Road Noise

Road Noise

Having left my home in Brooklyn, I am motoring north along Manhattan’s FDR Drive on my way upstate to Cherry Valley, NY. It’s a four hour journey from a restless city to a sleepy town that I may also one day call home. 

Home

At this point there are so many places I’ve called home that the word has lost any suggestion of  permanence that I may originally have attached to it. I now think that each has simply been a pause, a series of way stations between the first and the final. 

And while the great beyond may linger vast and empty on either end, in between there’s a lot of driving to be done and today is a driving day. 

In search of sound I toggle through the radio’s preset buttons with the foreknowledge that I haven’t preset any of them. It’s quite possible that they are random defaults from the dealership set back in 2013 when the car was new. There are 18 preset stations, none of which are worth settling into. 

Empty-handed my ear and I move on.

Hitting the radio’s SEEK button on the back side of the steering wheel I continue searching for something that will appeal to the moment. 

The stop and go of traffic is mimicked in this push button review of radio offerings but in this case there’s no end in sight as I cycle ‘round and ‘round the dial losing the promise of, or finally, any hope of a place to stay awhile.

There is nothing on. 
And you know what? 
There never is. 

It may be that the problem is New York radio. I don’t fault the medium or the market but somehow with over 200 stations in about 17 different languages it manages the neat trick of too many options with too few choices.

Or it may be ……………
That the problem …..
Is me ……………………….

Maybe I just don’t like driving to the all too familiar offerings of music, news and talk. Each in its way interferes with the pure, meditative experience of driving. 

And yet hope springs eternal that the ideal should manifest. 

By all rights the radio should be able to provide an audible veil to quiet the volatile mind. 

It is just another of life’s clever little ironies that the right sound is able to create its own kind of silence. 

However, the closest I will get to that immersive trance of listening today is the mixed medley of sound as I change stations without pause.

Sound en masse.

The radio doesn’t have good listening but the radio is good listening.

I often do this and find it makes an interesting auditory collage though the constant button pressing is bothersome. 

It makes me wonder why there isn’t a SEEK BUT DON’T STOP function on the radio. I believe it is a solid entertainment option and frankly I think it’s sound advice too; words to live by. I need to talk to Dodge about this obvious shortcoming in my vehicle.

I settle for a short while on a station bangin’ out some old time gospel, not only because it has a certain authentic sound appeal but equally because it is pleasantly rhythmic in a way that embraces the beat of my tires as they pulse over the expansion joints in the roadway.

But there’s only so much of that crap you can listen to so I start moving around the radio dial again and that is when I find a fellow saying “uh” every three seconds in a flat monotone, very much like a muffled mechanical process.

This would be the very same “uh” that acts as a placeholder in a sentence before the next clear thought gains traction.

Nothing else; no background of any kind that I could discern. Just “uh” followed by 3 seconds of dead silence. 

“I wonder where this is going” I think to myself. 

More compelling than the gospel music, it alternates with the dull percussion of the expansion joints  in a catchy syncopated rhythm.  

Both calming and disquieting; what could it mean? How had it come to be broadcast and how would it end? 

I’m hooked. 

The “uh”s continue across upper Manhattan; they continue across the George Washington Bridge; they continue through Fort Lee, NJ and onto Route 4. I listen through Teaneck and Paramus; Ho-Ho-Kus, Ramsey and Mahwah.

It was around Teaneck that I slowly become conscious of a heartbeat between the “uh”s. Had it been there the whole time and I’d simply missed it from road noise or was this an entirely new element? 

An “uh” following every heartbeat.
A heartbeat following every “uh”.

As if pausing…….to what…. reflect? 

Shall I commit to one more?

Why? 

To what end?

After about 40 minutes of listening I start losing the signal around mile 33 as I pass the Sloatsburg Service Area. It seems like the heartbeat is the first to fail. 

The “uh”s have become intermittent, arhythmic, the final echoes of a heart monitor, until finally it too is gone and I am left listening to the ssshhhh of smooth static.

I allow the radio to broadcast white noise for the next few minutes.

By mile 38 I have completely lost the signal but I continue to listen up until Harriman at about mile 44; just in case. 

I don’t want to move on. I don’t want to miss something that seems on the verge, on the very edge, of happening. 

I don’t know how it ends. 
I don’t know what it means. 
I have no answers; no explanation.
I have no guesses; educated or otherwise. 

I am left with nothing on the radio.
Which is how I started out. 

There was nothing. 
Then there was something.
Then there was nothing. 

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