Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

There are days when nothing goes right.

And then there are New Year’s Eves when this happens.

My evening began with a ghost bus. In fact, several of them.

The thing is, the bus shelters along Symonds Street all have electronic read-outs to tell you how many minutes you must wait until your bus will arrive. This is good – it gives you realistic expectations. 243 - Blockhouse Bay - 26 minutes. 25 minutes, 24 minutes, 23 minutes, 22 minutes, 21 minutes, 20 minutes, 19 minutes, 18 minutes, 17 minutes, 16 minutes, 15 minutes, 14 minutes, 13 minutes, 12 minutes, 11 minutes, 10 minutes, 9 minutes, 8… oh you’ve got the idea. I’ll carry on anyway – 8 minutes, 7 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, DUE.

You scan the edge of Grafton Bridge on the horizon. No bus. A minute passes. You glance nervously up at the display.


Another minute passes. The same. Then a third minute passes.

Despite the absense of anything resembling a bus, all the available evidence still says that it’s about to arrive. (the electronic read-out is 100% of the available evidence)

And then there it is – stopping at the lights. In fact there are two of them. You patiently wait. Presently the lights go green, they approach, you flag them down, they obligingly pull-in next to you, and you fish out some cash.

You step on, and smile at the driver “New Windsor, please.”

“I’m going to Threekings. You want a 243 or a 247.”

WHAT??? Muttering horrified apologies, you get off in shock and rush to the second bus behind… but that’s not yours either. A quick check of the electronic read-out confirms your conviction though. You look back at the traffic lights, but there is no third bus. Before you know it, you’re into crazy-talk, protesting to the drivers deranged things like “I know what the sign on the front says, but are you absolutely certain that you’re not a 243 going to New Windsor?”

But it’s no good. Both buses leave, containing all the other passengers you’ve been waiting with, and now you’re all alone, looking up at a resolute electronic read-out that’s looking back at you with a frighteningly familiar deadpan message:

243 - Blockhouse Bay - 26 minutes.

That, my friend, was a ghost bus.

You can’t see it, hear it, or get on and be told there's "Just room for one more inside, Sir", but you knew when it was approaching, you knew when it was here, and now you know it’s gone and heading for New Windsor without you. And you missed it.

26 minutes later I missed another ghost bus, and then a third one. They passed by without a blip, which was a shame, as they were exactly the sort of bus that I had been waiting for all this time.

As the title of this post suggests, I was heading to Hope City Radio to present The Midnight Countdown and take the station into a new year for the second year running. Last year’s “midnight moment” had been a bit uninspiring. My inept engineering had been poor, my logging tape had run out while I was talking on air, and the actual moment had suffered terribly from a lack of any firm plan as to what to do on the actual stroke of midnight. (click here for details, and to hear it) This year I was determined that the run up would be full of energy, excitement, and planning.

By the time the cab dropped me off at the station, it was literally four minutes to 12. Poor Patrick had been doing this entire live show leading up to the big moment, and now here I was walking in at 23:56 to steal his thunder from him. He had a great suggestion though:

“How about you start your show just after midnight?”

I didn't much fancy starting a show called The Midnight Countdown at five past midnight (it would have been a very long show), so to my shame, I told Patrick that I really wanted to do the midnight moment, and sat down to outro the track currently playing. Patrick already had Gary S Paxton’s The Meat Wagon lined-up and ready to play, but I wanted to start the new year with Flatmate Dave’s copy of Hillsong’s That’s What We Came Here For. (who can resist a track that rhymes “Shout Halleluyah” with “Lifting to ya”?)

So that was that. I’d outro this track, play The Meat Wagon, do the midnight moment with Patrick, and then launch into Hillsong. Nothing could go wrong.

So I began.
“Chris Christensen – Please Please Me on Hope City Radio, 106.7 FM,” I said, mixing my text with my subtext. “And we’re almost ready for 2006 here in the studio. It’s all looking quite exciting, isn’t it Patrick?”
“Yeah! Yeah, man, yeah, yeah.”

“It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it? What have you been up to this year?”

As Patrick waxed on about his hopes for the new year, something bothered me. We only had about three minutes left until midnight, and I didn’t know how long Gary S Paxton’s The Meat Wagon was. Would it be less than three minutes? Would we have time for it? It bothered me almost as much as the studio clock, which didn’t have a second hand.

This of course meant that I had no way of knowing when midnight actually was.

Okay, I was just going to have to ditch the track, talk for three minutes, and, short of any nearby parties helpfully cheering all of a sudden, guess when 2006 was. (As New Zealand gets the new year before the rest of the planet, Patrick and I might actually have become the first people in the entire world to enter 2006!)

So Patrick and I got chatting on air about, what else, Hope City Radio.

Patrick: “I mean - we’re the home of contemporary Christian greats! So we’re the meat in the sandwich as it were, er, I must say, tofu in the sandwich. You see, I’m not a meat eater. But anyway, we’re not too light, not too heavy, as far as Christian radio goes.”

Me: “The tofu in the middle of the sandwich, I think, is a very good way of putting it actually, ‘cos, err…”

At this point I ejected the disc with Gary S Paxton’s dropped track on it, at which Patrick betrayed all his vegetarian listeners by suddenly exclaiming on air “Oh no – you’ve taken The Meat Wagon out!”

I babbled on for a bit about my year gone by, scrutinising the microscopically edging minute hand of the studio’s ticking alarm clock, before eventually deciding that I would just have to take the plunge and pick a random moment from which to begin counting down.

And this is what happens when you’re not disciplined by a real time. For some reason, which is utterly beyond my comprehension, I began counting down from 60. And immediately I felt like I was back at that bus stop again…

Me: “Fifty-nine!”

Patrick: “Yeah, fifty-nine!”

Me: “Fifty-eight!”

Patrick: “Yeah!”

Me: “Fifty-seven! Fifty-six!”

Patrick: “Yeah.

Me: “Fifty-five!”

Patrick: “Yeah.

Me: “Fifty-four!”

Patrick: “Yeah.”

Me: “Fifty-three!”

Patrick: “Yeah.”

Me: “Fifty-two!”

Patrick: “Yeah.”

Oh you’ve got the idea. (reviewing the tape afterwards, counting down from 60 to 50 took us about 24 seconds)

Somewhere around about 49 I decided this sounded about as good as when Anne Diamond and Nick Owen had regularly read out all the different newspapers’ bingo numbers on TV-AM. It was time to chat again, about 2005’s highs, it’s lows, and 46 seconds later I declared that we had 11 seconds to go.

This time I was gesturing Patrick to join me. This time were ready. This time it was good.

Us both: “Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”

Me: “Whey-hey!”

Patrick: “Yeah!”

We clapped, we cheered, and this segued into all that applause that tends to start Hillsong tracks.

Then, in a crazy throwback to my old Through The Night graveyard show back in the UK, I presented the remaining 96% of The Midnight Countdown, finishing at about 1:30 am, when Flatmate Dave arrived to pick me up and reclaim his Hillsong CD.

Well, it was still midnight somewhere.

(Don’t believe me? Click here to welcome in 2006 again!)

2012 UPDATE: Just to prove that this show could still go even wronger, a few years later my off-air cassettes of this and a few other shows went missing while in storage. (the above excerpt is therefore the only clip that I now retain) If you find any of them, please email me as I would love to get them back again! Thanks! Steve. (ῧ)

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