This weekend, I found myself on a five-hour drive in a Porsche 993 with a non-working radio. Or at least, a radio I couldn’t get to work.
It reminded me of a story on the BBC news website about how we’ve got so used to ‘noise’; meaning that we are constantly exposed to external stimulus from television, radio, iPods and so on. In fact, the term ‘noise’ was misleading as the report was more about such stimulus rather than simply background noise. The article suggested that, not so many years ago, silence was the norm for most people, whereas now the tables have turned and we rarely get any real peace. Indeed, we have come to rely on background music and chat.
The truth of this hit home to me as I worked my way down the M6 in torrential rain. It’s an old cliché that you don’t need a radio in a 911 because the engine sounds so good. Well, it may do at full chat, but not at 70mph in sixth gear. My brain soon cut out the drone of exhaust and tyre noise, leaving me in effective silence.
And you know what? I was soon yearning to listen to something, whether it be music or a podcast via my iPhone or simply the radio. I found it very hard just to drive in silence, and boredom set in very quickly.
So I found myself starting to think. A novel concept for me while driving. It was tough and the boredom itch kept raising its ugly head but after an hour or so I actually began to enjoy my own company and realised how rarely I get to have space to just think about life and plans. It was an almost monastic experience.
Indeed, with a family at home and a busy job, the only chance I’m really alone is when I’m driving. Yet I highjack that time with background radio that I rarely give my full attention to – crazy. Now, though, I’m going to make an effort to turn off the radio from time to time so I can have some quality time to myself.
So if you want time alone, either become a monk or buy a 911 without a radio…