How I Fell in Love While Volunteering at KQED

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Keith and Susanna
Keith and Susanna

Keith grew up listening to KQED at his Grandpa’s house in the Central Valley. Over on the other coast, I grew up with my Mom’s radio tuned to WGBH in Boston. When Keith moved to San Francisco, he was happy to discover that KQED’s studio wasn’t far from his new place, so he was eager to give back to the station by volunteering.  He soon rose to the position of volunteer supervisor.

My reasons for volunteering were perhaps a bit more selfish; I loved the programming, of course, but I was also underemployed at the time, new to the area and hoping to meet someone special. It seemed silly to keep putting things like “must love NPR, Ira Glass, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” in my online dating profile when I could just go to the source: the KQED studio, where I was bound to meet kindred spirits! I was strategic about it; I figured that singles might be more likely to volunteer on Friday nights, so I picked that time for my first shift.

Keith was hard to miss.  Standing on the sidelines, arms crossed, waiting to assist the neophytes, he was six feet tall, bearded, with long, curly blond hair, clad in a black t-shirt, black kilt (which I had initially thought was a skirt -- hey, it’s San Francisco) and patent leather stomper boots. He was intriguing, sure, but not what I’d call the public radio type, and definitely not my type. But he was always quick to answer our questions, and was both professional and friendly, asking me about the knitting I was doing between phone calls.

Normally, I’d be demure and flirty, but I had already dismissed him as an oddball, so I thought I’d just let it all hang out. “Yeah, I’m knitting this blanket so I can stay warm while I’m watching TV with my three cats,” I said, almost hoping he would dismiss me as a Crazy Cat Lady.

But without missing a beat, Keith said, “Oh, my cats like to keep me warm by sleeping up here with me” -- and he gestured toward his chest.


Hmm, I thought. Nice. Smart. Likes public radio. Has cats. In the plural. And isn’t ashamed to admit it.

Photo: Katie Burk/NPR
Photo: Katie Burk/NPR

At the end of the shift, cheered and emboldened by my positive volunteering experience, I stood up and asked whether anyone might be able to give me a ride to the BART station. Keith was the first one to offer. I remember thinking, “Great, now I have to ride with the weird guy.” I was more than a little bit nervous.

But it was fine. His car radio was tuned to KQED (ah, so he practices what he preaches, I noted). He mentioned that he had signed up to give blood early on Sunday morning, which he regretted.

I said, “Well, I guess it’s a good way to make money.”

“Oh, I don’t do it for money,” he said.

Hmm, I thought.  Nice, smart, volunteers for public radio, has cats, donates blood. We parted ways.

I volunteered at KQED a few more times, but Keith didn’t show up again until a few weeks later. He looked tired and sounded hoarse; he was recovering from the flu. Somehow that made him more attractive. And when I asked him a procedural question, I noticed, as he leaned over my computer screen to answer, that under all that hair he had the most beautiful pair of blue eyes.

Something clicked, and I realized I had to get his number. But time was running out. I couldn’t ask him in front of all the other volunteers. I had to come up with a line. But I lost my nerve. I left without even saying goodbye, furious with myself for being so shy.

Over the next few weeks, I signed up for more volunteering sessions, hoping I’d run into him again. But I didn’t. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and ask the other supervisors about him. Luckily for me, they were women who were easy to approach. I asked one what his story was. Her face lit up. “Oh, Keith’s so nice!” she gushed. “He likes cats. He’s fun to talk to. He really enjoys dancing. And he’s single!” she said, her eyes sparkling.


I came up with what I thought was a witty, playful little pretext (“I have a question of vital importance regarding the future of public radio, and that is the following: would you like to go out for coffee with me some time?”), and had one of the other supervisors forward my email to him. He wrote back right away: “I would love to.” (He used the word “love!” I noted with glee.) We arranged a coffee date.

Well, he was late, even though I had picked a spot close to where he lived. And he still had eye makeup on from dancing the night before, and he looked disheveled and annoyed. And it turned out that he didn’t even drink coffee. What kind of a guy is this? my judgmental self wondered. Would be just another date that ended up going nowhere?

But we actually had a lot to talk about, and really hit it off. Coffee turned into an entire afternoon. And then, a few days afterwards, Keith told me he’d actually been somewhat nervous when he’d gotten my email, since he had assumed I had a complaint to make about some transgression on his part. He told me he’d said to his friends the night before, “Tomorrow I’m either going out on a date, or I’ve gotten in trouble for something.”


That was almost a year ago. Since then, we’ve discovered that we both love traveling, old buildings, classical music, fine dining, and more. But our favorite thing might just be staying in, curled up on the couch with the cats, my knitting and his video games, listening to This American Life or watching Antiques Road Show on KQED. And I don’t think either of us thinks the other is so weird anymore. But even if that were the case, it would all be fine too.