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An upgrade. And an upsell.

I bought a new radio for my venerable 2002 Honda Civic this weekend. I want to be able to listen to security podcasts on my commute, which wasn’t practical with my factory radio. So, off to the nearest car audio shop (Custom Sounds) I went, skipping both Best Buy and Audio Express. I looked at a couple of $119 decks, then the salesman mentioned an Alpine HD radio deck for $129, and a Sony deck with Bluetooth for $149. Bluetooth didn’t really interest me much, but HD radio seemed worth the extra $10. To me, the secondary HD stations seem more interesting than the primary ones. Then again, I’m the guy who skips right past the hits on U2’s The Joshua Tree and cues up “Red Hill Mining Town.” The stuff I really like generally doesn’t do all that well on mainstream radio.

But my main motivation was to get a radio with a USB port, so I can snarf down a few hours’ worth of podcasts every week to a USB thumb drive, plug it in, and stay in touch with the security world. Total overkill for an Alpine, but like the salesman said, Alpines aren’t crazy expensive anymore like I remember them being in the early 1990s.

But of course I wasn’t going to get in and out of there without an upsell–just like I can’t get in and out of Radio Shack, buy a few resistors, and not hear a cell phone pitch.

“So is everything else factory?” the salesguy asked as he looked over my car.

“All but the windshield.”

“You might as well upgrade the speakers then, while we’re in here. Your new deck will sound better.”

I explained I would be using it to listen to work-related talks about computer security, and the factory speakers would be more than fine for that.

He kind of laughed. I don’t think he’s used to selling stereos to guys in their late 30s who are primarily interested in listening to talk. I’m sure his best customers are half my age–at most.

It’s about staying relevant. I’ll be spending a good hour in my car every day. I can listen to the radio for half of that, but if I spend the other half listening to podcasts and absorbing information, I’ll be better at my new job, and I want to be as good at my new job as I can be.

Car audio today is built with MP3s in mind, but only weird people like me had any interest in that in 2002 (actually November 2001 if you want to get technical) when this car was built. But today, for half a payment on a new car, I can make the car I have meet my most urgent need, so I did it. A $129 deck, about $50 worth of parts, and taxes brought the total damage to $180-something, and they got it done in about an hour.

I’m not sure why I lived without it for this long, actually. All the way back in 1998, I experimented with a Diamond Rio jacked into a tape adapter through my car’s cassette deck. It worked fine, but the Rio’s 32 MB capacity didn’t hold much. Even when I downsampled the music beyond what most people would consider acceptable, I was lucky to get 90 minutes worth of audio on it.

What’s important now is that I’m not waiting anymore. Now I can listen to Pauldotcom, Risky Business, and Southern Fried Security in my car. Yes, it’s a curious mix. I figure there’s a balance in there somewhere, between Rhode Island, Australia, and Georgia.

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