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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I am the morning DJ...

With apologies to Harry Chapin, I couldn’t resist borrowing the title of today’s post.

With all the traveling around the country I’ve been doing lately for meetings, my iPod has been getting quite a workout. I play my iPod through my car stereo by way of a nifty little item called an iTrip. Basically, the iTrip (which is a bit bigger than a AA battery and plugs into the iPod’s headphone jack) transmits to any free FM frequency you select.

Although the iTrip was the ‘must have’ holiday gift item in the UK this year, it is also illegal because it violates the British ‘Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949’ (essentially you are creating a low-powered FM radio station when you use it).

Fortunately, the Israeli broadcast authorities have not yet weighed in on the legality of the iTrip. I guess they've been too busy trying to shut down the hundreds of illegal radio stations run by Arabs and Hasidim (no, they aren’t working together… but it’s still an interesting aggregation of lawbreakers at these two ends of the spectrum).

So, here I’ve been, driving from one end of the country to the other… minding my own business, and listening to selections form the nearly 600 CDs that I’ve loaded onto my iPod so far.

If you were in the car with me you’d be surprised at the eclectic mix of country, classical, jazz, rock, zydeco, Israeli, Mediterranean, funk, fusion, folk, gospel, and klezmer music blasting from my car speakers on any given trip.

But since I’m alone, what do I care what others think, right?  Funny you should ask, since I recently had to redefine my definition of ‘alone’.

While driving on Route 6 (the new Israeli north/south toll highway), I noticed a car that was annoying everyone by exactly keeping pace with me. If I sped up, he sped up. If I slowed down, there he’d be… right next to me.

Not only was this off-putting for me, since I like to maintain a large defensive ‘bubble’ of empty space around me when I drive, but it was annoying the crap out of the drivers behind us who had to cross three lanes of traffic in order to pass us.

When I finally used an internationally recognized hand signal to inquire about the exactly nature of his problem (picture holding your hand up to ask a question and then rotating the pinky and thumb quickly back and forth), he surprised me by answering with two very surprising signals of his own:

First came a hand signal that would only be recognized by Jews who are in the habit of attending synagogue on Yom Kippur. Although he wasn’t wearing a kippah, this 20-something man gestured by beating his closed fist against his chest, the Jewish sign for contrition... he was apologizing.

Then he surprised me even further by taking the same hand with which he had been beating against his chest and extending his index finger to point towards to his ear, and then pointing directly at me.

A little light bulb went on above my head. He apparently had been using the scan function of his car radio and had stumbled across the frequency on which my iTrip was broadcasting. This was amazing to me on a few levels... mostly because the broadcast range of the iTrip is about two car lengths (which explains why he stayed in the lane next to me), and also because it required him to have figured out that the music was coming from my car!

I still don’t know if he put together the connection between the odd broadcast and my car because he was familiar with the iTrip and had seen me fooling with the iPod between songs, or if he simply made a fantastic deductive leap (I assume it was the former), but for the next 50 minutes I got to play DJ to a (mostly) appreciative audience of one.

Once or twice I tried out an obscure bit of opera or a Buxtehude organ selection and he signaled his luke-warmness by holding his hand out palm down and alternately raising and lowering his thumb and pinky ('cosi-cosi').

When we got to the end of the highway near Hadera, he signaled to turn right and I moved into the left lane. As he turned east towards his destination he opened his window, stuck out his hand and waved. Another universal signal transmitted and received.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my passion for music... but I am just as passionate about communication. When cultural/linguistic barriers crop up to block effective communication it frustrates me to no end... and when signals are clearly sent and received, I’m a happy camper!

So sharing my musical selections for almost an hour was fun in a DJ-ish sort of way... but those few brief bits of improvised sign language were an unexpected highlight in an otherwise uneventful day.


Posted by David Bogner on January 12, 2005 | Permalink


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What a great story. I bought a similar device for my Rio Karma but for some reason it just doesn't work with the car radio (although it works with every other radio in my house).

Posted by: harry | Jan 12, 2005 1:38:37 PM

Really funny!

I especially liked your description of the hand signals.

Posted by: Andy | Jan 12, 2005 1:53:01 PM

Hey, I remember you, that DJ from WOLD. Wondered what happened and where you went. ;)

That is a pretty cool story, but the thing that strikes me is that it sounds like there was not much traffic on the road and living in LA that is something that I would notice.

Cool stuff.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 12, 2005 4:24:18 PM

What, no showtunes? :)

Now, if only you drove a taxi, you could've had TWO Harry Chapin references in your post...

Posted by: efrex | Jan 12, 2005 4:44:51 PM

Too funny! That's so cool, if moderately dangerous.

I must admit, your version of the "internationally recognized hand signal to inquire about the exactly nature of his problem" is apparently not the same as mine. Yours sounds far more polite, so I'm guessing it's an actual naval signal or something. Could you direct me to more info?

Posted by: Tanya | Jan 12, 2005 4:45:10 PM

Harry... After ganking the title of today's post from one Chapin song there is some irony in my first comment coming from someone named Harry (the driver in the song 'Taxi'). Ah yes, a musical day here at treppenwitz. As to the problem you are having using your transmitter in the car, there are two possible reasons:

1. The antenna in a lot of newer cars is located towards the back of the vehicle... almost a full car-length from where you (and the transmitter)are sitting.
2. There are so many pirate stations broadcasting these days that it is hard to find a free frequency while driving around. Not only are these illegal Arabic and Hasidic stations camped out on frequencies that are supposed to be open, but they use crude technology that bleeds over into all the neighboring frequencies. Your home stereo has the advantage of being sheltered inside the metal/concrete frame of your house... and also of being a bit more sensitive than your car receiver.

