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.”


  1. That post was hilarious! I once dated a girl OCD about removing the face. I'm pretty sure it was the reason we didn't get married. I love this blog. :)

  2. AAAAUUUGGHHH! Oh, Heather, I am right with you. I really get scared sometimes when I think about how much precious time is wasted trying to keep up. And I am in the exact same situation as you are with having to replace a car stereo system. =:O

  3. I haven't listened to music while commuting for several years now but then I have been exclusively riding a bike (bicycle) year round to I don't tunes on the dash, heck, I don't have a dash. I ride windows down 24/7/365 (well, I have no windows) so there's often a lot of sound, including wind, that would compete with a 'radio.'

    That said, (I'm rambling) a few years back I always rode my bike with ear buds in and was hooked to tunes on a wee mp3 player. I felt it helped me block out the world, focus, push harder, and make the commute enjoyable. One day it broke and I couldn't afford another one. It felt terrible at first; OMGarsh, no tunes! But then I noticed I wasn't feeling as edgy towards others, I guess because I could hear stuff coming and be prepared in advance. If I passed others I might even say, Hi and get a Hello in return; always a pick-me-up to the day. Sometimes a word shared with a fellow bike commuter while waiting at a light. I also noticed how grim a lot of people looked as they jogged or biked along with the tell-tale while buds and cord of an iWhatnot, all hermetically sealed into their own moving bubble. I thought, did I look like that? I also "saw" more because I "heard" more. Can't explain it. So, I've taken a total pass on tunes and the very odd time I do drive a car (ick) I drive in blessed silence.

  4. Ha ha, glad you relate, folks, and yeah, maybe we're coming full circle back to where we REALLY began: silence. I do realize this is a quality "problem".

    Mom's going into hospice, folks, out on the red eye tonight to Boston. Please pray for her: Janet....

  5. Will do on the prayers, Heather.

  6. Praying for your mom and family..
    Rose xx

  7. Prayers for Janet and your family.

  8. Found you in Magnificat. Your blog on Amazon! Your theology is one of the few that makes great sense.

  9. I JUST got my first car with a CD player. This is disheartening. I'm always two technologies behind.

    Will pray for you mom. I'm Janet, too.



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