The old order passeth

March 11, 2009

180px-akaufman11When Dan was fixing the Beetle the other day, he pulled out the radio in order to get a code he needed. Don’t ask. The point is that when he pulled the radio out it fell apart in his hands. Literally – the facing and one of the circuit boards actually crumbled into bits. Dan is getting me another one from the VW dealer, and it’s going to be cheap, because the radio is obsolete in the sense that it plays audio casettes. I couldn’t be happier, because the radio in Pat’s car plays only CDs, and I have scores of audio tapes – store-bought and bootlegged. Life passes us by in such a hurry these days. Audio tapes were an inovation an eyeblink ago, and now they’re obsolete. The same thing applies to that Beta video player/recorder under my desk and all the Beta tapes that are squirreled away in the garage and in the den. I have all the “Taxi” episodes on Beta tapes. Why did I bother, Latka? Who knew that those tapes would so soon go the way of the flour sifter? The Baltimore Sun reported today on a video rental store in town that has been in business for 20 years – imagine! – and still does a brisk VHS business. One of the reasons for its durability is that the store has a very large selection and stocks hard-to-get stuff such as the complete works of the Russian director Sergei Einstein. 

Dan is going to put the new radio in tomorrow. Where did I put those Jimmy Durante tapes?,0,6848231.story

whisperingSometimes those who tell us the truth don’t do us any favors. For example, I’d rather Dan hadn’t told me what was wrong with my car. The battery was dead when I tried to start the Beetle on a recent morning, but Dan couldn’t find anything wrong with the battery, the alternator, or anything else in the car. The car ran for a week or so, but after it stood idle in the garage for a few days, the battery was dead again. After a closer and more invasive inspection, Dan told me that the battery went dead because of a bad door latch on the driver’s side. Dan says there’s an electronic component in the door latch that “tells” the car when the door is closed. But that component is defunct, so that the car “thinks” the door is open all the time – so Dan says. If the car thinks the door is open, it doesn’t shut down some systems and lights that are shut down when the door is both closed and locked – in other words, in “sleep mode.” As a result, Dan says, these systems are out there in the garage or the driveway humming away as though it were normal business hours. They’re “talking to each other” – those were Dan’s words – and heaven only knows what they’re saying, particularly what they’re saying about me. What if one of those systems had the personality of HAL, the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey”? It might have decided that a driver too negligent to have a working door latch – and lock the door, for Pete’s sake – was incompetent to drive the machine. The systems that have been out there whispering in the night might have wound up, as the Scripture says, taking me where I did not choose to go.