Wednesday, October 14, 2009

carradio (autumn sweater mix)

As I get older, I find myself more affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When I was younger, my mood and energy were impervious to weather. But now I feel listless and glum when it's cloudy and gray.

As my car gets older, it too is more affected by the weather. Or at least my car's stereo system is.

This cloudy, gray, cool morning, with rain coming down in that annoying quantity between "drizzle" and "umbrella needed," my car stereo exhibited a sign of the changes of seasons as sure as leaves turning or Vanderbilt's football team getting trounced in SEC games. When I started the car and backed out of the driveway for the commute to work, the CD I left in the car overnight started sputtering and skipping. I didn't even make it off my street before giving up on the CD player and switching over to the NPR (as the kids call it these days).

My '98 Sunfire didn't come from the factory this way. Unfortunately, over the last four or five years, when the weather's cold, or cool and humid, the CD player is practically inoperable - certainly intolerable - when I start the car. I guess all the bumps and rattles over eleven years have made the car more, um, porous? Dash gets more moisture, moisture fogs up the laser and CDs, CD skips until the in-dash fog burns off.

Mind you, if I'm going on a longer jaunt, this is only an annoyance for the first 15-20 minutes: eventually the daylight and/or the defrost warms up the console, and then the CD player works normally for the rest of the drive.

But for the morning commute, which usually lasts 15 minutes, it means I'm stuck with the radio for the length of the drive. My default radio option is WPLN, our local NPR station. While I'm very NPR-friendly, I'm not in the mood for news and talk every morning. Tolerable music options just aren't on the dial: maybe WRVU (Vanderbilt University's station) will, at this particular hour on this particular day, feature a DJ whose tastes I like, but they probably won't; classic rock is, well, classic rawk; WRLT, a.k.a. "Radio Lightning," a.k.a. our market's "adult alternative" station, will be up to its usual adventurous-only-to-Brentwood-housewives strummy midtempo tricks.

And to anticipate two likely reader suggestions: I don't feel like investing in an iPod car audio solution is worthwhile, since I'll probably buy a new vehicle with a built-in auxiliary jack within the next twelve to twenty-four months, which renders superfluous any purchase of an iTrip or its ilk. And there's not room in the budget right now for Sirius or XM (I'd likely pick the latter since they have Webb Wilder and Major League Baseball).

So until Spring sufficiently thaws Middle Tennessee, it's probably going to be all NPR all the time for me.


jontv said...

I lived for years without a car stereo. Then I finally bought a car with a stereo and got used to hearing what I want while driving. Now when the stereo is not working, as was the case for most of the summer (weird electrical problems), it drives me crazy.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked - shocked! - that you came as close as you did to an opportunity to quote Wire without actually doing so. You meant, of course, to write "that kind of rain where an umbrella's no use."

Miles said...

Jon: I've never been without a car audio option. Between '88 and '91, I had the '82 Eagle that had formerly been my mom's, and it was equipped with only an AM/FM radio - no cassette player. Not being able to play music of my choice made me bonkers, especially on the long drives home to West Virginia. My next vehicle, a '91 Grand Am, also only had a radio, but my mom sprung for a Kenwood AM/FM/cassette deck as an early birthday present, and I've never done without true car audio again. I probably do 80-90% of my music listening in the car, and my quality of life would be diminished considerably.

Jeff: It's been a while since I've listened to It's Beginning To and Back Again. I should really remedy that.