October 18, 2007


As I was driving to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, alone (because Sr. Susan and Sr. Helen were in Ohio at the Ohio Catholic Educators Conference), I heard faint scratching sounds coming from the van's passenger-side dashboard. The lower "dashboard" down by where you put your feet. It was intermittent and sounded almost alive. Either I was Jody Foster in Contact, or the lower dashboard had a case of the Gremlins. I got used to it on the six-hour drive to Rice Lake from Chicago. (Other travelog notes of note: Tilder, Wisconsin: halfway between the Equator and North Pole, Chicago=89 degrees, Rice Lake=42 degrees.)
When I got into the van the next morning, Contact had turned into an FM radio station. I reached to turn off the van radio, but it was OFF. Wee-ooo! I drove to the St. Joseph's school where we were exhibiting all day, and as I parked in the parking lot prayed that whatever was infesting the dashboard was not going to drain the battery. It didn't. At 5:30pm, the van started promptly for the six-hour commute home. The radio started promptly also (or rather just continued its faint crackle). I tried fiddling with the wires hanging out of the bottom of the dashboard, and pounded on the casing to no avail. As I drove away from trees and lakes and towards cities and buildings, the radio stations changed and the volume increased. I expected to hear a DJ announce that he was broadcasting from Roswell, New Mexico, but it was scarier than that: "THE GREATEST HITS OF THE 80'S!" As I bounced and hiccupped my way (to the music), the volume increased. (Eat your heart out, Manuel Noriega!) By the time I got to Illinois ("the tollbooth state"), I had to roll down my windows to diffuse the sound. Thank God the Gremlins were channeling a classic rock station station at this point. I came up to the 17th tollbooth: "...YOU JUST CALL...OUT MY NAME!...." The lady at the tollbooth couldn't hear me over James Taylor. Tollbooth Lady: "Can you turn down your radio?" "...AND YOU KNOW WHEREVER I AM..." Me: "It's off! Tollbooth Lady: "Oh. Maybe you could pray over it." "...YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND!..."
Every so often on the trek, the demon-possessed radio would go to static which wasn't good either because it sounded like my white noise machine that I use to put me to sleep at night. Like Pavlov's dogs, as soon as I hear static, I go all narcoleptic. A few large McDonald's iced coffees kept me from the morgue.
Six hours later, as I unloaded the car in Chicago, ears ringing, I began planning where I would bring the van the following day to get it fixed. Would you like to know what it the problem was? (Which I discovered while I unloaded.) Of course you would. Buried beneath some random luggage on the floor of the passenger's side was a battery-operated Panasonic boom box that had its "on" button, well, "on." Stop laughing. Maybe aliens turned it on.

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