

It's OK to say, 'I don't know.'

A friend of ours is a retired military man. He says, “That’s above my pay grade” when asked to comment on something for which he doesn’t have an answer.  
I’m getting that way and find myself saying, “That’s above my pay grade” quite often these days. Usually when speaking with my wife.  
We were on our way home from church Sunday and she began asking me about a subject which now escapes me. That’s the nice thing about getting older — your memory grows shorter and you discover new things over and over each day.   
In the past, I would have thought about it and tried to give her an answer whether I knew what I was talking about or not. I am the man. I am supposed to know! 
More and more I know less and less and soon I will know nothing about anything! 
It’s OK to say you don’t know.  
At work, I used to think I had to know everything (or try to pretend I knew everything) in order to get ahead. Methinks it didn’t work. I doubt anyone was fooled, at least not for very long.  
It reminds me of one of my first days in college. I was crazy about broadcasting. I hadn’t discovered writing, yet. 
I visited the campus 10-watt radio station that could be heard a mile outside of town on a good day.  
Despite the limited power of the station and that the transmitter sat on a very small library table, the studios were probably as large as half the floor where our newspaper offices are located.  
It was an educational opportunity for students who would volunteer their time instead of going to parties or hanging out. It kept us off the street.  
Eventually I produced several radio series for the station and even a segment for NPR’s “All Things Considered” in 1972.  
Elroy was a year ahead of me in school and the first day I visited the station, even before classes began, Elroy showed me the ropes. He put a 5-inch tape reel on a spindle, threaded it to the take-up reel on the other spindle and played a public service announcement voiced by a man with a deep voice who sounded like the lead vocalist on the “Shaft” theme song.  
“Did you record that here?” I asked.  
“Yes,” he said.  
I was impressed.  
“How did you get a student to sound like that?” 
“Oh, we have filters,” Elroy said.  
The only filter Elroy had was to filter out the truth. I later learned that recording was made i Los Angeles or New York.  
But, he was trying to impress me, a simple freshman.  
One of the nice things about being the oldest person in the building today is that I am no longer trying to build a career.  
Now, I can just come in and do the best job I can each day and answer any questions that come my way, as long as they’re not above my pay grade.  

Frank Phillips is a reporter for The Brazil Times.