Saved by Suicidal Tendencies

>> Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I have a nemesis -- an archenemy, an antagonist in the story of my recent life.

It is our car stereo. I hate it and I’m pretty sure it hates me, too. We bought a new radio from Best Buy a couple of months ago when our old one stopped working. Every radio at the store looked the same -- the same size, the same type of buttons, the same blue or orange digital displays. None of them looked like our old one. Which is fine. I can adapt.


What the stereo did not include (but should have) was a degree in How To Work This Stereo from Pull Out Your Freakin’ Hair University. Let me put it this way: I shouldn’t have to consult the manual to turn the stereo off. You’d think “off” would be one of those primary, easily accessible functions of a car stereo, right up there with turning it up or down (which, by the way, doesn’t work as you’d expect, either). But there is no Off button, and the volume knob is temperamental at best.

To demonstrate, here’s an example of me trying to turn off the radio quickly when I needed to listen to something important like a police siren, potential vomiting in the back seat, or a little blonde girl bonking another blonde girl with her rubber lizard until she cried:


Stab, stab, stab at the stereo -- How do I turn this damned thing off?

Stab, turn, turn -- Where is the OFF button?!

I take my eyes off the road briefly (yes -- dangerous) and I see a teeny little button that says Mute. I push it hopefully, but it only turns the volume down by half instead of off -- Son of a bitch!

I try the volume knob, but for some reason the sound is not getting softer, it’s just moving, from the back of the car to the front of the car to the back. Apparently all my mad stabbing initiated the Front and Rear Volume controls -- Bastard!

Ding! Ding! Ding!

I take a deep breath, return to my corner, and give the stereo a chance to wake up, have a smoke, take a leak -- whatever it needs to do to pull itself together. Then I carefully turn the volume knob again, but not too fast because when I turn it too fast, the radio doesn’t respond at all -- BECAUSE IT’S SUCH A HUGE LOSER!!!


If you think all the cursing occurs only in my head, you would be wrong.

(*sigh*) I liked my old stereo. It had big buttons. We were friends. Now when Michael is in the car, I try not to touch the new stereo at all. I don’t like being a technological dweeb, but there it is. I am with this thing. I don’t want to be the wife who has to call her husband just to operate the toaster. But this radio is just too complicated. I am certain I could design a better, more intuitive piece of equipment. In fact, I have a new rule: All machines that will be run by human beings must now be designed by women. There. I said it. Call me sexist. But please, Alpine, next time you design a car radio, call me! I’m here to help.

So the other night I’m alone in the car with the stereo. By now I’ve learned to limit our interactions, but I wanted to listen to a specific radio station. I know -- crazy. Why couldn’t I leave well enough alone? I managed to turn on the radio, but couldn’t find my station. Somehow the buttons went into scan mode (usually they don’t -- you’ll have to trust me on that) and I could not figure out a way to fine-tune the radio a few points here or there to get my station. Instead I got the static-y Mexican station on one side and the country heart-break songs on the other, which is frustrating because I wanted to rock!

As is my way, I pressed and clicked and stabbed and turned, my anger escalating with my blood pressure, until I’d had enough. Fuck it! I tried to turn off the radio angrily by stabbing at yet another random button, which is the electronic equivalent of walking out of a room and slamming the door. Only, I could not turn it off because, as you may recall, there is no OFF button!

“I hate this Goddamned THING!” I screamed.

There was only one thing left for me to do: press the miniature Source button until the iPod turned on -- which was totally unsatisfying! What I needed to do, what I craved, was to take baseball bat to it a la the scene in Office Space where the disgruntled coworker reduces the company copier to bits. But I couldn’t do that because that would be “crazy,” right? After all, it’s just a machine and it’s illogical to hate machines. Right?!

I pushed Source, resenting it as I did so. I think I made a face. There was a moment of silence while the stereo got its shit together. And then there was music, wonderful music -- saving music. I heard these lyrics:

Sometimes I try to do things
And it just doesn't work out the way I want it to.
And I get real frustrated.
It's like, I try hard to do it
And I take my time 
But it just doesn't work out the way I want it to.
It's like I concentrate on it real hard,
But it just doesn't work out.
And everything I do and everything I try,
It never turns out!

It was absolutely perfect. Magical. This song spoke my thoughts and made me smile. Thanks, Universe, for playing Institutionalized, by Suicidal Tendencies -- and for reminding me that I'm not alone and that I seriously need to lighten up. It was exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it.

It’s amazing how some skate-punk band from the eighties can bring so much happiness to a 37 year old married mother of two in the suburbs. These words (from one of my favorite songs) spoke to me directly, washing away my anger and frustration as any great punk song can do. If you ever thought punk music was about fueling anger, you’d be wrong (well, mostly). It’s about relieving it.

Here’s the rest of it when you have time.

I like the chorus where he sing/screams:

I'm not crazy! (Institution!)
You're the one who's crazy! (Institution!)
You're driving me crazy! (Institution!)

Ahh. There's really nothing much more satisfying then loudly declaring you're not insane while driving down the road. Very therapeutic. Seriously, you should try it sometime.

God bless you, Mike Muir. And if you ever make your way to San Diego, stop by for a Pepsi.


Lunasea April 8, 2008 at 5:05 PM  

OMG! We just got a new car stereo, too, and the thing is possessed! I read the manual all the way through (the English section, anyway - the real instructions are probably in the Spanish part) and still don't know how to get it to display the clock.

Ours has a detachable face and we leave it on, hoping someone will steal it.

Don Mills Diva April 10, 2008 at 6:44 AM  

Love this post! I feel this way about most of the tv/ stereo related stuff in our house. Hubby is a sound tehcnician so everything is veeeery complicated - drives me batty!

I love your writing - just added you to my feeder!

troubled teen April 10, 2008 at 9:03 PM  

is that really true ? car stereo does that ? its scares

Michele April 11, 2008 at 9:31 AM  

OMG, I feel the exact same way about our stupid television system at home. There are four remotes and whichever one I happened to have in my hand at the time is the wrong one. It's so darn annoying. I can't tell you how many times I've had to call my husband at work just to ask how to turn on the stupid DVD player so Zoe can watch Little People. It sucks.

Post a Comment