We finally bought a car with a modern dashboard, the kind with the little screen that gives us a choice of 500 satellite radio stations, lets me answer my phone, can show us a map to the nearest Starbucks, tells us altitude, helps me back up with the aid of a rearview camera and a few dozen other things we haven't even tried yet.
My last car was so old that it still had a cassette deck in it, so at last there will be no more long rides across the country listening to Boy George and Milli Vanilli cassettes or listening to one station fade out and desperately searching for another. Sure, it's not the flying car that '50s magazine covers promised us we'd be using by the '70s, but it is the next best thing.
After days and days of reading the instructions, I was ready for a test-drive in my new space-age cockpit. I turn the key, the monitor lights up, time to make my choice: '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s music is right at my fingertips -- jazz, blues, acoustic, hip-hop, rap, rock, easy listening, sports, news, talk and religious. This was like jumping from three over-the-air channels to 500-channel cable TV overnight.
I stabbed my finger at '60s on the screen. And missed it entirely. Every little bump in the road made my hand shake like I was using a jackhammer. I tried again and got Adele singing "Hello." Apparently there's a whole channel now that just plays Adele songs. That's not '60s music. It's just the most depressing music I have ever heard. In every song she's wallowing about someone who dumped her. Or someone she dumped by mistake. Doesn't this woman have any friends? I've written a song for her that I want her to put on her next album, "36." It's called "You're Killing Me. Get Some Help, Please."
It turns out that whoever designed the dashboard screen has never actually been in a moving car before, or they would have made the selection buttons much, much bigger for sure. Say, the size of a human fingertip, so that you might actually press the thing you are aiming at instead of the one above it or beneath it. For years cars had actual push buttons on the radio. I don't remember having a difficult time punching the right one.
Finally, after several tries, I accidentally hit the correct selection by aiming at something else. Bliss. Now we could drive all day long and listen to whatever we wished, bounced from some satellite that would never let us spend a moment in silence or static.
Wait, what? This is not the '60s music I wanted to hear. It's like they've chosen the worst music of the '60s, not the best. They're playing the stuff that would always make me push the button for another station on the old car radios. But there is no other '60s station around here. Why are they doing this to me? Do they get the songs cheaper because they are so bad?
I try the '70s station. Then the '80s. Then the '90s. And whatever they call the '00s. I don't think I bought any pop music in the '00s. It's all new to me. And gloomy. This must be what Adele listened to when she was a teen. It explains so much.
I'm starting to miss the old cassette tapes that I left in the trunk of my old clunker. Who would be caught dead driving that old piece of junk? Probably some teen who longs for, but can't afford, a better car. I hope he finds them and listens to them. It'll be a much better experience for him than the satellite radio.