Sunday, July 1, 2012
Around about 2001, when I purchased my ’96 Celica, one of its best features, to my mind, was the radio, tape player and 10-CD changer. The tapes, many of which I’d had for 15-20 years (Iris DeMent, Dinah Washington, Freddy Fender) fit nicely in the console. The radio was programmed (requiring nothing more than holding the 1 and the 2 down for a few seconds) to 91.5 (KUSC, classical) and 88.1 (KKJZ, jazz). The CD changer was in the trunk where I could store boxes of CDs. Every few weeks I’d cycle through another ten, or I could listen to the same CD over and over again, or repeat the same track with the handy remote or whatever it’s called that had the CD # and track # in large easy-to-read numerals and three buttons: an on/off, a forward, and a back.
A couple of months ago, my “system” finally died. I googled "car stereo Silver Lake" and got one guy down on Vermont Ave. in Koreatown who had a zillion 5-star yelp ratings. I told him what I had and that it was broken and asked whether he could fix the thing or whether I’d have to replace it with a whole new system. “A CD changer!” he erupted in a friendly guffaw. “They don’t even make those any more. Everything’s mp3s now.” I paused, stricken. “How do you get the mp3s in there?”
“You’d better come down,” he replied. So I went down there and he was busy but helpful. He led me to the many many stereos mounted in a wall display. I reviewed the Sonys, the Kenwoods, the I don’t know what-all-elses, the prices, and finally settled on a $195 unit with a USB and a thingamajig for your ipod or phone or however it goes, all of which is now standard.
Then I took a two-hour walk while the guys installed it. When I returned, a lovely young man named Angel sat in the passenger seat, I sat in the driver’s seat, and he took me on a 40-minute walk through the myriad features of my new system. I sat there, my heart sinking lower and lower, realizing I now had to load my CDs one by one and asking things like, “Wait, I need a ¼” audio cable?” and “Oh wow, it’s a whole separate function for Pandora?”
I have an ipod and a smart phone. I’m not stupid. I’m not lazy. I’m not anti-technology. I’m anti the fact that every cable, charger, menu, cord, function, option, scroll through, set/reset takes me farther away from the delightful opportunity to simply listen to a song in my car, which I'm no historian but I'm pretty sure came into being around 1950 and has now become such a pain in the rear that I’m ready to simply drive in silence. I don’t need a function that allows me to scroll through a choice of 15 backlight colors. I don’t want my phone or my ipod dangling off my dashboard, I don’t want to have to remember to charge anything, I don’t want to plug or unplug anything, I don’t want to buy, keep track of, and replace another cable, I don’t want to look at another screen, tap another screen, be talked to by another screen, I don’t want fifteen more doodads with the capacity to malfunction. I want to hit the “On” button and leave my mind free to wander while I concentrate on navigating the streets of L.A. and listen to a tune or two.
At last I said, “Well that is very helpful, Angel, thank you so much.” We were shaking hands when I noticed one tiny lever we hadn’t yet reviewed. “What’s that for?” I asked.
“Oh that’s to remove the face,” Angel said, demonstrating, and in a twinkling was holding what appeared to be the entire system in his hand.
“What!” I cried. “What do you mean, remove it? Why would I want to remove it?”
“You didn't know?" Angel replied gently. "You have to take it out every time you leave the car. Otherwise they steal it.”