FEW THINGS define Los Angeles as much as traffic. Beastly and unrelenting, it’s light years away from the few minutes I-16 will stall you.
Just don’t tell that to Savannah suburbanites sitting in that mess each morning. Radio news producer Claire Beverly knows where commuter tempers fray in both cities.
“It’s been days since I’ve mentioned that 204 east is jammed from Ogeechee over to King George because those people just know it’s going to happen,” she says.
Ditto for 21 between Old Augusta and Jimmy DeLoach. The morning traffic reporter rattles off your bad excuses for being late like the rhymes of a well-known poem.
Before moving here seven years ago and landing her current job, she did the same poetry for Southern California’s all-day, all-night, 365-day a year traffic news operation.
“Traffic in Los Angeles is a big, organic being,” she says. “It was a great challenge.”
She learned all the highway exits from San Francisco to San Diego. She learned how to anticipate the radiating traffic nightmare that a single wreck in a busy location can cause.
And she learned how to squeeze 10 traffic problems into 30 seconds!
“I learned not only how to read and understand the traffic but how to present it in a way that people understand it,” she says. “We have to talk really fast.”
In addition to traffic, she also delivers news for two different markets, Chatham and Beaufort Counties, on six radio stations owned by Alpha Media.
You might call that a recipe for depression, especially when it begins with an alarm at four o’clock. But then she has another radio role – referee between Tim and Red.
“The two of them have a wonderfully antagonistic brother and sister relationship,” she says of the jocks that claw at each other like cats on Bob 106.9’s morning show.
“They are constantly bickering with each one another, on and off the air, in a completely loving and familial fashion,” she says. “I come in and take one side or another.”
Beverly’s official role on the show is news and traffic. She works the headlines in her closet-sized studio and runs across the hall to Tim and Red about every 15 minutes.
Comedy ensues. Amid the laughter, we discover that Claire likes cat videos and Taco Bell and that Mr. Fix It Tim handled Claire’s skivvies in a cabinet repair job gone awry.
“When I walk into that room, I have no idea what they’ve been talking about and what they’re going to throw at me,” she says of the unscripted, live program.
That makes her unofficial role something like voice of wisdom. Adult on premises, if I may be so bold. Not a bad gig, even if it means waking before the rooster.
“There have been plenty of days when I’ve laughed so hard, I’ve lost my breath and couldn’t deliver the news,” she says. “That’s a great work environment. I’m very lucky.”
I usually hear her voice on AM 1130 and FM 93.5 “The Island,” an inspired new “adult alternative” radio station with Hilton Head’s delightful Monty Jett in the morning.
Her voice came to our bedside radios and car presets in a story involving Los Angeles professional theater, a midlife crisis and a family move to Savannah.
“People always said, ‘You have a nice voice, you should be on the radio,’” she says. “One day, I decided to take that seriously.”
I’m glad she did because her voice always seems to carry a smile. And when some idiotic driver is making me see red, a smile is the one thing I need to imagine.