The cassette player in my 20-year-old Taurus has jammed, and I’ve been reduced to listening to nothing but local broadcasting.
This is a mixed blessing.
Now that my car radio’s five buttons are set to the top AM/FM oldie-stations, I get to rock-out to the best of the 60s and 70s. Cool. Much nicer than my teeny-tiny 20-tape car audio collection. Of course I could have been listening to the airwaves all along. But I didn’t. Instead I motored in monotony, stuck in a rhythmic rut without the likes of Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones or the Doors.
Until my car devoured Elton’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” my choices were dictated by what I found at yard sales. And the cassette pickings these days are pretty pathetic.
Necessity has freed me from this routine. Now I’m able to crank up the stereo. So I did, and serendipitously, the sweet sounds of Santana soothed my soul.
“I ain’t got nooobody. That I can depend ooon…”
Suddenly I’m 16 again. It’s Friday night, and I’m on Chester Avenue cruisin’ in my ’66 VW Beetle. The sun roof’s open, and the streetlights are so bright I’m wearing my sunglasses. I can almost smell the hot oil from that leaky old valve cover.
The song ends, but my flashback continues. Right up to the next radio ad.
“And what can you depend on?” the announcer asks rhetorically? “When you’re afraid to leave your home, shop, or take in a movie? Worried that a sudden sneeze will lead to the embarrassment of soiled undergarments? Well, fear no more. With our discreet “Zen-Serenity” bladder protection, you’ll get your life back.”
Arrgh! I fume. Do I need to hear this?
I don’t know what annoys me more. The assumption that I’m incontinent because I’m over 50, or the announcer segueing from lyrics I adore to an ad that makes my orifices pucker.
Gee, Geezer Radio, thanks a lot. You just ruined “No One To Depend On.” I won’t be able to hear it again without thinking of adult diapers. I haven’t been this annoyed since James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” was hijacked by a laxative commercial.
Frustrated, I jab a button, and land on another “classic oldies” station.
Score! It’s Jim Croce singing one of my favorites.
“If I could save time in a bottle. The first thing I’d like to do…
Now I’m feeling mellow again, and I join in…
“To save every day like a treasure, so again I could spend them with you…”
In my mind it’s 1972, and I’m making a move on my very first girlfriend. “Time in a Bottle” is wafting up from the deluxe, acoustically-balanced coaxial speakers. The Alpine sound system cost more than my Camero. Ah, but it paid off in that golden moment when I slid my arm across the headrest, letting my hand caress her bare shoulder. And she didn’t shoo me away.
But then my bliss is shattered by the blathering announcer.
“But, folks, time does come in a bottle. A Vydox, erectile-dysfunction bottle. With Vydox—the little orange pill—you’ll get results that will make you and your partner smile. Visit our website to place an order and see our testimonials. Vydox. Have it delivered directly to your mailbox in discrete packaging. Satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back. Side effects include…”
Well, crap. Another song is ruined. Now Jim Croce’s the cure for impotence? I guess we new know what Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown’s problem really was.
I’m miffed. Who are these DJs, and why are they screwing with my music?
I mash another button.
“Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ into the future … “
Ah, The Steve Miller Band. Now we’re talking! Shades of 1976.
“…there’s a solution…”
I sing along, not caring that I’m off key, or knowing what the hell the solution is, then or now, I’m just transported back in time. Back to those days when my biggest problem was how I was going to buy the next tank of gas for my 240z.
“… do do didit… do do didit…”
Don’t know what the heck that means, and I don’t care. I’m snaking the ‘Z down the switchbacks of Highway 178 out of Lake Isabella, my favorite mountain road, forcing a down-shift and listening to that straight-6 snarl.
And then, the DJ sticks his microphone up the my dream’s tailpipe.
“Time does slip into the future,” he says solemnly, “and have you planned for your demise? What if tomorrow dawns, and you’re not here? What will become of those you love? Will a government bureaucrat dictate what happens with your estate? Will it be eaten up by costly attorney’s fees? Close & Meier Attorney’s-at-Law can help. Don’t delay–call for a free consultation today.”
Oh my God. From diapers and dysfunction to death, a total buzz-kill in less than 10 minutes flat. These atrocious ads have mangled three of my favorites memories, conjoined them with crass commercials.
I’m in a funk, and with what little hope I have left, I decide to throw caution to the wind and listen to one last song to lift my spirits.
Surely, I think, it can’t get any worse.
So I’m waiting for some kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll, lost in dark thoughts, when an exuberant voice catches my attention. I miss the first part of his pitch, but tune in when he announces an offer that, apparently, represents a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity.
“And if you call now,” he says, “you can qualify for this week’s ‘double-down deal.’ That’s right, two cremations for the price of one….”
Then he adds in a hushed voice: “Some restrictions apply. Urns not included.”
Disgusted, I shake my head. These oldie-stations have a total solution for seniors–everything you never wanted and wouldn’t think to ask for. How wonderful.
But perhaps I’m being unfair.
Could it be that these ads are truly helpful? Maybe I do need an attorney. Because right now, I’d like to strangle the nearest DJ with his own microphone.
Or sue him for nostalgia-interruptus. Hmmm. I wonder if they have a pill for that?
Probably not, but I have decided I should just tune out the doom and gloom and fix my old tape deck.
After all, there’s something to be said for monotony.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County. He can be reach at email@example.com.