Good minivan speakers–an oxymoron

One of the ways I knew I’d hit “True Mom” status was the day we (Jimbo and I) bought our minivan. That was six years ago. Today, you can find our van in a row of other vans by looking for the one with all the shopping cart dents and dings where other Minivan Moms accidentally hit it when opening their doors. If that wasn’t enough, you could also look inside our minivan. Ours is the one with the stale french fries, melted crayons, and scattered cookie crumbs artfully decorating the carpet. That all goes along nicely with the hot pink stain where my daughter, Mini-Jae, accidentally dropped a full cup of fruit punch, which I promptly attempted to wipe up with the small stack of McDonald’s napkins I’ve collected for just such occasions. I’m hoping the artificial Mixed Fruit Scent (which I think I synthesized in organic chemistry 20 years ago) goes away before the summer heat transforms it to Rotting Fruit Stench.

While I love the minivan (fruit punch smell notwithstanding), I have recently discovered one very important thing: van speakers suck.

I can just imagine the speaker installation guys at the car factory.
Frank: “Hey, Joe!! You brought me the wrong speakers!”
Joe (yelling from two seats down): “I brought the good ones!”
Frank: “No, man! The good ones go in the sexy cars. This is a minivan, for goodness’ sake. Get me the speakers marked “Optimized for lullabies and AM talk radio!”

Minivan speakers just are not designed for anything remotely resembling Real Music. I guess the car manufacturers think we Geeky Moms won’t notice with screaming kids in the car. Now, mind you, it took me awhile to decide that minivan speakers suck, because, as you may have guessed, I was investing in Geeky Things like a laptop, wireless mouse, and the National Geographic Tornado! mousepad before moving on to something that could do the same thing as the van’s tape deck.

Well, that changed when our 15 year old stereo system finally died and our new one didn’t have a tape deck. This meant that I had no way to make new tapes when the old ones died (usually from fruit punch getting spilled on them). I never claim to be a music geek, though I suppose the fact that I own greater than zero CDs of medieval motets probably automatically puts me in that category.

Anyway, I was attending a board meeting in Memphis a while back and a friend drove out so we could visit. She and I drove to a couple of functions together, and she had this nifty little cassette tape gadget that hooked up to her iPod. Now, gadgets + ‘things that hook up to my computer’ = Very Geeky and Thus Appealing, Nay, even Necessary. Off I trekked to Best Buy (always a dangerous place for either Jimbo or me). The young man who helped me was obviously not trained on how to handle Geeky Moms. He took a look at me in my sweatpants and Beale St. t-shirt, obviously having celebrated multiple anniversaries of my 29th birthday, and decided ‘completely tech-inept’. He wasn’t prepared for a Geeky Mom who destroyed millions of Asteroids before he was ever born. Every now and then, I’ll let people make their assumptions and run with it to see what happens when I finally burst their bubble. Yes, it’s a bit wicked…. However, I was in a hurry to get over to Barnes and Noble book store so I’d have time to find the latest issue of Dungeon magazine and then have a mocha in the cafe before picking up the kids from school. So I looked him straight in the eye and said “I’d like a Nano in blue–how many songs can the 2 gig and 4 gig hold?” After he installed his eyeballs back in his head, I became the proud owner of a 4 Gb Nano in very short order, along with the cassette adapter and the geeky cigarette lighter adapter.

Which brings me to the van speaker part. While playing Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (note to moms–definitely a game for mature audiences only), I discovered some songs I really liked. Who knew that I’d suddenly have a mid-life music crisis and discover I liked Goth Metal? Well, I like it as long as they don’t scream and swear at me, but that’s another topic. So, I cheerfully plugged in the iPod and after installing a lot of our CDs, I checked out iTunes and was soon the proud owner of some Lacuna Coil and Evanescence albums. I dropped the kids off at school (they don’t need their hearing damaged by their geeky mom rocking out to some new tune), and tried to crank up the volume. At this point nothing came out of the speakers. iPod instructions (a tiny pamphlet of pictures for the reading-impaired) were less than helpful. I didn’t realize you had to turn up the max allowed volume in settings, then the volume on the iPod, and _then_ the volume on the radio. Isn’t that just so obvious?

After rejoicing at this momentous discovery, I tried to turn the volume up to a van-rattling level, just to see if I could. I promptly turned it back down to a mere ‘vibrate the speakers’ level in order to
a. keep from going deaf, and b. because the buzzing/vibrating sound coming out of the overstressed speakers was like fingernails down a chalkboard. I decided not to burn out the speakers, so I just kept the volume down.

I consulted my Trusty Friend spinkle for options on making the speakers stop buzzing at higher volumes. I think he had the good graces not to laugh. 😀 His brilliant answer? “Get some new speakers.”

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