Sunday, October 20, 2013


When I was eight years old we got our first car.

It was a very big deal.  I believe it was a brown Pontiac that Dad bought for something like $50.  Seeing Dad behind the wheel of the car for the first time was also a very big deal.

We then had a succession of cars because they kept dying, being old and used when we bought them, and also they kept getting smashed up since they didn't stop when Dad pulled on the steering wheel and shouted "WHOA!"

I'm sort of kidding there--not sure he ever did that, but he didn't have an easy transition from horses and buggies to cars.

I still remember the radios in those old cars.  They had these cool buttons, like a row of Chiclets, that you could push in and pretend you were controlling the car--push the right button and the car eases to the right, and so on.

Kind of like this:

We didn't play the radio because Dad had disconnected it and removed the antenna.  It was ok for us to have a car now (painted black) but the radio was too much.

Some years later Dad got a bit sloppy and only removed the antenna, a little glitch we found easy to overcome, so then he also pulled the fuse out of the little fuse box.

On snowy school mornings my sister and I would go out in the obscene cold and practically stand on our heads in that frigid car and reach way in deep and under the steering column and pop the fuse back in and then sit there and shiver while we tried to get the right news station to tell us whether or not we were having school.  Since we went to a public high school, despite being Beachy Amish.

Then there was also the infamous episode where Rebecca and I decided this radio nonsense is for the BIRDS and we ARE going to find out what's on the news tonight so tomorrow in Current Events we won't sit there like dumb bumps on a log when everyone else earns points for being up on the news.

So we got in the car and drove a safe distance down the road.

It so happened that that night the news was about Hugh Hefner being in trouble for something or other.  We dutifully recorded this and the next day in class we, in our cape dresses and white coverings, shot up our hands and informed the class what had transpired over at the Playboy empire.

[Yes. Just in case you ever found me intimidating or anything.]

I'll bet Mr. Hall told that story at parties for years.

In later years the rules relaxed enough that Mom would keep a small pair of scissors in the glove compartment.  On long trips, she would quietly open her window, slip out the scissors, insert one blade in the antenna crater, and happily be entertained for a while.

Today, I can listen to the radio all I want.  I could, if I wished, push those cool Chiclet buttons and twist those big silver knobs to the right station and the right volume.

Except, in a cruel twist of fate, I can't.  I've figured out just enough to sort of get by in my Kia, but in any of the children's cars I ride in silence.

Because modern car radios look like this:


They consist of a small rectangular area surrounded by tiny silver or black buttons with eensy-weensy lettering.  Some of these tiny buttons have mysterious symbols.  They make absolutely no sense.

The only way I could figure out any of them would be to lie on the seat, eye level with the buttons so I could look at them through my bifocals, and give myself about half an hour to push around and experiment.

I cannot do any of this while I'm driving.  I've tried pushing and poking and feeling around blindly all the way to Albany and then giving up in disgust.

In fact, once I borrowed Amy's car to go to the airport and drove most of the way to Portland listening to a scratchy station because I couldn't figure out how to change it, adjust it, or even turn it off.

It is a conspiracy, I tell you.  When I tell people like Steven my frustrations, they laugh with kind amusement.  They are IN and I am OUT, sweet old person that I am.  There must be a whole universe of wireless information out there that only the under-30s will ever know, because the rest of us can't figure out our radios.

I want that old Pontiac radio with a CD player, installed in my Kia.  For Christmas.  Please??

Quote of the Day:
"My one beef with pork is that it's just so fatty."


  1. This is hilarious and wonderful. I love your stories. I am in my 30s (barely) and we have no ipods or such - still CDs - because we know how to use them and can't be bothered to figure out the new way or the expense of converting. oh, I am OLD, I tell you.

  2. Innocence is bliss. Or maybe not. I've cringed more than once at the words and sayings repeated by an innocent conservative menno youth. :) I can just see your public school teacher wondering where you would have acquired such information. LOL!

  3. I totally understand! imagine my chagrin at watching my 21 mo. old granddaughter operating an Ipod like a pro. I was open mouthed with amazement. I don't know how to run that thing, but she does at not ever two years old....*_*

  4. I just about DIED when I read your Hugh Heffner bit! And if it makes you feel any better, I'm 28 and driving my little sister's car for a month because our mini-van is already on its way over to England (we're moving in 13 days). And I for the life of me can't figure the radio out!

  5. *Snort* We used to drain the battery in my aunts VW bug because it was the only car around that didn't actually have the wires pulled.
    But at least we weren't listening for current events, or we would have pulled a similar stunt.

  6. The Baritone11/03/2013 2:48 PM


    Ha! I bet that upset your aunt more than once, seeing how the battery in an old Bug is under the back seat. Maybe you should have installed "jumper posts" somewhere in the engine bay for her...