Life’s Little (ow!) Lessons

My observations about the “Avengers” movie will be up soon. I know that on my way out of the theater a week or so ago, I sent a Tweet that promised some comments about the flick that very night. My apologies. There were Mitigating Circumstances. And by Mitigating Circumstances I mean “I did something really heroically stupid.”

My old car still has a lot of good miles left in it, so it’s probably going to be a year or two until I have a car stereo with integrated Bluetooth or iPhone support. Until then, yes, my iPhone connects via a cassette adapter. On that day, circa 3:30 PM, the three-year-old adapter became worn enough that it kept tripping the deck’s autoreverse feature.

I was listening to an episode of the superb “Answer Me This” podcast. Olly would start to say something interesting and funny, but the tape deck would clear its throat and interrupt:


Then, having said its piece — five seconds of silence — it cleared its throat again and I heard Helen say something about how interesting and absurd Olly’s comment was.

I find that the single most annoying behavior of badly-designed technology is when it has an automatic feature that can’t be disabled…and it keeps making the wrong decisions. If this sort of thing happens enough times during a short enough span of time, I Will Get Cross.

At first, I attempted to reason with the device.

“All you have to do is nothing,” I said to the center console, clearly and calmly. “If you do nothing and just trust me, the human, to choose what side of the ‘tape’ to play, I will have zero complaints about your performance. All I want you to do is never make a decision on your own.

(You’ve had co-workers like that, right?)

I don’t want you to think I just went hysterical with rage after this sensible tactic unexpectedly failed. During an extended period of no-podcast-hearing, I had what was a perfectly calm and rational thought: maybe if I thumped the top of the dashboard with my fist, it’d bounce the mechanism a little and make everything work. Okay, that was only slightly less unlikely to work than my little heart-to-heart talk with an inanimate object. But I knew that it’d make me feel 3% less frustrated, and the dash has thick padding, so what could it hurt?

Shrewd logic, Ihnatko. But I missed my target and hit the edge of the dash, which is the same color as the rest but is actually a frame made from hard plastic.

OW. I bet if I really had lost my temper and tried to hit it hard, I’d have broken something. As it was, my hand was sore enough that by the time I got back home after the movie, it hurt to close and open my fingers. I had to use my iPad’s speech-to-text feature to reach my writing goal for the day.

All the while, though, I was thinking one thing:

“This pain you’re experiencing? Purely voluntary. If you’d just taken a moment to reflect on just how stupid it was to whack the dashboard, you’d be typing with two hands right now.”

Oh, no worries: my hand felt much better the next morning. I decided to take a break from writing that weekend and I’m happy to say that the only lingering effect of the injury was being put a couple of days behind schedule.

Hopefully, I’ll take away a lesson from this. This world is a vale of tears and mankind is born to trouble just as certain as sparks fly upward. The good news and bad news is that some of our physical and emotional pain is self-inflicted. Not all…but some. The trick, when an option is presented, is to choose not to suffer.

10 thoughts on “Life’s Little (ow!) Lessons

  1. A Mitchell


    If you had only chosen to do NOTHING…you wouldn’t have hurt your hand….

    (PS) Try a Qtip with some alcohol to clean the magnetic head of the casette adapter, this might help…

    (PSS) At least the airbags didn’t go off… :)

  2. Kurt Tappe

    Ewwww, a cassette adapter. I know others have had trouble with them but I love my FM tuner. I plug my iPhone into it and not only listen for hours (on 88.3 in Philly, your mileage may vary) but it charges the iPhone too. If you’re keeping your car a few more years, lose the cassette and enjoy the FM.

  3. GadgetGav

    Sometimes jamming another tape in on top helps (or at least that my recollection of those things). Do you still have any cassettes other than the adapter?

  4. Maury Estabrooks

    Spoken like a true owner of a Ford Taurus. Pronounced, tore ass. Same thing happened to my ’95. Gave up and moved to a portable speaker.

  5. JKritner

    If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try disassembling the tape adapter. They are VERY simple inside. All you’ll find is the metal-bit that actually transfers the audio, and a gear assembly. The gear assembly is the tech equivalent of an appendix; useless until it fouls up and requires surgical removal. You can safely remove the gears and reassemble the adapter. The auto-reverse problem should disappear.

  6. Jared

    1. Find an aftermarket single DIN kit for the Taurus (try Crutchfield).
    2. Get an Oxygen Audio O’Car head unit. A little spendy but worth it.

    Only catch is, you might want to wait after the iPhone5 ships to get the revised I/O dock connection.

  7. Tim H.

    A mid 90s Taurus? The adapter costs more than a lot of head units, I understand the radio design was Ford’s special way of expressing their opinion of aftermarket radios. If you have unused FM in Boston, the FM adapters are useful, though in the K.C. area, I have to switch frequencies more often than I’d like.

  8. Steve Russell

    I am thinking that the ROI for that stereo, when compard to two days of lost productivity is now easily justifiable.

  9. Tony Taylor

    My FM transmitter works great but UK looses analogue in 2016 so don’t know what happens after that. I’ve seen Bluetooth adapters that output FM so they would be a great way to cater for Android IPhone 5.

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