Thursday, June 16, 2011

Obituary: The CD Player in My Car

The CD player in my car passed away last night. It was nine years old.

Born into a 2003 Saturn Ion in an automotive plant in Tennessee, the CD player seemed optimistic in a world full of MP3s. It was a proprietary in-dash unit, fused to a tape deck and a radio, and filled an enormous space underneath an awkwardly placed centered main console of the vehicle. It was ready to go.

The car it lived in was light blue and was purchased by an elderly couple for their granddaughter in early 2003. It was her graduation gift, though she was technically supposed to pay them back. Unfortunately, the pair passed away in 2006, but they willed the title of the car to her.

I first heard the CD player in 2005 as she pulled up to my house on one of our first dates. The CD player was happily cranking out a tune called “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” by the death metal band Meshuggah. I could hear it clearly even with all the windows closed, and instantly fell in love. She would become my future wife.

In early 2009, as we prepared for our wedding, my Ford Taurus began to fall apart in a number of ways. Specifically, the automatic transmission was about to give out entirely, so we parked it in our apartment complex and left it there for a few months. About nine of them. We rushed out and purchased a brand new vehicle—but because it was my car that was dying and not hers, she got the new car. It was a 2010 Kia Soul.

I took the Ion, and so began my two-year affair with the CD player. My MP3 player had given up hope, having been sent through the washing machine too many times, and its screen became too dim to see. I had given up on music and was listening to nothing but episodes of the podcast Uhh Yeah Dude in chronological order, but when the MP3 player stopped, I began burning CDs. I had been using the tape deck in my car with a tape adapter to listen to MP3s in the Taurus, but that didn’t seem to matter anymore. I had a CD player in the car again.

I even went back to listening to actual music again, digging out piles and piles of CDRs from boxes in my closet. I pulled some of the original discs out of my 300-strong CD rack that sits in my second bedroom like a cheesy 90s version of a vinyl collection, gathering dust. The nostalgic fun didn’t last very long, as I went straight back to listening to UYD on a regular basis.

I then began a daily 60 minute commute with the CD player. With no tapes, no MP3 player, and no urge whatsoever to turn on the radio, it was my best friend, the companion that rode with me on the lengthy journey to and from work. We went through a lot together: Discussions of social media and trends, Craigslist ads, and an ever-present reminder to wear my seatbelt. We must have burned through close to 200 hours of UYD together on those pleasant journeys, and the CD player never skipped.

Then something unprecedented happened. I decided to treat the CD player to something entirely different. I would listen to the entire “Weird Al” Yankovic discography from beginning to end. No more of that talking, it would be time for some music!

The CD player died while playing “I Was Only Kidding” from the 1992 album Off the Deep End. Halfway through the song, it decided that it had enough and spit the CD out. I wasn’t used to it being selective, so I put it back in. It rejected it and never played a CD ever again.

I guess I learned my lesson. I shouldn’t have been burning so many CDs to begin with. I should have appreciated it more when I had it and not taken it for granted. In the end, it saw two loving owners who used it to its fullest. It can’t and won’t be replaced, because it’s fused to the climate controls. We’ll miss you, little guy.

After a week of mourning, I’ll get another MP3 player. I realized that to finish listening to every UYD episode that currently exists, I’d need to spend about $60 on CDRs. Coincidentally, that’s the exact same price that my old MP3 player is going for new.


  1. There are some drivers who actually play some music to get rid of the anger that might build up because of the traffic. I hope that your new player's rockin' things out in your car!

  2. That was a bittersweet story, Ryan. Listening to good music is one of the best ways to pass the time on the road. Isn’t there any way to fix the CD player? But I think you’ve got a good car there. It has served your partner well, and it’s serving you fine until today. Hope you take good care of her so she’ll last for several more years.

    Leisa Dreps

  3. Hey, Ryan. How's it going with your car and the MP3 player that you bought in place of the CD player? I'm sad to hear that the CD player retired and went to rest entirely. I hope the car that was as sentimental as the CD player to you is still up and running.

    Carry Bacot