Family car-ride. (Stay with me.) My ipod dies on the way home from the grandparents’ house in Pewaukee, less than ten minutes into the trip. I’m tired, I’m restless, and listening to the Classic Vinyl XM station that my parents have on is not going to get me through the next hour and a half. My teenage brother is watching Austin Powers on the car DVD player I really didn’t want my family to buy, so I can plug my headphones into his Touch without him minding too much. “I don’t know if there’s gonna to be a lot on here that you’ll like,” he warns. I take it anyway.
Scroll through some Vampire Weekend, some Jack Johnson. Attempt half a song by Eminem — no, not in the mood right now. Put it on shuffle. Skip, skip, skip. And then, a few bars of airy violin, sad and sweet like thinking backwards. My fingers pause for a moment. Vocals start right into the chorus. “Please allow me, to be your antidepressant. I, too, am prescribed as freely, as any decongestant.” A semi-witty, tongue-in-cheek metaphor. Liverpool accents. Into it. The screen goes dark as I let myself listen.
“Our vivid dreams are just like big production movies, they’re getting tangled well within our daily routine.” Click on artists, scroll to W to find the Wombats. All albums. Tap the first song title. I close my eyes and let them all play through.
Open my laptop. Click the browser. Fingers instinctively hit a link on the bookmark bar directing the page to http://www.facebook.com. Thumb to command, index to t, as if it were a reflex. I switch the tabs so that the blank one is first, tricking myself into thinking that my social networks are an afterthought — that I still care more about the world, art, the pursuit of knowledge than how many of my friends like the way I look with an earlybird filter. Then I remember why I’m here in the first place. Open Spotify and type Joy Division into the search bar. Top hits. Numbers 1 and 2 are different album versions of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a song Fall Out Boy covered the year before high school, when I thought I was really punk and fell in love with them — four years before everyone else moved on and I figured I should probably do the same. It makes sense; I’m a sucker for fast guitars and cunning, witty wordplay that makes anyone with real music taste scrunch up their faces. But it’s instant, and that’s what matters. I have the attention span of an earthworm. I like everything like a Twitter feed, 140 characters or less — short and fast and loud.
Back to search, type “wombats” and click on the first match. It’s just a playlist. I try again, this time a little more mindful so I can find the artist page. Let’s Dance to Joy Division, eight tracks down on their latest album. The song that made my stomach flip on that car ride home.
It was a good flip, the kind of flip that could slow down my search engine for a minute. The kind that took me out of my short, fast, loud for long enough to concentrate. In that moment, my mind was quiet. My emotions and thoughts fell in synch, drifting lightly in one suspended experience. It was as if I had suddenly discovered a secret something, something that didn’t need to be validated by a “like” or an RT but could live for a moment just for me, just as my own. I felt my neurons working, storing this feeling on high. My mind’s eye finally began to paint again.
This all happened and then, I’m on my street, in my driveway. The flip is replaced by a small deflation brought on when the car ignition turns off. Deflation when I arrive home, where I can check my Facebook, check my email — my barely active Twitter account — and fall over my bed in boredom once again. Here is the world.