Note: This is not about anyone named Mr. Ramko. It is about a real person though, whose identity I have replaced with the name of a manufacturer of really shitty audio gear.
This is a kind of long mess so I’ll use the “don’t make the main page ten miles long” tag as I did for The Scrolling Tray Of Horrors
So, before I made the little trip across the country, I’d been a TV station maintenance engineer in South Florida, and while I liked the job, there were certain things about it that led me to misery at times. Much of it was the massive amount of time I spent getting trafFUCKED, piecing my car back together on the side of the road in the rain at 4 in the morning because I’d gotten trafFUCKED then blitzed with road debris, or thinking I was done for the night then having to deal with everyone else’s lack of routine maintenance trying to melt down the entire facility… then getting yelled at for not following proper chain of command for it.
And thus, the constant air of horrible frustration and anxiety brought about by Mr. Ramko.
The history, long before I got there, was that Mr. Ramko started as a bench tech at the station and was eventually promoted up to director of engineering. His exact job function was kind of all over the place, but that’s in the job description for a broadcast engineer. Eventually I came to secretly suspect he was promoted up there so people wouldn’t have to deal with him as much.
He came from a wealthy family somewhere down in the Caribbean.
With him came the deplorable management style that comes from business leaders down in the Caribbean. Oops…..
He had favorites. It was a small miracle he even decided to take a chance on me, though that was probably more because it’s getting hard to find a skilled broadcast engineer nowadays. Still, it was like a ray of hope shining into what I thought was a horrible dead end of a life when he decided to hire me on there and I was excited to join the world of television. He hired me at a lower rate than would be typical because I was new to television……….
And that’s where I stayed for over two years. There was no advancement. He’d gladly promote a friend of a friend over me, but I stayed right there at my cut rate. I wasn’t one of his favorites.
My projects and suggestions all got buried. He did have good ideas, but they had to be his for me to get to work on them. I think my only great one that got implemented was having the station buy a Shop-Vac with a washable HEPA filter so I could go around and remove the years of accumulated dust from things. Several times I’m sure I saved the station from expensive meltdown this way. Ever seen a Grass Valley K2 media server with 15,000 RPM SAS hard drives breathing only through a quarter inch billet of lint? Oh baby! We did knock heads a few times, but he preferred not actually speaking to me or anyone else directly. Instead, you had to get the word through the grapevine then experience a really awkward meeting in his office about it days later.
He’d also call you on the phone hours into your shift to bitch you out if he was in his office and you didn’t greet him when you came in.
One of the most awkward things he did on a regular basis was to spy on his employees via his own personal friends in the company and via their social media pages. He would usually claim to me that some manager above him was doing this and confronting him about the content, but, like any proper exchange of information there, I had it through multiple branches of the grapevine that he did it himself. I kept trying to add him as a friend on Facebook just to mess with him before he hid his profile. Aside from that, after I was aware he was doing it, I started both adoring the idea that he was wasting great amounts of time reading through all my great volumes of shitposting, and being envious that he was being paid to wade through my shitposting on company time. Whatever. I’m pretty sure he was salaried exempt because he did everything in his power to avoid any overtime (can’t blame him here – massive hours of overtime work at a previous job where I was salaried exempt made me wish for the whole place to fall into its own septic tank, along with its shitty transmitter). He even kept a crappy old Motorola handheld on his desk to listen to our repeater we used to talk to the reporter in the helicopter and would come dashing in if he thought we weren’t doing enough to make a live shot work.
My contract with the facility and the terms of our collective bargaining agreement specifically stated that I was allowed to accept outside work as long as it did not constitute a risk to either company, conflict of interest, or cause some other legitimate conflict. This led me to be completely flummoxed when he called me into his office and started asking me why I had posted a photograph of myself at the tower at night. First off, well, he doesn’t know what his own tower looks like. I explained to him that it was not the station’s tower, and he was still asking me why I was there. I pointed out to him that it was really quite none of his business what I was doing on my own time and that this was work for another client. He stormed out of the building and wouldn’t talk to me for a week, unless it was to complain that I didn’t greet him at the start of my shift. Um, grood. That’s great, and, um, good.
Meanwhile, with one member of the engineering staff having retired, he was short on staff and some things were starting to really suffer. He proceeded to somehow recruit another couple of people who actually took more of my time to train than anything else, but he was still quick to snap at me for something not being done in time.
