I was in first year and my roommate turned her radio-alarm clock to 5FM one morning. It changed my life (figuratively). I was hooked for the next four years, and when I heard that today was the last show of 5FM Mornings, my insides fell apart a little.
I do not drink coffee, but 5FM Mornings was my coffee. The sound of Gareth Cliff’s voice radiating through my room was the reason I woke up and never missed class. It was the other thing I did while I brushed my teeth and probably the only reason I knew what was happening in the world.
5FM mornings blew off the lid from my small-town girl head. Five years ago, Johannesburg was a daunting place for me; the bright lights of the city are not friendly. But 5FM Mornings helped me adapt to Jo’burg culture. It challenged my perceptions of people. It made me curious about the world and knowledgeable enough to engage in conversations. (Seriously, I would Google the things I heard on the radio). From Jacob Zuma to white people in Port Elizabeth, 5FM Mornings was the Wikipedia of South Africa.
I was only ever exposed to the small doses of Gareth Cliff on Idols. But when I discovered 5FM Mornings, I got to share his company everyday. And then I met some other cool people, a chick who loves donkeys and ditched science to tell people about traffic because she loved it, a cool ginger (oxymoron?) from the Free State who knew about sports, an alcoholic divorcee who had a soft spot for animals, an overweight Jewish guy who cycles and dances and who is always annoying, and an executive producer who feared nothing and made things happen behind the scenes. I developed respect for these people, who selflessly gave up sleep so that others could have a good start to their day.
Those are the things that slapped a smile across my face and made me bend my head back and laugh until my tummy hurt.
There is something about a laugh in the morning that makes you feel empowered and ready. One morning before an 8.30 class, I overheard a girl behind me laughing. I turned around and saw that she had headphones on. I asked her what she was listening to that was so funny, and she said she was listening to Gareth Cliff yell at Damon Kalvari. Those are the things that slapped a smile across my face and made me bend my head back and laugh until my tummy hurt.
Some of my best memories are tied to this show. I remember reading notes before one of my undergraduate exams, which proved to be an impossible task because I could not bring myself to turn off the radio and stop listening to the show.
I got a retweet from Gareth Cliff and aced my exam. I’m not saying those things are related, but I am also not saying that they are not related.
After four years of listening to 5FM Mornings, I only regret not listening to it for the three years it was on air before. It is the only reason I listen to 5FM and I will miss the phone-calls, the improvised songs, the impersonations, the nerd-talk, Damon’s street surveys, other things I forgot to mention (but will creep up in my memory at inconvenient times) and the most epic way to welcome the weekend, “It’s the Weekend baby!” Goodbye decaffeinated coffee. Goodbye home-grown Wikipedia. Goodbye friends I never met. Goodbye 5FM mornings.