My car is a ~10 year old Nissan, which as such has limited bluetooth\hands free features. As it came, I only had hands free phone, so when I got the car, I found a way to hack in a little module so I can stream music through its auxiliary audio input. I somewhat recently installed a unit which had improved sound (even I can only handle so much background EEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR static). Unfortunately in the past month or so, I’ve noticed that after around 20-30 minutes (roughly my commute), the audio starts cutting in and out. It doesn’t cut out completely, just randomly loses bits and pieces of audio. If you’re listening to an audiobook, or whatever, it’s the equivalent to a CD having a nice scratch, causing maddening bleeps, sweeps, and creeps.
Normally, I’d find my blood pressure rising when this happens. Back when I had a CD player in the car and was working off CD’s that may or may not have been previously owned by my brother (notorious for somehow making a brand new CD looking like it was attacked by 40 grit), I would just…..dispose of the CD as soon as it began skipping. Amazing how a CD can become a relatively quality frisbee when given enough flick. In my current situation, if I began ripping out the unit, surely I’d cause far more harm than good. You’re likely thinking, why not just replace the piece? Well, for awhile I thought it was an aging phone, or a number of other reasons. So I figured why spend the 9$ on the replacement electro-gizmo. After deducing the root cause, I finally decided to cough up the money, but well shipping and all that has me dealing with the issue at hand.
Now the above isn’t really what is the beauty in this. When the skipping starts, I do the simplest and smartest thing. I turn it off. And on days like today, where its relatively calm, the roads and surrounding land is coated in snow, and like today, its -7° out, I find it incredibly quiet and calming. With all the electronic audio removed, I can hear the tires of my car as the connect to the pavement. I can hear the syncro’s in the transmission of the car spool up as I change gears. I hear the throwout bearing in the clutch whirr ever so slightly as the clutch is pressed in. I feel just a bit more feedback in the steering wheel, or bumps in my seat. I notice the surroundings around me a tiny bit more. And this morning, it had me reminded of a couple things; my old E30 BMW and the feeling of being on my motorcycle.
The old BMW may not make sense, until I explain here that for I’d guess around 6 months of owning the car, I had no stereo in it at all. I’m pretty sure that when I had bought the car I still even had a flip phone and had no clue what T9 Text messaging was. Amusingly if you saw me driving at that time, you’d probably have thought I was either on the phone, singing along to some music, or if neither of those…..rambling to myself. I can assure you it was the last of these. I figured at the time that if I had no audio, I would have discussions with myself. I really wish I had something to record these talks, but sadly they are as gone as that old BMW is.
Which leads to the more here and now, and subsequently my obsession with motorcycles. I never dwelled on this in the past, but as life has more things piled into it, I’ve better understood how being on the motorcycle allows my mind peace. It’s not even so much the act of riding, so much as it is the reality that when I’m on the bike, whether commuting, racing, or whatever, I need to focus my attention solely on the task at hand. There is so much more going on and unlike a car where you can slightly drift off here and there, if you do this on a bike you are surely setting yourself up for trouble. If you’ve ever commuted on a motorcycle, you understand that people just don’t see you and no amount of blaze orange riding gear (or even motorcycle) will show your presence to others. Not only poor drivers you need to think about, but also those 4 legged furry critters. They’ve got their own agendas (albeit simplistic), but they’re a constant presence on the mind. Now put the motorcycle in a race situation and my brain has to go into full on focused mode. I simply can not think about anything else beyond what I’m doing, or well, I’ll quickly find myself either slowing to a snails pace, or find myself taking a dirt nap.
Which all this has me thinking about how last year a buddy of mine gifted me a really nice bluetooth audio headset for my helmet. Much of last years commuting (and some trail riding in the y00per), I experimented a bit with having some background music. I will note that the headset also allowed the very handy way to keep myself relatively easy to reach for the Mrs in case something came up at home (I thank her for using the utmost discretion on contacting me when she knows I am on the bike). That aside, this past year I had experimented with having background tunes. I ride with ear plugs as it is (hey I like my hearing….), so kept the music at a relatively low volume (below tire\engine noise). This morning had me thinking, I took time to experiment with listening to music, this next year it’s time to go back to riding without the digital distraction.
I understand that in how our lives are right now, it’s almost impossible to fully escape being tuned into something digital on a daily basis. We’ve got almost constant instant access to the internet and friends\family\etc all that our fingertips. Even in the most remote areas, we’re still somewhat connected and can get away with never needing a paper map, or well even the slightest bit of common sense to sort out where we’re going or what we’re doing. So my goal here is to attempt to cut back. I’ll start off simple with no audio while riding. Maybe I’ll add in cutting out the GPS? Maybe actually require myself to have a map on hand, or try to keep better sense of direction. My gut tells me that cutting out these digital distractions will only better my life. We’ll have to wait and see.