Monday, June 2, 2008

NPR vs. Pop Hits: Defining the Day at Drive Time

So, each morning I haul my gear to my trusty MINI Cooper: carefully organized briefcase, purse with cell phone, lunch bag (or if I am feeling particularly flush, a few bills tucked into my side pocket), tumbler with my current Starbucks fave blend (which right now is the bold flavor of Komodo Dragon), security badge … and off I head for the 35-40 minute commute into the city.

In the course of this early AM daily grind, two decisions are made to which I am paying more and more attention as these two decisions seem to predict the day that follows.

First decision: how to get to work?

Am I in the mood to get there quickly – eschewing scenery and willing, even, to spend a few additional, treasured drips of petrol for the faster route? Well then, it's 94 straight up to Interstate 70 and into the heart of the city for me.

OR do I want the moderate route, but shorter mileage? Do I feel okay with starts and stops and patient enough to wait through traffic lights? Well then, Page extension across to 1-70 and into the city via 40 – complete with the beautiful view of morning sun cresting the trees along the edge of Forest Park.

But perhaps, I am looking for the "total experience" – in which case, take the above route, but exit at Kingshighway and wind down Shaw towards my South City destination – taking in the stately townhouses lining the outer limits of the Botanical Gardens, admiring the commitment of the early morning joggers and taking stock of the neighborhood, wondering what it would be like to live “in the city” in a place like this.

Each route is different and my willingness to select it seems to say something about my frame of mind as I begin the day. It’s a simple choice – but a telling one.

Second decision: what to listen to?

Most people don't know this about me, but I actually dislike being asked about my “favorite” music – or really my favorite anything for that matter. It all depends! Most mornings, it’s NPR. I like listening to NPR. Like most Americans who enjoy the programming, I enjoy being informed, but - again like most Americans who tune in - I secretly like to feel smart. And NPR is smart radio. So on many mornings, it's Steve Inskeep for me … news with Carl Kassel … etc.

Other mornings, it’s NPR at the top of the hour for the news from Washington and then it’s a mad channel surf through pop radio – with the top 40 turned up loud and vibrant. And let me tell you, I've given some fantastic pop performances behind the wheel of that MINI!

And sometimes it’s a favorite CD, carefully and deliberately selected before I leave the house – Josh Groban or Amy Grant or Harry Connick or Preservation Hall jazz or … And there’s doubtless a method to the madness of these choices as well.

And some days. There is just. Silence.

I can’t help but notice how these two seemingly innocuous, routine decisions have a fortune cookie like prescience about how the day unfolds. I’m left wondering, could I make a different, deliberate choice to force the day? Let’s say I am feeling stodgy and direct (natural choices would be NPR and the direct route to the office), could I force upbeat and whimsical (electing for let’s say an old CD from the 1990s and the Shaw Blvd drive)?

I don’t think it would work.

Maybe it all means relatively little. But it’s been an intriguing pattern to “just notice” … and I doubt I am alone. Basic choices influencing basic attitudes. Not necessarily a “new” concept here, but fun to consider.

Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if I rode my bike and listened to folk tunes?


CStaude said...

If you tried the bike/folk tune option you'd end up retrograding into a "Woodstock-lookin' tree hugger earth momma"(oh wait, that would be me!!!) Ha! Loved this post! What fun! I am currently listening to my "Italy Mix" (including Dean Martin!?!) to get psyched for all the packing I have to do today and tomorrow! Ciao,bella!

Chelsea & Nick said...

I drive a MINI too!! I love it! How does that work out with a baby?

+gmjameson said...

Not too bad, actually! I am really nervous with her on the highway - but most of the time when I have Syd in the car I am in town ... my nephews who are 6 and 2 LOVE the MINI!

What color is yours? Mine is Chili red with white stripes! Too fun!

Katrina said...

I never thought about radio choice in such a way! I just notice that my tastes have changed as I get older. I prefer talk radio or country music. I don't listen to pop/alternative anymore. Crazy!! I must be getting old!! By the by, I lOVED mom's photos of your cute bugaboo on her blog! Too sweet! She looks JUST like you!

Chelsea & Nick said...

Mine is Hyper Blue. I have great news for you that might ease your highway fears. A few days before Christmas I was in a pretty bad accident in the MINI. A guy was driving the wrong way and hit me head on at about 20 mph. He was driving a Chevy Cavalier which got totalled- his air bags deployed, everything. The MINI was hardly damaged. The right front was dented and the headlight broke, but no major damage and the airbag firm believer in the safety of MINIs now.

Chelsea & Nick said...

and the air bag [did not deploy]