The New Music and the Car Radio Blues


Continuing with this automotive theme of mine, there is only one behavior that puts me over the edge when I’m driving – NOISE!

This could range from the rush of air from an open window, talking loudly or incessantly or a blast of loud music that is foreign to my soul. Too much volume puts me on edge and drives my personal “Road rage” meter to the max.

Grr-rrrr-rrr-ouchy I quickly become.

Most recently it has been the 18 year old and his choice of music that frays my nerves. You see there is this booming bass that pounds on your brain even at low volume.

“Boom-da, boom-da, boom-da-boomba-BOOM!” goes the bass, over and over again.

It’s a lot like tribal drums being played inside an oil drum which has been placed delicately over your head.  Played at high volume this is commotion is akin to sticking your head into the exhaust port of a jet engine.

“Boom -da, boom-da, boom-da- boom- da – BOOM!”

That’s the car next to me. We both have our windows closed tight. My vehicle begins rocking to the beat as sound waves as big as a Tsunamis slam against my car. I grind my teeth as my clenched hands squeeze the life out of the steering wheel.

I soon escalate from Mr. Grumpy to psycho senior with all the accompanying hand gestures and cuss words.

“Chill will ya, dad! GEEZ, the dude’s just listening to his music!”

Years ago, I spent some of my summers working in a heavy manufacturing plant. Management saw fit to provide us with earphones. Even at that I remember laying my head on the pillow at night and still hearing the crash, bang, boom of the shop floor still echoing in my brain. These tunes must have been recorded in heavy manufacturing plants because their annoyance level is industrial strength.

But even more annoying to this old “rock n roller” is the repetition of both musical and lyrical phrases, that go on and on, over and over, again and again, ad infinitum. Finger nails dragged across a chalkboard sound symphonic compared to the agitation I feel when a word or tag line becomes the entire focus of the song.

Case in point:

“Halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, h-ay-ay-ay-yay -lo, halo!

Hello, that’s enough “halos”, already! I get you’re point.

That song (we counted them) had over 60 halo repetitions in a less than three minute song. We didn’t even count the “halos” repeated by the background singers, echoing the original “halos” in the chorus.

“Halo-h-a-l-o!”

“Halo-h-a-l-o!”

When that song comes on the car radio I’m usually ready to drive my fist into the console, scream like a little girl or reach for a handgun (if I had one) and blow the radio to smithereens. And, Lord knows, there are so many more of these songs. A water boarding session would be like a spa treatment compared to this annoying racket.

Then it dawns on me that, my God, I’m becoming my father in another significant way. He hated the stuff I wanted to play on his car radio just as I dislike the stuff the boy plays. There would be a constant battle to switch stations whenever we drove anywhere. To top it off, my father was a whistler who whistled constantly when the radio was turned off. His high pitched shrill whistle could have been recorded and used in the Cold War for mass brain washing sessions, I’m sure.

“Stop the whistling. I give in. Comrade, I am at your beck and call.”

All of this brings me to, JJ, and our little sessions of nerve wracking repartee as we drive merrily down the road. It usually goes something like this:

As soon as JJ slips into the “shotgun” seat (his sister is protesting vehemently from the back seat) he snaps on the radio, spins the dial away from my all sports station and cranks up the volume.

“Boom -da, boom -da, boom-da –boom -da-BOOM!”

My initial reaction is to avoid the escalation of the situation and simply turn down the volume a tad. (He is my third teenaged child)

“I can’t hear it, dad, GEEEEEZ!” he’ll protest.

“That’s why you have an I POD, son. You can listen to your own tunes and as loud as you want!” I’m thinking, “What a great freaking’ invention that was!”

Josh will have none of it. “But, da-a-a-a-d, my batteries need a charge and I wanna listen to the radio.”

You have to believe me when I say that his whine is the decibel equivalent of a cat having its tail run over by a bicycle. I want to say, “Too bad, so sad!”, but, I avoid the temptation. I remain stoic and totally in control.

Inevitably, Josh will reach over and move the volume up a notch, trying once again to regain testosterone control.

“Boom -da, boom -da, boom -da-boom -da-BOOM!”

I answer with a quick thrust and flick and the dial returns to just above mute. It’s Alpha 1 dog versus Alpha 2 dog at 60 miles an hour. The thrust and parry goes on until I finally blow a gasket and turn the radio off with a snap.

“GEEEZ, dad, you’re so  . . . old,” Josh concludes as he crosses his arms, throws his hoody over his head and sulks.

That’s when he usually decides to begin whistling his tunes in a high pitched, shrill manner accompanied by some foot stomping bass lines. He’s becoming my father. “Old Whistling Joe”, was what he was affectionately called by his co-workers. And, 45 years later, the effect is just the same – mind numbing, nerve agitating Grumpy rage.

“For the thousandth time, STOP THAT DAMN WHISTLING!”

But, let’s not stop there because it’s the channel surfing that gets to me the most; that constant dial twisting intermittent changing of stations. We hear parts of several songs, beginnings, middles, and ends, in no particular order. My boy constantly spins that dial or punches the presets, ad nauseam. While all of this is happening, my blood pressure spikes and that little voice in my head screams, “It’s gonna blow, it’s gonna blow! Stand clear of the arteries!” Nobody wants to have a stroke at highway speed, least of all me.

“Leave it on one station, will ya!” I plead.

“But, GEEEEZ  da-a-a-a-d! All of these songs suck!”

Our eyes meet and the stare down we initiate is more perplexing and wilder than anything you’ve ever seen on a WWE or WWF Smack Down or on UFC 999, for that matter. Bingo. The radio is turned off and it will stay off!

Listening to a science program recently I discovered that some of MY problem is scientifically explained. In fact, as we age the problem I’m describing is a common one.

Here is an explanation for my behavior.

As we age our brains have been thoroughly programmed to “accept” certain patterns of music and reject anything else that doesn’t fit into that pattern. In essence, music of certain types can annoy us, just as certain repetitious sounds are agitating. The New Music becomes just plain noise to we “geezers”, acting as an irritant that can drive a person over the edge.

We use our entire brain to listen to and appreciate music. There is no particular music center. In fact, our brain constantly tries to predict where a tune is heading, based on a lot of existing patterns. If our brain’s prediction is confirmed, we like the music; if not, we don’t. My brain doesn’t predict: “Boom-da, boom-da, boom-da-boomba-BOOM!” nor does it expect 60 or more “Halos” in a repetitious row. Indeed, there’s nothing I hear from “The Boy’s” playlist that’s anywhere near to my experience, hence my developing psychosis.

But there is hope. There may, in fact, be a light at the end of this tunnel. Thirty-two year old son, Matt, now listens to country music: he of the death metal/ gangster rap teenage years. The lad has come full circle.

Until that time, I’m sure I’ll be playing tag with the volume dial, taking part in stare downs and taking my blood pressure medicine in multiple doses. It’s either that or I’ll surely be presented with my very own personal, “Halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, halo, h-ay-ay-ay-yay-lo, halo!”, a lot sooner than I ever expected.

On second thought, Grumpy will probably get horns and a coal shovel.

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