TUNING IN TO A FADED SIGNAL By John Watts

radio listeners

 “In the wee wee hours your mind gets hazy, radio relay towers lead me to my baby
Radio’s jammed up with talk show stations
It’s just talk, talk, talk till you lose your patience
Mister state trooper please don’t stop me.  

Hey somebody out there, listen to my last prayer
Hi ho silver-o deliver me from nowhere.”  Bruce Springsteen “State Trooper”

In my life currently–there are lots of things on their last legs.  Take my car for instance.  It is a 2003 Honda Element which I dread replacing.  Inside it, I have a broke CD player with 3 CD’s jammed inside.  The first CD got stuck and wouldn’t play.  So after jiggling and fiddling with it, I sent in a second one to force the first one out but it also stayed.  Then I sent in a 3rd CD to force out the second one but it too has decided to take up residence in the CD player slot.

Now all I hear is an occasional hum and “tap, tapping” as if my CD disks are trapped mine workers begging to be rescued.

My speakers too have seen better days.  When my passenger door is closed too hard, the right stereo speaker shuts off.  The left speaker likewise, will short out if I hit a pot hole too forcefully or if I turn the treble lever past the number 5.

In addition to all this, my illuminated radio station dial has a faulty digital readout that, on a good day, will only show half of the radio station numbers I am searching for.  This makes the already impatient, short attention span game of hunting for radio songs even more frustrating as half the time, I can’t even tell if the last number is a 3 or an 8.

Still, I keep on trying to find great songs and diversions, despite all the odds stacked against me.  I try to keep the faith.

But I really do miss not being able to try out the latest CD’s of a new or old artist.  I miss books on tapes on longer drives.

I feel envy for all those other drivers at traffic lights when I see them click on their automatic, commercial free, privately streamed music that offers “skies the limit” advances.  They smile at me with their hands free to handle cell phones and texts while I struggle mightily with the radio dial.

Still I keep striving and yearning.  In an age that prizes dignity and speed, on and on I search for a HARMONIOUS source of inspiration in a confining climate that offers few departures from the most ponderously predictable I HEART RADIO rotation selections.  Like a lottery player, I still hope to get lucky and hear some snatch of great local news or to be transformed via the gateway of some inspirational DJ.

Who knows?  Maybe someone will speak directly to my heart and change the course of my life.

In this way I am not too different from those late night truckers on the bottom end of a long driving shift, desperate from fatigue and loneliness to tap into some type of diversion that would serve as a bracing slap on the face to keep them awake and alert.

Because we true hopeless romantics know the real secret behind the limited means of broken CD’s, faded radio dial illumination, and erratic stereo speakers that others scoff at—it makes those few golden moments of listening all that much more glorious!

Consider all those poor, overly indulged coach potatoes with too many cable channels.  Are they any more enlightened or happier from their deluxe new package?

All of us need the scarcity of fewer options sometimes to really savor the half way decent songs that we took for granted before.

So please nod back to me when you pull up alongside at a traffic light stop.  Because the dream is not over yet for people like us by a long shot.  We are not even close to arriving.

For I would rather temporarily OWN one great song that fate allows to play for me, as a great car driving memory–even on ONE crackling speaker, than suffer the ennui of having a MILLION songs on Spotify that I can never physically embrace or even find time to locate and play.

For us, the road still holds surprises and irregularities that Sirius radio and GPS would never reveal.

We are just glad and so very grateful when our used cars can limp along well enough to deliver us, outdated music system and all, to our final destination at the end of the road.

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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