Free Radio . . . How Much Longer?

When we bought our hybrid car last January (2007), it came equipped with a digital radio and a global positioning system to help (me) get around without getting lost. It also has a digital radio and there’s this nice lady, who apparently lives inside the car’s dashboard, always there waiting to switch radio channels for us, for awhile anyway! All we had to do was push a little button on the steering wheel and tell her what we wanted.

She even knew how to turn the air conditioner and heater on or off. Also, if we remembered to type out our planned destination onto the little keypad, this same little lady would interrupt whatever was playing on the radio to remind us when to turn left or right, and what exit to take. And if we asked nicely, she would tell us the restaurants in the vicinity that we could choose from as we traveled.

We got into the habit of listening to all kinds of new forums, but eventually habit set in and we started listening mostly to British broadcasts because they could be pretty interesting, and sometimes they featured talk programs from India. Well, this was all well and good while it lasted, until after about six months, when the XM people began to prod us to sign up for monthly service, something around $15 at the time. Of course they were always happy to extend our free service a few weeks longer, because that’s how you get new paying customers. Get them used to Bentleys and they’ll never want to go back to Chevrolets, right? 

By this time though a strange thing had happened.  Though my British accent was getting better every day, I began to miss my old friends on public radio. I rather liked and very much missed all of them: Terry Gross (Fresh Air), Garrison Keillor (Prairie Home Companion), Ira Glass (This American Life), and yes I even missed Tom & Ray Magliozzi (Car Talk), to name just a few. I could just go back to my old friends and other than occasional donations, I could listen to them for free. 

Then the nice XM people went down to less than $10 a month ($9.99). Now that’s not a whole lot to spend for access to worldwide radio, is it? Very tempting. But I got to thinking. Not that many years ago I could hardly wait to sign up for cable television. So many choices I thought. It’ll be great not to be subjected to constant re-runs and commercials! We could watch movies any night of the week if we wanted.

Well! We all know how that turned out. Instead of three networks, and a variety of programs to choose from, we now have hundreds of channels to choose from, and a stinking lot of same old, same old. If CBS has a hit sit com, it’ll soon be followed up by similar ones from NBC or ABC. If Fox has a hit reality show, it’ll be followed by the same on the other networks. All that for slightly less than $85 a month.

So for the time being I’m resisting signing on with the XM people, because I’m still not ready, NO! I just don’t want to pay for radio. I’m sorry if that sounds selfish of me, but my memory of how it was is just too fresh. I don’t want FREE radio to wind up like FREE television. Just a memory. 

In the meantime, that little lady in my radio? She’ll still guide us on our car travels, but she’s apparently still peeved at us about the XM thing. (She probably thinks we’re being cheap!) I don’t know if she can still turn the heat and air conditioning on or off since I found the button to push myself this winter. But tell her you want her to change the radio to a different number, she’ll repeat the wrong number back to you and do nothing. Either that, or she just ignores you. And all this time I thought we were such good friends. After all, we let her live in our dashboard rent free!

4 thoughts on “Free Radio . . . How Much Longer?

  1. Oh, how funny. I drive a 13 year old truck that never talked to me. Now it has a fancy new radio that still doesn’t talk to me. I’m so music deprived….tho I have lots of stations, we don’t get a good signal for NPR. Jazz, Country Western, and modern rock is me. I’m very deprived. Imagine having a voice in your dash. 🙂

  2. The last voice from the dashboard I heard kept telling us to turn right as we were driving north on the Outer Drive in Chicago. Poor thing didn’t know Lake Michigan was just beyond the edge of the road. Can’t always trust those voices.

  3. Thanks to both of you for commenting! And yes, Ruthe, we’ve learned that as well. Once we were detoured through all kinds of rubbishy looking places to get to our route #, when if we’d just paid attention to the road signs, we’d have made a much more direct route that made much more sense! Maybe our little lady got peeved much sooner than I noticed!

  4. doesn’t “radio” come to us over free airwaves? then why in his name would anyone want to pay for it? Also, if the radio waves have to come that far to get to me that i have to pay for them, then the information they are bringing me would probably be old news by then and why should i pay for it! i guess i am getting older! yuk.

    anyway, i too remember when cable TV was the answer to all our prayers – no commercials! yeah, right. thank God for DVRs – now i tape and zoom through all the garbage and find out who won Idol or Dancing with the Stars without having to sit through all the re-hashing and phoney guest stars! but i digress – keep the lady in your dashboard quiet – try shoving a cookie through the air vents!

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