I had vacation days building up but could never use them because I was still not one of his favorites. My requests would be overridden by anyone else, even part-time staff. I never had a single holiday off while I worked there and it was nearly impossible to do anything like use a vacation day to get a long weekend, or use more than two in a row. He’d selectively use whatever parts of our collective bargaining agreement with the union chapter he felt like acknowledging the existence of at the time to reinforce his decisions. I’d expressed my concerns to our union representative, but he was………..
one of the favorites………
so nothing at all happened.
He also yelled at me about mentioning the fact that I’d been called back into work after Fidel Castro died. Uh… we all were. That was to be expected. That was about as big a news event as South Florida could have seen, really. I remember being in our dark little cave tuning in the live shots and shading cameras when he called in several times to be an unhelpful backseat driver, but that was kind of a blur.
There was also the day he insisted I go meet the helicopter crew and go up for a test flight to see if I could figure out what was up with the microwave radio on there for live shots. It’d just cut out at random, and the manufacturer was very unhelpful in trying to resolve the issue. One of the test flights after I’d replaced a feedline wound up being a four hour adventure in hovering over a SWAT team situation in The Redlands, and he called me during this to scream at me over not being back at the studio. I had to laugh at his ass 800 feet in the air.
The next day he called me in for a shift after I’d been up until about 4 AM changing a tube in a transmitter down near where that had taken place, expecting to have the next day off as scheduled.
He claimed nobody else could cover that shift, and it was one of these situations where if someone wasn’t on post, the shows didn’t happen! I got there to find out that not only had he just suddenly granted one of his favorites a day off, but he simply never made any attempt to contact anyone else after that, including a coworker of mine who was part time and trying to get more hours. (Also, later, he passed this same very experienced photographer and engineer up for promotion to fulltime after I resigned.)
If you’re thinking I was kind of torturing myself doing all this other work despite having a full time job and a commute that took nearly as much time out of the day as the working hours, well… the lack of any promotion led me to do this to pay the bills.
After a while, and I do mean a LONG while, the man who hired me and clearly never read my resume actually realized I know my stuff with RF and transmission systems. He told me he’d have me work with the process of selecting a transmitter system and planning the build out for switching channels with the upcoming TV spectrum repack……..
Then he went and just let the transmitter vendor’s sales representatives do it all behind my back after a fancy business lunch. FNORD levels are off the charts, captain! Deploy the gremlin attractants!
Fortunately, my other client I was doing contract work for also realized this, and they were offering me a lot of other jobs, particularly their big head-scratchers. I was seriously starting to wonder if I would be able to eventually switch over to just doing that instead and tell Mr. Ramko to find someone else to run his empire of rat-infested spaghetti, but alas, that never happened as the simpler jobs with them all got distributed to other engineers who were looking for extra work as their stations downsized. Instead I just worked on the sites I still had, usually in the dead of nights when I couldn’t get home due to traffic but could get out to those. I couldn’t usually expect to schedule anything because my days off would just evaporate. I swear, sometimes I just put up with this because I had one very close friend who watched the front door…
One of the stranger regular sites I had with my other job was the maintenance on a quaint little cabinet about three hours up the coast. It was a bit out of the way for me compared to the one in The Redlands which wasn’t that much of a stretch, especially considering I had to regularly use Krome Avenue and US27 to get out of Miami-Dade County at night when a lot of roads were closed for overnight construction. I first visited there to work on it after going to the Stuart hamfest in August (?), which I seem to recall visiting after getting maybe an hour of sleep after the previous night’s work, and regretting having made the whole trip so very very much. I’d hoped to get up to that area to go to the Melbourne hamfest and do the maintenance work at that time, but I couldn’t get the days off to go. It almost seemed as if by magic my workdays switched with someone else’s for that weekend the moment I asked for them. I wound up working on that at about 4 AM one night after my attempts to drive home were completely denied by my neighborhood having been closed off by the police! Upon an officer telling me I wouldn’t be allowed home until after 7 AM, I was mad as hell and just said screw that. I instead made a 200+ mile round trip to go clean a transmitter cabinet in the middle of swampy nowhere, and got paid nicely for doing so. Luckily I had the next day off.
