Ira Glass and I agree on one thing--well, probably more than one thing, but this thing in particular--that the best place to listen to a radio show (or podcast) is in the car while you're driving. This is a somewhat new development for me, as anything related to driving is; most of you are probably aware that I got my first driver's license a little more than a year ago (October 19th, 2009, to be absolutely precise, after failing the road test once the month prior) and while I am somewhat more comfortable driving now than I was then, I still would not classify myself as a good driver. I am probably a better driver than your average teenage hotrod, but it's the very thing that makes me a better driving--that is to say, a surfeit of caution--that also makes me a worse driver. Anyway, I always try to be very careful. I signal my turns even in empty parking lots. I never pick up my phone while in the car, or else I pull over before answering. I have a GPS in the car that I have programmed to avoid all highways, giving me the directions from Point A to Point B only via local roads. When I see other people driving like fucktards (which is basically every fifth car), I tsk tsk them in rue.
But I do like to listen to podcasts in the car.
It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't listen to anything in the car, because so much of my concentration was focused on the actual task of driving. No music. No conversation. I dreaded having the kids in the car with me, not only because of that fear of having all my eggs in one basket (that basket being the car), but because no matter how much I explained that they had to shush, Mommy was driving, she had to concentrate, the endless monologue and stream of questions from the backseat only increased in volume.
However, I've been driving for a while now, and 95% of my driving takes a well-worn circuit between home, work, and, on occasion, Cal's school, so I'm a little more comfortable with the act of driving, at least along these routes. When I'm going somewhere new, the old rules apply (no radio, no music, no talking) but on routine drives, I will listen to a podcast or two, or occasionally sing along to music. Singing and driving at the same time! Who knew this day would ever come.
Anyway, I used to plug my iPod into the auxiliary input port of the car so that the podcasts could play through the actual car speakers, but for some reason, this stopped working, and then subsequently, I lost the auxiliary cable hookup anyway. So then I was putting my iPod on the dashboard and playing it through the actual iPod speakers, but I don't have to tell you how this turned out--tinny, muffled, and I could barely hear anything anyone was saying. So, as a final solution, I plugged in my earphones and put one earbud in my ear for the drive. The other ear was free to, you know, receive ambient sound. I did have a vague notion that this was probably not the safest thing (you know, having something in your ear while operating a car) but I rationalized that it wasn't any different than having a Bluetooth earset for hands-free phone answering, which I'm pretty sure is allowed, if holding the actual phone up to your ear while driving is not.
Anyway, I was driving home in this fashion the other day (carefully, on the right side of the street, at the speed limit) when I pulled up alongside a police car, which had stopped, waiting to turn into a gas station. We passed by in slow motion. I looked at him. He looked at me. I passed on by. He made a U-turn. The next thing I know, I saw flashing blue lights in my rearview, which I'm pretty sure is some kind of indication that you're in the deep end of the shit pool.
"Is something the matter, officer?" I asked all politely, knowing already what this was going to be about. He asked me for my license and told me that he saw that I was driving with headphones on--did I know that wasn't allowed? I said that I didn't realize that (though it made perfect sense), but that I'd only had one earbud in. Then I forced myself to stop talking, because what did I think I was going to gain from making excuses to a police officer? Just smile and nod, dumbass!
The police officer (who was very nice, by the way, and had a very charming Irish accent, like a cop out of a damn movie about the 1950's) then stopped, and asked me, "What kind of work do you do?"
"I'm a doctor."
He looked at my scrubs and nodded. "Next time, don't drive with earphones." And then he let me go without a ticket. I'm not sure me telling him what I did had anything to do with him deciding to let me go without a citation, but I guess I'll never really know, even though that's not going to stop me for feeling vaguely guilty about that possibility.
And no, I'm not going to drive with earphones anymore. In either ear.