I can channel-surf like nobody’s business. A song comes on the car radio that I don’t like, and it’s gone before anybody even realizes it was a song.
Could be because it reminds me of things I’d rather not remember right then – old relationship gone wrong, bad break-up, an argument with a friend when I was 15 – or because it’s been played on the radio and on my kid’s iPod and the Disney channel too many times to still be enjoyable (anything by Maroon 5 immediately comes to mind), or because it’s simply not a very good song, in my opinion.
I listen to music mostly in my minivan. I spend a lot of time in that goddamn thing, usually schlepping someone to somewhere. Kids to karate, ballet, soccer, orthodontist. And also myself, to meetings, appointments, never-ending errands, lunch with a friend or drinks with the girls.
And honestly, I hate it. The schlepping, and the minivan. I hate that it’s so big. That it’s a minivan. That it has sliding doors, and seats that tuck away, and a trunk that opens and closes with the press of a button. It’s too convenient. It makes Costco runs and carting kids and two-bikes-two-scooters-and-room-for-more too easy. There’s no excuse not to do any of that. “We won’t fit” is never a reason not to schlep. So we’re always schlepping. Nothing screams Stay-at-Home-Mom like that mofo minivan – clearly I am struggling with both!
But I do love the sound system. The source of the music. It’s not state-of-the-art or fancy in any way. It came standard with the car, and is a typical 2012 Honda Odyssey system. CD player. Radio. AM, FM and XM. (Yes a DVD player too, but that is used only on long road trips and no, driving to Costco is not a long road trip).
I love that sound system because it makes the drive, any drive, feel worth it. Most days, most times, I need a soundtrack. Music speaks to me or speaks for me or just lets me be me, as I traverse the roads and freeways, U-turns and one ways. The lyrics, the beat, the melody… they elevate the moment, the mood, the task at hand (namely, schlepping) to something less permanent, less obligatory and more enjoyable. And life is too short to be mired in the mundane, the tedious, the boring. Schlepping, let’s face it, is exactly that.
I channel-surf so quickly because it’s all digital, and pre-programmed, and brightly displayed in pretty blue lights on the dash. The song, the artist, the genre and sometimes even the year. I know where my preferred channels are stored, and if my favorite alternative rock isn’t doing it for me on Alt Nation, there’s always Dierks Bentley crooning country magic over on The Highway or even a random chart topper on Hits 1 to get me through the five o’clock drive (love that new Taylor Swift!). This week I discovered that the hidden value of Rick Astley lies in helping me survive Highway 13 not once, not twice, but five times in less than two hours. Never gonna give you up, 80s on 8!
But the real reason I channel-surf at lightening speed like some amateur DJ is because life is just too damn short to listen to music I don’t want to listen to. Music that doesn’t enhance the moment I’m in some way, some how. Daily driving can be mind-numbing, exhausting even while I’m doing nothing more than sitting on my butt, stopping, starting, accelerating and opening a sliding door with the press of a button to let a kid in or out. When we suddenly, spontaneously all join Garth Brooks on the final verse of “Friends in Low Places” even the endless gray of Highway 13 looks a little brighter.
Yesterday my head-bopping, finger-snapping boy reached out to change the channel. (He channel-surfs faster than I do when motivated). “Don’t touch it,” I said, as the opening chords of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” filled the car. “This is music from my childhood.”
“But Mom, I like to listen to music from my childhood too,” he replied with a smile. He’s only ten.
I nodded slowly, appreciating that for him too, life is too short for music he doesn’t like.
This week’s sentence was: “Life is too short for…”