I love music. All kinds. And when I’m in the car, I love singing along with the radio, making up dances in my head… and going in and out of the emotions and memories each song evokes. I’ve always thought of my time in the car as my “me time” — a place where I can escape with my thoughts while a (professional) singer belts out a song that fills in all of the otherwise empty space inside the car. But a few days ago, I turned off my car radio. Even my CD player. And I still haven’t turned it back on… yet.
Ever since it went into “OFF” mode, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. I can hear silence, stillness again. It’s made me realize just how easy it is to close yourself off in a car and let a song take you down its road — whether the music you’re listening to is full of frivolous words and melodies, on the more grungy and angst-y somber side, or pleasantly classical.
One recent morning on the way to work, instead of punching a variety of buttons trying to find just one millisecond of a song or broadcast chatter I could stand to listen to over the airwaves, I listened to the gentle rumbling of my car’s engine… the hum of my tires racing over the road… the redundant whooshing of cars skirting past me through the intersection… the rustling of tree leaves caught in a hot, steamy, wispy summer breeze… the sound of a dog barking merrily as his owner walked him down the sidewalk… the thumping of footsteps of a jogger passing by… and other various man-made and natural sounds that tend to go unnoticed on any other given day when you’re locked up in a car with the radio blasting.
You might tell me, “You can hear all of that when you go outside, anyway.” Well… yes. Granted, I do go outside and take walks often enough to hear all of these same sorts of life noises quite regularly. But… the experience in a car is usually a little different. Often, there are voices attempting to communicate with each other from the back and front seats that find themselves asking each other “what?” a lot, because nothing can really be heard at all. And sometimes I find my mind getting wrapped up in radio ads or drained by random, nonsensical chatter or songs functioning merely as background noise. That’s about the time when I reach for the volume knob to turn down the music, or ad, or other amplified communication so that I can hear my daughter’s sweet little voice… and I think about how wonderful it is to be physically close to each other and we should, therefore, actually be able to talk to one another.
It was during such a moment a couple of weeks ago that I reached for the volume and, instead of merely turning it down, punched the whole radio OFF. And, really… I haven’t missed it… except maybe for the airing of “Christmas in July” which I’ve listened to every other year. Totally forgot about it this year… (I’m not 100% sure they even did it this year)… and since I love Christmas… I’m a bit disappointed about it. Then again, I can always pop in one of my holiday CDs whenever the spirit moves me.
I laughed at myself driving home last night when Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” was playing too loud. I had reached for the radio to either turn it off or turn it down — I can’t recall which. And it doesn’t matter… because the radio wasn’t on… which meant that they were merely singing too loud in my head. (Where do I find the volume control for that?)
Here’s something else I found interesting: A day or two of silent traveling had passed before I asked my daughter, “Do you want to listen to the radio or are you okay with the quiet?”
“I like the quiet for now,” she told me.
Apparently, she didn’t like always having to talk over the radio either.
I’m sure that eventually… soon… I will turn the radio back on and start listening to it again, but… right now, the quietness of my “me time” (and my daughter’s) has been a nice change.
UPDATE: After 2-1/2+ weeks of radio silence, my daughter finally requested some noise in the car, other than the sound of my voice. Her request: Dean Shostak’s Colonial Fair (<<one of our mutual favorites). When that CD finished a day later (clearly, we weren’t in the car very much), the player advanced to the next one in the queue. And life is continuing musically — and still at moments quietly — from there.