The radio in my car has been broken for quite a while. The tuner is busted and the tape in the cassette player is jammed with this one educational travel tape that I have been listening to over and over again since our trip to Egypt six years ago. I am getting a little bored with it, but I know all the major pharaohs of the past 3,000 years and I bet I know more about the Great Sphinx than most people.
I decided to treat myself to a new stereo. The prices seemed reasonable and I really wasn’t looking for many bells and whistles. If there were bells and whistles, I wouldn’t be able to figure out where to ring or blow them, anyway.
I took the car into an auto shop and waited about an hour. “All done, Mr. Wolfsie,” said Steve. “Just read the directions and you’ll be all set.”
“Read the directions? For what? You turn on the radio and, bingo! You have music. You twist the knob to change the station. You take your CD and stick it in the slot. What else is there to know?”
“Well, you’ll need to pair your Bluetooth with your iTunes. And sync your Pandora with your iPhone. Then link your Voice Control to the speakers by installing a pin number, which you can use to access the Internet through your USB drive and the auxiliary option. You can also access Spotify …”
This is not exactly what he said, but he did use all those words. I’m just not sure in what order he put them. The next day, I still hadn’t cracked the code, so I went back to the store. “Look, Steve, I am still very confused. For example, how do I get an AM station?
“Can’t help you there. No one has ever asked me that before. Did you figure out the hands-free voice control?”
“Not really. How do I do it?”
“That should be easy. Instead of dialing on your cell phone, which is very dangerous when you’re behind the wheel, simply talk to the microphone on your dash and you will be connected to your party.”
I hadn’t been invited to a party in years, but when I got in the car, I did want to talk to my son at work, thinking maybe he could explain some of the complexities of the new stereo that still baffled me. I spoke clearly into the speaker, leaning in: “Call Brett,” I said.
“Call Brad,” the device tried to confirm.
“Brett!” I yelled back.
“NO, CALL BRETT!”
I broke out in a sweat. I was so frustrated, I needed some music to calm my nerves. Now, according to Steve, all I had to do was say the artist’s name and his songs would play.
“Play Bob Dylan,” I requested. Then I heard this:
“Looking up Bob Dylan on Wikipedia. Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter and artist. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades.”
Geez, I didn’t want his bio. I wanted to hear him sing. Now, totally at my wits’ end, I screamed at my new electronics. “I CANNOT FIGURE THIS OUT. HOW DO I MAKE THIS THING WORK?”
Then, a familiar voice: “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.”