My next visit to go do maintenance on that site was in the late fall when there was pretty much no time left in the year for my days off to get postponed. I’d driven up to the area the night before and found an inexpensive hotel nearby, as I’d intended to enjoy a day up there visiting a couple of places in Melbourne as well before coming back down. I was still disappointed that literally all the hamfest weekends were taken away that year, but at least I got to visit MRAM Surplus / Astro Too and it was great. I came away with a nice assortment of inline attenuators that were just the thing for use with my Rohde & Schwarz spectrum analyzer for a grand total of $5, some lab grade coax cables.. nice stuff.
Being that this was now very much my time, I didn’t even want to think too hard about the usual time in the office, and I was not wearing my usual boring clothes I would while I was there (which were usually defined by whatever was either too durable to get ruined by being snagged on cables and racks, or whatever I didn’t care about destroying that way, and what I could wear without being uncomfortable from the oppressive heat and humidity of the building’s decaying HVAC systems).
I took this picture of myself and posted it to Instagram or something (damn if I remember what) and all I thought at the time was how I would love to have a galaxy print or gloss PVC cover for the spectrum analyzer because it looked out of place with the rest of my outfit.
I have no idea why Mr. Ramko gave a flying fuck, but this would lead to the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen in my life happening days later.
I guess it’s a curse of being too prone to trying to apply logical thought to everything. I mean, yeah it’s a curse, it’s… the goddamn KNACK – the curse of an engineer.
And yet, my attempts to build superregenerative receivers using old TV parts out of boredom never worked out that well.
One thing that never made sense to me was someone deciding that certain styles of clothes have to be defined as being male or female? Uh, they’re pieces of fabric, get over it. Nobody else ever questions it when I wear a dress, I actually get a lot of complements… So…. Don’t be a Mr. Ramko.
I cannot recall if this was before or after I officially got the job offer out in California, but it was certainly before I’d handed in my resignation. Mr. Ramko called me into his office to grouch at me over something totally unrelated, and then started out with “I realize this is none of my business what you do on your own time, but….”
I’d like to hope someone overheard what happened afterwards, though I did proceed to tell my coworkers about it and there were almost some workers comp claims from people laughing so hard they hurt themselves.
Imagine if you will plotting the following levels of unprofessionalism on the scale of one of a standard issue analog radio S-meter that goes 0dB SINAD – S1 through S9 – +60. The calling me into his office to gripe at me over something incredibly minor already brought the scale to the S9 reference level.
Of course, Ramko proceeded to ask me why I was wearing a dress.
At this point the unprofessionalism meter was at about 0dBu, uh, unity gain levels of “yeah that’s unprofessional”. I replied with something along the lines of, “well, why not?”
“What makes you think that’s acceptable? Are you transgender or something?”
*ping*. the meter hits the side beyond, oh, about +70dB so hard the needle bends.
It’s a very good thing this was directed at me and not someone who would actually be sensitive over this — this insensitive question could have been very bad for some.
By this point I was laughing kind of in shock at just what I had heard, kinda in disbelief as well, in that sort of disassociated from reality way I feel whenever Donald Trump speaks and says something stupid.
Amazingly, he managed to make it worse.
“Doesn’t your girlfriend work around children at the library? What makes you think this is acceptable?…
That was it. I couldn’t speak to him anymore. I was laughing so badly I could only stumble out of his office, down the hall to the workshop, and try to convince myself that what I’d just heard was not just some bullshit fever dream.
A couple weeks later when I turned in my resignation, he gave me this whole speech about “why are you doing this to me?” and “but radio is a dying field, man…”
I wish I’d brought this up again somehow, but at this point, well— I was seriously out of fucks to give.
A couple weeks later the region got nailed by Hurricane Irma and I found out that they insisted that all staff ride out the storm (expected at the time to be a cat 4 direct hit!) in the building and I felt I had definitely gotten out just in time…
It’s funny, I’ve heard from everyone else since then asking me how life is over on the other coast… everyone else but him. Sometimes I wonder, but other times I just realize how little I can be convinced to care.
I do miss one of my coworkers there in particular, though:
It was later confirmed that he had been safely sheltered at home by one of the guards on staff and brought back to the station after conditions were safe. He HATES being indoors, but was somehow okay with being taken home for the storm.