For many days I coddled the Tivoli PAL as if it were my lifeboat, my mothership, my Very Center of His Being. But one night my wife Julia exclaimed that my snoring was particularly vociferous, conjuring images of a hibernating bear, and she insisted I sleep on the living room couch. I took my Tivoli with me into the living room, placed it on the coffee table and in darkness I tuned for a station that would keep me company that night. In doing so, I discovered one of the Tivoli’s shortcomings.
It was the analog tuning process that made me realize that the Tivoli was not the panacea I thought it to be. With no digital read-out, I could not be sure what station I was on. This was particularly problematic when I landed on a station during its commercial break. I found myself anxiously waiting for the radio host to come back and identify himself or for some radio identification to be announced to let me know I had landed on Home Base, but these long waits filled me with consternation and I felt like John Robinson, the morally upright father of space travelers from the television program Lost in Space, becoming untethered from the cord that connected him to the spaceship so that he was floating aimlessly in some obscure galaxy. Where the hell am I? I asked myself, angered that I was wasting several minutes listening to commercials for a radio station that I may not even want to listen to. I must have looked like a pathetic fool, my hand groping in the darkness for the tuner dial as I scanned the AM and FM dials looking for a station I could call my home.
Even if I did find a safe landing spot, if the station changed hosts in the middle of the night, I would have to go through the excruciating process of tuning around the dial all over again. While this analog tuning was acceptable, fun even, during the daylight hours, I found my Tivoli was an unworthy nighttime companion when I needed to pinpoint my station toggling as effortlessly as possible. As much as I loved my Tivoli, it could no longer be my bedtime companion. For that, a radio would have to be digital with presets.
I remembered the night he had bought my Tivoli that I had in fact seen a few silver digital radios at the electronics store—a Grundig G4000, a Grundig YB3000, and Grundig G2000, and I returned to the store the next evening to buy one of them. But when I got there and listened to their tiny speakers, I was disappointed with their lack of base and their absence of warm fidelity. Music sounded like it came from a tin can. Voices sounded like Donald Duck.
I then looked at a military field radio with a leather strap, black knobs, and a silver fascia. It was the Grundig S350, big as a giant lunch box that boldly proclaimed strength, power, and security in a world of uncertainty. The S350 was analog, I noticed, but it had a digital read-out so that I could know what station I was on without waiting through all the commercials. Better yet, the speaker sound was big and generous. Even more compelling, the S350 was the same price as the little pieces of $100 tin that produced such faint, distant sounds. The hell with those tiny digital pieces of crap, I thought to himself. I’m getting the S350.
To confirm I was making the right purchase, I turned to the salesman Amir, a twenty-year-old nursing student from Syria, and said, “This one produces much bigger sound than these smaller radios and it’s the same price. Maybe I should get this one.”
“Yes, it’s the best radio we have,” Amir said without equivocation, hoping to get rid of me. He must have deemed me a crackpot the way I was fondling the radios for the last hour or so.
So with Amir’s blessing of the Grundig S350, I purchased it and set it on my bedside table. I immediately realized its reception, on both AM and FM, was stronger than the Tivoli PAL’s and I felt good about my purchase. After moving the PAL to the workout room and making room on my bedside table for my S350, I said to himself, “Excellent. Now I have two very good radios. Finally, I have peace of mind and I can put an end to my radio purchases for good.” But I was wrong. Very, very wrong.