Under ideal conditions, a ride from Winnipeg to Calgary takes around 14 hours of driving time, but during one drive, despite great road conditions, those 14 hours felt like several years.
It happened many years ago when I was still living in Manitoba. I needed a ride to Calgary and someone I knew was going in that direction. We made the decision to drive together.
We left Winnipeg early that morning and he put in a cassette tape for our listening pleasure. It was a mellow collection of instrumental Hawaiian hymns – quite different from the alternative rock I preferred at that time.
At first, the music created a soothing, calming atmosphere, but that didn’t last long. The cassette deck in the car had auto-reverse and the 10 songs on the 40-minute cassette kept repeating… and repeating… and repeating.
This was the only cassette in the car.
Did you know a 40-minute cassette can play 21 times during a 14-hour car ride?
My issue wasn’t with the style of music. I’m fine with most sounds.
Instead, the music quickly became monotonous. This would have been just as true if the music had been the best of Queen, big band classics, Abba’s greatest hits or anything else. The same 10 songs, playing over and over, will soon become stale.
Since it wasn’t my car, I didn’t feel it was my place to complain about the music. It was his car, his rules and his tunes. We ended up having a lot of conversations along the route as a distraction from the music.
In the end, it was a good drive, despite the soundtrack. We both got to where we were going. And that was the last I heard of that tape.
Looking back on that trip now, I’m glad we had that tape – even if it got a bit repetitive. There are worse sounds.
I’d rather listen to instrumental hymns played on the ukulele and the steel guitar than to a rude comedian known for biting insults or off-colour humour.
More importantly, I’d rather listen to the hymns than to angry right-wing or left-wing rants, whether from talk radio hosts and callers or from the driver. The tone of those rants will affect the listeners.
There’s a story I heard not too long ago about a man who took a new job more than an hour’s drive from his home. Instead of listening to the local oldies station, he tuned his radio to a politically-themed call-in show. Each day, the host and the callers expressed their outrage over the latest news and current events. Within a year, this man was bitter about the state of current affairs.
Once, he had been known as a kind, compassionate man, moderate and even-tempered. Now his family members felt uneasy joining him for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.
Someone I know also took on the same angry tone after being around people who were in a perpetual state of outrage. This transformation occurred in just a few months. Someone who once had no strong opinions on politics or ideology now speaks often about his anger at the federal government.
The sounds around me will affect my own thoughts and attitudes.
If I don’t want to sound like an angry old man, bitter about the direction of the world, then I also need to ensure I’m not devoting a lot of time listening to such people.
My friend, with his collection of instrumental Hawaiian hymns, was setting a different tone for his mind. I think he might be on to something.
But I’m not planning to seek out a copy of that cassette.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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