We bought a new car recently.  Which means my wife got the new car and I’m driving her previous car.  It’s not a bad deal, to be honest.  The car’s smaller, which given my commute is actually really nice.  The gas tank’s smaller so I have to fill up more often, but the amount I’m spending on gas is a bit less.  Far cry from going gasoline-less but it’s a start?

But I digress.  One downside to her car is that her AUX Input jack is damaged.  It’s the little port in the dashboard that looks like a headphone jack.  The entire jack is broken and because the stereo is factory-standard, it’s not something that can be repaired with any ease.  I need to get a whole new stereo.  Cool, no problem.

There’s a sound system place not far from me.  I call and ask how long it will take.  ‘Not long’, they tell me.  ‘Maybe an hour’.  Cool, no problem.  They start asking me about what kind of stereo I want.  What features?  Blu-tooth connection?  Rearview camera?  DVD player?  Satellite?  3D?  N64-compatible?  Nope, none of that.  I’m a simple man (meaning an idiot).  I just want a working AUX Input and the radio.  I don’t even care about a CD player.  I just want my MP3 player and NPR on the radio.  Anything else is excessive.  Cool, no problem.  They start telling me about their bargain-basement, no-frills stereo.  They sound perfect.  Cool, no problem.  They tell me how much they’ll cost.


Now look, I don’t mind paying for craftsmanship and work, I don’t mind paying for quality and peace-of-mind, but when we start talking about mid-three digits for a radio with an absolute 1/100th of the features of my phone which cost twenty bucks, we have a king sized hell no.

I look online for stereos.  Lo and behold, I find car stereos for $20.  Cool.  They’ve got more features than I need or even desire, but that’s fine.  I look up videos on how to replace a car stereo in my model of car.  None of them are longer than five minutes, and involve no tools more complicated than a pair of pliers.  Cool, no problem.  I can do this myself.

I order the stereo and it arrives in days.  I’m actually kind of excited.  I’m not a handiman at all, but the occasional challenge that I think will be well within my abilities is intriguing.  So that morning, I take my stereo and I go start to replace it.  I manage the dashboard of my car, no problem.  I have a little bit of trouble getting the old stereo out but I manage without too much time wasted.  I start to install the new stereo when I notice the hole for the stereo is a lot bigger than it should be.  I hold the two stereos next to each other.

___________________________                                                   _____________________
|                                               |                                               |                                     |
|                                               |                                               |       New Stereo         |
|               Old Stereo             |                                               |_____________________|
|                                               |
|                                               |
|__________________________ |


So turns out there’s this thing called a DIN rating.  It stands for Deutsches Institut fur Normung (or German Institute for Standardization).  Basically, it’s a (seemingly arbitrary) measurement for which all car stereos have to abide by.  Stereos come in Single DIN or Double DIN.  Based on the visual aid above, I suspect you can see the problem (unless you’re reading this entry on your phone, in which case I bet the formatting’s all gone to hell).

So I return the stereo and order a new one.  I’m still waiting on it to arrive.  I expect it will fit.  And if it doesn’t, I imagine you’ll be able to hear the tantrum I throw from wherever you live.

In the meantime, I did not reinstall my old stereo because I’m lazy.  I opted to just leave a gapping hole in the middle of my car.  I’m hoping that when the new stereo comes in, I’ll be able to install it in minutes and be good to go.  But in the meantime, I’m strangely happier.

I’ve noticed that without a car stereo, I don’t know what time it is when I’m driving.  Unless I look at my phone, which I would NEVER do while driving, I can only guess.  And without music or news, I’m focused solely on traffic, my thoughts, or the general view around me (often in that order).  And you know what?  It’s been pretty great.

I’ve lucked into some smooth drives thus far, which I’m sure has helped my mood, but I’ve noticed that without a clock to constantly remind me of the time, I feel less pressure to get somewhere.  Get to work.  Get home.  Get in and out of the store.  I just drive and focus on the drive.

There’s a serenity to life without a clock that I really didn’t expect and really can’t describe.  Bereft of the constant reminder of how our lives is compartmentalized into slivers of time, whole stretches of living become uninterrupted.

This prompted me to look up studies on circadian rhythm, time perception, mindfulness, other matters.  Malcolm McDowell said in Star Trek Generations that “Time is the real enemy”.  I wonder how much of the stress and strain of our life is the result of a clock who silently ticks away, marking for all to see just how much of our existence has been spent and remains to be spent.

Published by Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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