I spend a lot of time in the car. As a freelance interpreter and former home health SLP (I run my own practice now), my car serves as my unofficial office. I spent a good deal more time in it pre-pandemic than I do currently, of course, but I still have to go out and about on a regular basis, and have throughout the past year.

I’ve been driving my car for 14 years now, and plan to keep driving it as long as it lets me. It came with the basic setup, a non-upgraded factory stereo which has served me well for many years. When I got it, radios were simply AM/FM receivers with a CD player (and tape decks before them). It also included an advanced setup in the form of an auxiliary port, which I made judicious use of once I had an iPod to plug in. This eventually lead to using my phone, and once I wore out a series of 3 or 4 3.5mm audio cables, I splurged and got a simple USB-powered Bluetooth dongle which plugged directly into the aux port.

A couple years ago, the CD player stopped working and had a harder and harder time recognizing discs, and even ejecting them. I rarely listened to CDs at that point, so I kept going with my Bluetooth dongle and it was no problem. A months ago, the aux port finally stopped working, and no amount of vacuuming, dusting, or trying to clean the area would let it start working again. The contacts had finally worn out. My only option left was radio.

Radio was fine, for a short. I thought I could ask some savvy friends who could help fix the stereo with cleaning. When that didn’t work, I thought about trying to replace the part directly. A new aux port in this specific model would cost almost as much as a new head unit, and I haven’t had good luck with local dealerships being clear about the process for repair.

While investigating, I’ve kept listening to radio, since it’s all I have for music in the car. The driving I do have to do, in the meantime, has become progressively more of a chore because I’m at the mercy of whatever the radio decides to play. Which, invariably, is the same things over and over and over again.

It’s been illuminating to discover just how much enjoyment I get from something as simple as being able to listen to what I want when I drive. No advertisements, whole albums at a time or else playlists I create myself, and podcasts, which I also choose for myself to listen to. Without those options, radio leaves me with multiple stations which often play a rotation of the same songs, plenty of commercials, and plenty of advertisements. I can also choose to listen to nothing, which I do as well, but for a music and long-time fan of podcasts, I’ve definitely felt a bit off when going about my day to day life.

Today, I’m changing that. I’ve found a decent head unit to replace the factory one. It’s delightfully analog: it has physical buttons and knobs, and a simple digital display. It doesn’t have a CD player, which is fine since that means no moving parts to worry about. It has an aux port and a USB port if I need, and it has Bluetooth built-in. It doesn’t have a giant screen, it does’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It’s simple and functional, and I’ve spent the last two weeks excitedly looking forward to today, since I had to wait for an available appointment time to have it installed.

It’s a little thing, but I’m so excited to be able to back this little piece of enjoyment again.