OK, I need you to tell me if I was wrong.
(Note: I was not. I have never been so right.)
Last week we took a trip to Colorado for a wedding. We landed at the Denver airport, which was under construction. Under the "Lousy First Impression Act" of 1977, all airports must be permanently under construction.
We drove to the destination in a rental vehicle, with other family members. This gave us ample time to admire the beauty of the scenery, since the highway in the middle of nowhere backed up like a snake force-fed a dozen tennis balls.
Three hours to go 100 miles. I think people in Denver leave town for the ski resorts in July, because by the time they arrive there'll be a good snowpack for downhill jaunts.
The wedding was in Breckenridge, a lovely little town. There were many meals. There was the pre-wedding gathering, with chicken. The post-wedding reception, with chicken. The evening dinner, chicken. And then the breakfast the next morning. I expected someone to drop by the hotel when we were checking out and give us a whole chicken and a quart of potato salad, with the promise they'd mail an additional chicken in a few days.
Sunday morning brought the long journey home. The shuttle driver picked us up at the appointed time and pointed to a row of seats in the back of a small vehicle. Now, I'm not claustrophobic, but this —
Hold on. I am claustrophobic. Well, nothing to be done about it.
Five minutes into the journey, something happened. Something horrible.
The driver turned on his music playlist.
The first song was "White Rabbit," by Jefferson Airplane, which is rock's answer to "Bolero." This is one of many songs I need never hear again for the rest of my life.
When I worked at a pub in Dinkytown in college, "White Rabbit" was on the jukebox. Sadly, it was favored by a 19-year-old who was going through the "I should have been in college in the '60s! I totally would have been protesting!" phase. The song lasts about two hours, I think.
And the volume was not low. It was loud. As in, no point in trying to read your novel about ancient Rome, because "wastin' away again in Margaritaville" will probably take you out of the period, unless you're reading about Cicero's exile. Loud, as in no nap. Loud, as in there is nothing you can think about except this song, and how it is not over.
The next song was (insert name of song here. You know, that one song everyone who's 10 years older than you thinks is absolutely awesome and the height of the songwriter's art, and you think it's OK, but nothing you'd want to hear twice, but man, this guy just keeps going on and on about it, and whenever it comes on he makes everyone stop talking and listen for this one part, and he mimes the drums and scrunches up his face like he just got bit by an adder in a private area, and everyone waits for the song to be over so they can talk again). You know, that one.
It was followed by "Margaritaville." Another song I have heard enough. Perhaps if I hear it for the 5,353rd time he will find his lost salt shaker. For now, I'm willing to take up a collection to buy him a new one, if he'll just shut up.
A pattern was emerging here: Our driver was suffering from boomer nostalgia. The chances of hearing "American Pie," the length of which makes "White Rabbit" look like "shave and a haircut, two bits" were high.
We were going to have to listen to this stuff for three hours.
We had one more stop to pick up more passengers. When the door was open, I asked the driver if he could maybe turn it down a bit? The other passengers did not offer a dissenting view, and I detected gratitude from a few.
The driver said nothing. He got in the vehicle, and turned the music off. Not down, but off.
The sudden silence seemed like a rebuke. Was he mad? Was he going to be fuming all the way up and down the treacherous switchbacks, then blast through the guardrails at 75 miles per hour and yell, "Nobody scream now, it'll annoy Mr. Tender Ears in Row 3. Anyway, you heard about the day the music died, well, here she is!"
So was I wrong? After all, whoever is driving gets to choose the radio station, right?
No. As I see it, with my long-established ability to justify self-interest by clothing it in altruism, you ought not to require paying customers trapped in your vehicle to listen to your music. After all, the pilot of a transatlantic flight does not pump up the polka after wheels up.
If he does, I think that's the one FAA exemption where you are allowed to breach the cockpit.
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