“As God as My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly” – What WKRP In Cincinnati Says About School ReOpening Plans

“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” – Arthur Carlson, General Manager of WKRP, a fictional radio station in Cincinnati.

It’s Thanksgiving , and I just watched this episode again and it makes me laugh at how it wonderfully pens human nature which tends to be full of lofty, sometimes monetarily-induced, intentions but short on planning.

Even the theme song is memorable.

Baby, if you’ve ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP.

That, and my mother-in-law thinks it is the funniest show she has ever seen. She can start explaining it and then becomes unintelligible from laughing at herself in mid sentence.

That immortal quote came from one of the best episodes of situational comedy ever to grace the airwaves of prime time television. It’s from the “Turkey Away” episode from 1978.

The show itself centers on a lovable and dysfunctional staff at a radio station that struggles to maintain a viable share of the listening market. It was a perfectly cast ensemble featuring the iconic “Johnny Fever” (Howard Hesseman), “Venus Flytrap” (Tim Reid), Less Nessman (Richard Sanders), Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson), and Gordon Jump as Mr. Carlson.

The aforementioned episode concerns an elaborate marketing stunt that is high on expectations but low on research. Mr. Carlson wants to have a “turkey drop” dispensing free turkeys to families at Thanksgiving by dropping them out of a helicopter. The station would then have it’s own news reporter, Less Nessman, cover the story.

Makes sense – the thought of helping people with providing turkeys and getting great publicity. A no-lose situation. You can see that episode online here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/322 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zuj3dwZl64 .

Nessman’s reporting of the turkey drop is priceless. What was supposed to be an act of goodwill toward men turned into an aviary apocalypse. According to Nessman, the live turkeys were falling “like bags of wet cement” upon the unsuspecting people below creating a cacophony of confusion and literal tower of Babel.

A plan with good intentions executed without proper vetting.

It reminds me of the push to reopen all of our schools to students in this recent spike of infections due to the coronavirus.

When medical experts and others start pointing to the “real science” of how schools are not supposed to be places where the virus is spread and that schools are the safest places people can be, they sometimes forget that its not the fear of that science that scares teachers.

It’s how the decision makers are looking at the science to make plans for reentry into schools.

Even the most recent report on my district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that there are enough educators in quarantine to staff 2-3 full elementary schools in the district.

It’s like throwing live turkeys out of a helicopter.

And if one looks at the dashboard close enough, it is apparent that the biggest outbreak is in the district offices. That’s interesting considering that’s where the plans for reopening are being made and issued to schools.

More flightless birds thrown out of a flying machine.

Furthermore, there is that contradiction in society where many people screaming to open schools are the very same people that are being told right now to please follow the mandates.

It’s hard to keep schools safe when they exist in the very same towns and cities where people are not wearing masks, keeping socially distant, or practicing safe protocols.

Beware of more birds!

What is really dropping are not actual turkeys but our guard against a still very dangerous pandemic. There is no vaccine available yet. There is no widespread testing for teachers and staff. The weather is getting colder. And there is a holiday season where the urge to be traditional will outweigh the duty to stay safe.

But putting all of these teachers back in schools again with current trends and timing sounds like bags of… well, you get the picture.

And I say that with God as my witness.