Operators are standing by

As a 20-year KCRW volunteer, I happily donate my time and money during the NPR affiliate's pledge drive. But please don't expect me to listen to it.

A week's worth of oozing self-love and incessant begging is more than I can bear, and I salute the pledgers who stay tuned long enough to snag their preferred restaurant/trip/ticket donation premiums while risking brain liquefaction.

Phones ring a lot during the drive-time shifts, but yesterday, I worked later, so I brought a book to read while the station aired reruns of the day's programming in between extended announcer pleas for your pledge. The phones were largely quiet on a Friday night when most people were out weekending, or watching the Clippers clobber the Rockets.

But over 2½ hours, I managed to read only a few pages, thanks to my fellow pledge takers. We work in a very cramped space where you hope your neighbor practices good personal hygiene and where conversation is shared no matter the intent.

Nathan, 24, sat opposite me, sporting an honorary Clippers ball boy T-shirt, beach sandals and three days of beard growth. He spoke with a honeyed voice that probably has driven many young women into activities they might not have anticipated. Andy sat next to me. A handsome young fellow not much older than Nathan, he wore a hoodie, ball cap and somewhat more mature groomed beard.

It was the second pledge drive Andy had worked. He loves motor racing, and recently went to Spain for a famous grand prix I never heard of. He also loves this radio station enough to drive during the Friday afternoon rush hour from San Diego, where he lives, to man the phones in Santa Monica for a couple of hours. He drove back, he figured, "in time to do something else tonight."

I live a mile away from KCRW. I wouldn't drive from Beverly Hills to do this job.

Nathan, who grew up in Long Beach, said his parents read the Press-Telegram, and as a kid, he used to read the Wall Street Journal. When the phones went silent last night, he called his friends and family members, using that bedroom voice to cajole them into pledging money to a cause in which he had no personal stake. If every telemarketer was as seductive as Nathan, we would all be broke.

It turns out that the time I gave to KCRW last night was worth a lot more to me than to the station. It made me realize that even if their generation does not revere newspapers the way I do, does not value conversation in person more than via electronic device, does not understand that electronic dance music is nothing more than aural wallpaper to take ecstasy by and pretend it's actual music, Andy and Nathan are still wonderful representatives of their generation.

They are the kind of people who give me confidence in the future. A future of selflessness and charity. A future populated by folks with an appreciation of the world beyond their own. A future filled with people of accomplishment who will be able to fund my Social Security when I retire, move to the country and continue to listen to KCRW.

Except during the pledge drive.

More by Ellen Alperstein:
Recently on Native Intelligence
New at LA Observed