With the exception of the gift-wrapped box on our manager’s desk, the day began like any other day. One by one, members of staff arrived in for work on the office floor, those from other teams commenting on the mystery box as they passed by. We waited until Dave called our morning meeting. He explained that the box was a gift from Lara, a woman who left our team the previous week.
“Something to replace my beautiful voice,” the gift card read, written by the woman who couldn’t sing, not that Lara ever let that stop her.
The box was opened and out came a brand-new radio. Some curious glances were exchanged. No other team on the floor had a radio. We looked to Dave, who in turn went to his manager, who also consulted their manager. Eventually, the decision returned that management didn’t mind if we had a radio on in the background as we worked. Of course, someone had already taken the initiative to set up and plug in the radio as we awaited the decision. For the first time, that question was posed:
It was mild enough, on that first day. Silly stuff, really. As long as songs were playing, no one seemed to mind. Occasionally, someone would stand near the radio while the rest of the team was working and covertly change the dial, moving away again before anyone really noticed. By lunchtime, Anna was keeping watch, as she happened to sit closest to the radio. She asked anyone who came near to state their business, turning away anyone who could not provide a valid reason. However, it did not take long to turn physical. By the afternoon, hands were being slapped away from the radio and arms were being pulled back from altering the selected station. The atmosphere only relaxed again as people finished up for the day, some leaving after 4pm and others later.
Next morning, in spite of being notorious for arriving to work late, Anna was at her desk at 7am. To her surprise, she was not alone. The radio was on, having been switched to a different station from the previous day. Other members of our team and even staff from other teams watched Anna as she changed the station back, but there was no immediate protest. By mid-morning, however, two other teams on the floor had their own radios, both playing different stations to our radio. Managers came together, deciding that additional radios would only be allowed if the station was a standard selection on all three radios.
It was the question that changed people. Teams were divided by the issue and all of our working relationships were affected. The first selection lasted until about 10am, when a suggested “Radio Rota” was shared around the office. This led to further arguments, disputes, and ultimately, the office became a conflict zone. It was bad enough that team members could not agree on one station together. It got worse when people went rogue and tried to change the radios of other teams without permission. Soon enough, our once professional workplace had descended into scenes of adults wrestling each other away from radios. At one point, the power cable for our radio went missing, presumed stolen. It was chaos.
By the afternoon of the third day since a radio was introduced, the office was divided into factions, fighting for control of (at this point) 12 radios among 8 teams on the floor. In one corner, the advocates for Radio One sat undisturbed, no one wanting to bother them so close to retirement, as all listeners of Radio One are at least 65. A middle-section of the floor was divided between 2FM and Today FM listeners, alternating between Breakfast Republic and Ian Dempsey in the mornings, but locked in a bitter dispute for the rest of the working day. Among this group, there was one consistent vote for Radio Nova from a middle-aged man who owns a Harley Davidson that his wife does not allow him to drive to work. This middle section faced regular attacks from the Accounts team and a rogue group of middle-managers attempting to move the dial to Newstalk. Outside of these large factions, the remainder of the office was divided into niche groups, limited only by the availability of stations in the Dublin region.
After a week of this, thankfully without any fatalities, people in the office slowly came to their senses. What were we all fighting for? Choosing a radio station to listen to? It was ridiculous. Following extensive conflict mediation, we all realised that the choice of radio stations was, ultimately, just the illusion of choice. Really, the only thing to choose between on Irish radio was repetitive music playlists or the sound of two men laughing at their own jokes for hours on end.
A peace deal was brokered and a simple solution was introduced. Now, if we want to, we can put our headphones on and listen to our own devices. Already, the atmosphere in the office has greatly improved. Our office radio rests underneath Anna’s desk, gathering dust, mostly forgotten, unless used as a footrest. All the other radios have been similarly discarded. Who needs a radio anyway? We’ve moved on. Everyone in the workplace has moved on and we don’t fight over the radio anymore. Nowadays, our only arguments are over who pays for Spotify accounts and who gets to share, like normal people.