Books on CD: a terrible tale of marital conflict

July 04, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

MY WIFE and I arrived late to this business of listening to books on CD during long car trips, but already we see a vast new battleground for the marriage.

In fact, on a recent drive to New England, you could hear the first drumbeats of war as we pulled out of the driveway.

I wanted to listen to an Elmore Leonard novel, Tishomingo Blues.

She wanted to listen to the new Jane Fonda memoir, My Life So Far.

Look, we've been married for 27 years.

So I know how to play this game, OK?

Immediately, I caved in, hoping to induce the requisite guilt trip in her which would resolve the matter in my favor.

Unfortunately, she was already working on a reverse guilt trip - "No, no, we'll listen to your book" - which neutralized my plan and left us at a vicious stalemate.

So we ended up listening to neither book on the trip up, riding along in an icy silence alleviated occasionally by the car radio, a sports-talk station for me, a soft-rock station for her.

Frankly, even though books on CD are still new for me, I'm not a big fan of listening to them when I'm behind the wheel.

This is because when I'm driving, I tend to concentrate on the road and my singular mission out there, which is to avoid being killed by the hundreds of idiot drivers who seem bent on killing me every day.

So the CD book tends to receive something less than my full attention, which makes it kind of hard to follow the narrative.

For instance, I'll be driving along and hear the name of a character and I'll think: Hmmm, did they already mention this character and I wasn't paying attention?

Then, a second or two later, some lunatic in a black Acura will race past me at 90 mph, slam on the brakes and weave across two lanes of traffic to get to an exit ramp.

Who can concentrate on a book when you have this kind of stuff happening?

Are you kidding? I need a sedative when I'm behind the wheel, not a book on CD.

Also, there is this: Given the inability of most men to multitask, a CD book might be as dangerous as a cell phone in terms of disrupting concentration.

As has been noted here before, I no longer use a cell phone when driving, due to the fact that I can't even dial the thing without veering all over the road like a drunk.

Plus, whatever I'm talking about on a cell phone can usually wait till I get home. It's not like anyone's calling to ask me to be in the operating room in an hour.

With my luck, my final words on a cell phone - right before I plow into the back of a semi and my car bursts into flames - would be: "You want me to pick up a pizza?"

Oh, I can handle music when I drive.

But there's something about a phone conversation - and maybe a book on CD, too - that's too much for my little brain to handle.

You wonder, too, about the added stress that books on CD can bring to a marriage.

Long car trip, two people, he wants this book, she wants that one - it could be like the Bloods vs. the Crips before it's all over.

"Just find a book you both can enjoy," said the guy at the library when we took out our books on CD.

Sure.

Right.

What planet are you on?

Ever been married, pal?

Look, picking out a book on CD you both can enjoy is like finding a movie you both can enjoy.

In other words, it's nearly impossible. In all the time we've been married, my wife and I have seen maybe five movies we both liked.

When I tick off the greatest movies of all time, the ones everyone would agree on - The Godfather, Goodfellas, Patton, The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull - she rolls her eyes.

Then she counters with Gone With the Wind, The Exorcist, Thelma and Louise, Dolores Claiborne and It's a Wonderful Life.

(Which leaves me standing there, mouth agape, thinking: Dolores Claiborne? )

No, if we get into these books on CD, here's the way I see this whole thing working out on our trips.

I see one of us listening to a book on the car's CD player.

I see the other listening to a different book via headphones and a personal CD player.

It's the only way this can work out.

Otherwise it's back to the guilt trips - not that they can't be fun, too.

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