Almost on the Diane Rehm Show


For those of you who don’t know, Diane Rehm hosts a show on NPR. According to the WAMU website: "For more than 25 years, The Diane Rehm Show has offered listeners thoughtful and lively conversations on an array of topics with many of the most distinguished people of our times."

Now before you get too excited and to set the record straight, I wasn’t almost on the show as a guest, I was almost on the show as a caller. Actually, technically, I was on the show but let me get to that.

The guest of the day was Greg Mortenson, author of 3 Cups of Tea and person of amazing commitment and perseverance. His story involves getting lost in the Himalayans, finding a remote village and eventually building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unexpectedly, Mr. Mortenson was late to the show so Diane, as I call her, asked listeners who had read the book to call in to chat.

I redialed the show’s number more than a dozen times before I got a person who asked me to explain why I should be on the show. I told her that my book club had read the book and it had stirred some interesting and varying reactions. The screener decided on the spot that that warranted a moment of fame and put me on hold to wait my turn. I waited in my car, in the parking lot of the Reuse Center on Industrial Rd. in Ann Arbor.

As the show progressed, Diane continued to work her way through the callers. Each time she went to the phones she announced her intentions and let all the listeners know who and where the call was coming from. For a nerve racking half an hour I heard, ‘So let’s go to the phones, we have...’ (a pounding heart...) ‘so and so from some state other than Michigan, go ahead so and so, you’re on the air...’

I listened to the show on my phone as I waited. It was a good show. Greg, as I would have called him if I had gotten the chance, finally arrived about 20 minutes later and told his story about some of his successes and challenges and about some of the threats he’d received - surprisingly from his own country.


As I listened to the sometimes interesting, sometimes not, comments, I contemplated what brilliant things I was going to say if I had my chance. The screener had warned me not to delay with thanking Diane or gushing about being on the air - just get right to the point - but while I thought I had one - I wasn’t sure what was actually going to come out of my mouth if and when I got my turn.


Then my phone battery started chiming in with an occasional beep to let me know of its own concerns. Feeling fidgety and not sure of proper protocol for waiting to get on the air, I actually walked around the Reuse Center with my phone, listening to the show. That was pretty cool because obviously no one knew that I wasn’t just an obnoxious person walking around with her cell phone but that I was actually a grandiose person on hold for Diane Rehm walking around with her cell phone.

With about 10 minutes left of the program, I returned to my car.

Now my phone was getting rather demanding. With no charger in the car and being too far from home I decided to wait it out even though I hadn’t thought out my clever contributions to international diplomacy or what would happen if my battery died while actually speaking to Diane and Greg.

And then it happened. There was Diane going to the phones and me hearing “Annie” and “Ann Arbor” and “Good morning Annie. You’re on the air.’ And this is where I think I possibly blacked out for a minute.

Luckily a somewhat surprised friend was listening from her home and later filled me in on my whereabouts. Turns out I fairly reasonably got out, “Hi Diane, so we read this book for our book club and there were a variety of reactions.” On my end I heard a BEEP and the line went dead. On the air, Diane was apparently equally distraught and ‘so sorry’ she lost me, though given her professionalism she didn’t miss a beat and went on with the show.

As I came to, I looked around the gray parking lot for some acknowledgement of what just happened and what almost just happened. Nothing. No sign of anything other than some people dropping off discarded household items and some other people picking them up.

But I decided that whether I had or whether I hadn’t gotten my few minutes of fame, the world would have looked pretty much the same. Because unlike Mr. Mortenson, I was only going to talk about changing the world, he was actually doing something about it.


Annie Zirkel is a Relationship Consultant and NPR listener based in Ann Arbor, Mi. You can reach her at