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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Putting Up With Static!

© Another Day in the Country

I am a fan of public radio. KQED is my favorite station, coming across the prairie from Wichita to enliven and inform my days. There is no radio in my house, only in my car, so the only times I listen are when I’m going somewhere.

Sometimes I get so enthralled, so intrigued, so fascinated by what I hear on the radio that I sit in my own car, in my own driveway, listening to the end of a show. PBS is a link with sanity, for me, in a rather topsy-turvey, drama-oriented environment.

There is a problem, however, as I drive along listening contently to news of the wider world, and that obstacle is hills.

By the time radio waves from Wichita waft northward beyond Ramona, they can be stopped short or misdirected by the curve of the land. Sometimes it even feels like the wind can blow radio waves off course, and suddenly a stronger station elbows my favorite out of the way and starts talking to me in Spanish.

Yes, that happens. The radio waves I so love to listen to are also nudged aside on occasion by another public radio station that plays only classical music. I may be listening to a favorite program of mine, “All Things Considered,” and quite literally, out of the blue, I’m listening instead to Bach.

There doesn’t seem to be a thing I can do about it except drive on, and pretty soon we’re in a more receptive area. My programming of choice regains its foothold on the airwaves and I can smile!

This also happens, I might add, with cell phone reception. Ramona is short on reception of all kinds, and it’s a great day when my phone has two bars smiling on its face.

As I make the drive to Salina, there’s a hilly spate of road that we call “the boonies” where any cell phone call will be disconnected.

My daughter inevitably calls on this stretch of highway.

I just say, “Honey, I have to warn you that if you lose us it’s because we’re in the boonies.”

Inevitably, disconnection occurs.

The same thing happens on the radio. I know this is caused because the radio signal is not as strong as most of its neighbors on the dial, but that doesn’t make it any easier to lose the connection. And, it happens at the most inopportune times.

I’m driving along listening to the news, “There is devastation in the area…” crackle, hiss, static. I lean toward the radio, “…people are overcome by what they see…” crackle, static, hisssss, and I’m going “Where is this happening?” Another voice continues, “we’ve had to evacuate the schools…” crackle, hissssss, as I bend nearer the radio, turning up the volume, hoping to hear something behind the static. Then a voice says the words “in the province…” and I figure out that this is the forest fire that has been raging in the area around Fort McMurry in Canada.

As salsa music comes blaring through between the break-up of sound waves, I find myself slightly relieved that this devastating fire is not happening in Marion County where I live, or even in California where my loved ones live, and I drive on toward my destination imagining what it would be like to have your home totally destroyed. Fire has invaded the edges of the Napa Valley on a few occasions and it is no fun.

My quest for learning is often interrupted on my radio to the point where it gets humorous. The breaks in radio-wave continuity that drive me crazy are when someone is being interviewed on a talk show and the voice says, “The bottom line…..mosquitoes…” hiss, crackle, static, and I am doomed to never know the bottom line.

Or when talking to a cancer survivor, the person says, “What we discovered was ... healing….” static, hiss, crackle, and I’m yelling at the radio, “What? What did you discover? I need to know this information!” By the time the waves find me, they are on to another subject, until suddenly someone is advertising something in Spanish and I am still stuck understanding only one word out of twenty, “cinco….” Static, crackle, hiss.

Partial information is disconcerting, but sometimes, you’ll be surprised to hear, I don’t really care. “Forget about it,” I mumble, “I don’t care,” as the newscaster says, “The exit polls show…crackle, hiss, static….the political outcome…hisssssss,” and I just turn off the radio. There will be a whole lot more of this speculation, I’m sure, on another day in the country. I’ll just wait and hear about it later.

Last modified May 26, 2016

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