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April 16, 2014

The Couch Potato: It may take some work, but just press ‘Play’

NEW CASTLE — When the old Couch Potato is forced to take a long drive, there’s nothing better than plugging the iPhone into the stereo, hitting the shuffle button on the music list and seeing where the road and Apple’s processor takes you.

Obviously it’s my music saved on the phone, so I should like the songs, but sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for whatever pops up. In those cases, you hit the double arrow and see what comes next.

But here’s the problem — and yes, there is a long-winded story coming to explain it.

Let me begin this incredible journey of a story in the year 2009. The Couch Potato had a perfectly fine Chevy Cobalt that I bought brand new in 2006. It ran well, was in good shape and even better, the payments were super low each month.

However, there was a little problem. I had recently bought a new iPod (my first) for my music, but the Cobalt had no jack to plug it into while I was in the car. The whole reason I had bought the iPod was to listen to my tunes, so now I had a quandary on my hands since my iPod was useless in the car.

Like any rational person would do, I decided to buy a new car. I sold the idea of a new car to Mrs. Couch Potato by saying that our family was growing and that I would need a bigger ride to lug around the French Fries. It was at least partially true, and she bought the idea, so a-car-shopping we went.

I ended up buying a 2008 Pontiac G8, putting $1,000 down in the process, because everyone likes to buy used cars that are no longer in production. We test drove it and it seemed fine, and more important, it had the iPod jack that I craved. But on the way home it felt like it was shifting kind of funny and long story short, I called the dealer and they agreed to take the car back if we used the credit to buy a different car at their lot.

We agreed and ended up putting another $1,000 down on a 2008 Saturn Aura, because if you buy one brand that is out of production, you might as well continue down that path with another dead company. My main concern was the jack for my tunes, and the Aura had it, so I was happy.

In another long story short, we had the steering wheel fixed, replaced and replaced again in the year that we owned the car, but I bought myself a nice cord to connect the iPod and I was cruising around, listening to my jams.

Unfortunately, the Aura met an untimely end at the hooves of Bambi and a tree, but that steering wheel’s airbag saved my life, or at least my face during the collision, so it wasn’t a total loss.

It was on to my next car, a 2009 Chevy Malibu, which I still have to this day. That same cord I bought way back in 2009 is still around and now I plug my iPhone, instead of my iPod, in to my stereo.

So anyway, a few years ago, I bought another cord so that we could listen to my tunes when we were in Mrs. Couch Potato’s car, as well. When she recently got an iPhone for the first time, she started using the second cord, too.

Finally, we get to the problem at hand. That second cord that I bought for Mrs. Couch Potato’s car is a piece of junk. It doesn’t plug all the way in, so the music cuts out, gets all fuzzy or only comes through one speaker. Quite frankly, it’s a pain even trying to use it.

Since we’re either cheap or lazy, we haven’t bought a new cord to replace the junky one, so Mrs. Couch Potato did the next best thing, for her — she stole the good one out of my car, and then had the audacity to throw the junky one in my car.

Well, I hadn’t realized that this had all gone down, so when I took off last week for a half-hour drive, I was extremely disappointed to see the junky cord dangling from the stereo. I was too far down the road to turn around, so I dejectedly plugged it into my phone, knowing full well the frustration that I was in for.

Sure enough, the music was in and out, muffled and even when it did work, it was only coming out of the left speaker, so much so that I thought my ears needed popped until I realized what was going on. I kept fidgeting with the cord, and finally, magically, it was crystal clear, with both speakers working and it sounded perfect.

However, as soon as I let go of the cord, it faded out again. So I put the cord over the shifter in the center console and under my hand and again, crystal clear.

I knew what I had to do.

I drove the full half-hour ride in the same, exact position, never moving a muscle, at least on the right side of my body, so that the cord would stay in the same spot. I took every turn with the gentlest of care. I avoided every pothole like it was a life or death situation.

When I finally reached my destination, I realized that I had not once hit the double arrow to skip a song. Since there was no way to do that without ruining the clarity, I had to listen to whatever my phone offered up for me. I was stuck with what I got.

And the whole point of this incredibly long story is — I really enjoyed listening to those tunes. I heard songs that I forgot I even had, listened to music that I thought I was sick of and kept playing songs I would have skipped on any other occasion.

Sometimes all it takes is being stuck with what you have to remind you how good things can be. Whether it takes being trapped in a storm with an old friend, stranded on the couch without your remote, or riding in a car with a crappy cord that only works in one single position, it’s those moments that make you realize what you might have been skipping out on.

In other words, skip the double arrows of life and just push “play.”

(Questions, comments, ideas? Email me at:

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