Andy... you should see me when I'm not a happy camper... I have hand signals for that as well (although it makes my wife absolutely nuts!). :-)

Jack... You just dated yourself, but that's OK... we're among friends. You are correct about the light traffic. Route 6 has relatively little traffic because most Israelis would rather drive miles (and hours) out of their way than pay for the use of a highway. Since my office pays the PasKal (EZ Pass) for any business-related trips, I sail right along.

Posted by: David | Jan 12, 2005 4:47:07 PM

Efrex... Plenty of showtunes, but I tend to clump them together with jazz and classical since the line between opera & show or jazz & standards is almost non-existent! Your comment passed mine on the infobahn so you didn't see my comment to Harry. Great minds think alike (but fools never differ).

Tanya... Picture the hand motion from the old Orangina commercials, but without the bottle. If that isn't a familiar reference, just do the 'cosi cosi' motion vertically instead of horizontally. If you still can't picture it, send me an e-mail telling me when you will be online later and I'll demonstrate via my webcam.

Posted by: David | Jan 12, 2005 4:55:19 PM

Jack... You just dated yourself

Please don't tell my wife, I wouldn't want her to be jealous. ;)

50,000 pounds of bananas is another old favorite. Back in the days when I listened to KHJ.

I worked with a guy who filmed his son's birth. He used "Cat's in the Cradle" as the soundtrack and even found time to splice a little "Sunrise Sunset" into it.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 12, 2005 5:59:50 PM

Only you, Dave... you seem to attract people in the most odd ways. Entertaining, yes. But still odd!
I shall continue to come back to read all about them...

Posted by: val | Jan 12, 2005 8:53:38 PM

That’s a terrific story and I’m relieved that it ended up as an entry on Treppenwitz rather than on a motor vehicle accident report.

I’m happy to tell it to you again, officer. He was driving in the lane to my left, and we couldn’t have been going any faster than 90 km/hr when MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb came on my iPod, which is weird, because I didn’t think it was on there, you know [singing] “Someone left the cake out in the rain…” Anyway, he turns towards me and makes a hand gesture that I’m pretty sure meant “What kind of c%#p do you listen to?” just as I was taking a sip of my coffee. I coughed and sprayed coffee all over my windows and couldn’t see a thing, and I think that’s when I may have drifted into his lane and just very slightly, you know, just barely, bumped him. So I’m wiping the coffee off the windows with my sleeves and he’s gesticulating like crazy making gestures that I think are the international sign for “It is my most sincere wish that you undergo a very uncomfortable colonoscopy.” So I pulled over and we both got out of the car, and that’s when he noticed my Glock and called you. Really, just a misunderstanding.

By the way, I need to get back to my car to check on the beehive in the trunk. Say, do you like chopped liver?

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jan 12, 2005 10:22:20 PM

Another great Dave story!
Thanks for putting a smile on my face!

Posted by: sarahb | Jan 12, 2005 10:33:04 PM

Mi k'amcha Yisrael

Posted by: MO Chassid | Jan 12, 2005 11:14:54 PM

Jack... inflation has really taken a toll. When I last heard the song it was only 30,000 lbs. ;-) As to your story about your friend... [fingers in ears and going nananananananaIcan'thearyouIcan'thearyou!

Val... That's me, a magnet for the 'interesting' people of the world.

Doctor Bean... First of all, if I would be listeniong to MacArthur Park it would be the Maynard Ferguson version off of the 'Live at Jimmy's' double album. Other than that your version of events is entirely plausible.

Sarahb... I've honestly never seen you when you weren't smiling, so I'm not so impressed. Thanks for the compliment, though. :~)

Posted by: David | Jan 12, 2005 11:18:47 PM

Jack... inflation has really taken a toll. When I last heard the song it was only 30,000 lbs. ;-)

Reminds me of the old joke about the Jews being responsible for sinking the Titanic.

Iceberg, Goldberg, what's the difference.


Posted by: Jack | Jan 12, 2005 11:21:17 PM

This is the type of story that reminds me why I love the web. And the cool thing is that if you look, you'll find these stories out there by real people like you who have acquired a deep understanding of the internet: it is a network of people.

I also served time on a college radio station with a *very* weak FM signal and some cable radio listeners. What's fascinating is this sharing of extremely individualized music programming. We were doing this very thing back in the day, if perhaps less efficiently.

Posted by: christopher | Jan 13, 2005 5:59:52 AM

Personally I've only ever seen the "internationally recognized hand signal to inquire about the exact nature of his problem" in Israel. It's more than just the hand motion, IMHO. The exact angle of the elbow and wrist are an essential part of it. This guy is doing it perfectly. למה מה?

Posted by: Simon | Jan 13, 2005 9:07:26 AM

MO... I ask myelf the same question nearly every day (the tranlation is roughly "who is like the nation of Israel?") BTW, I've been playing around with a post about the unique nature of our 'nation' and national identity, and the way the rest of the world defines and perceives that distinction. Stay tuned.

Jack... 20,000 lbs here and 20,000 lbs there and before you know it you're talking about a lot of bananas!

Christopher... If you think that broadcasting to one lone motorist is considered 'efficient' then you need to raise your expectations a little bit! :~>

Simon... Perfect! That's it!!! If anyone still isn't sure about the gesture I was trying to describe, follow the link in Simon's comment.

Posted by: David | Jan 13, 2005 9:19:51 AM

What a great story! Thanks for telling it. I was grinning and chuckling all the way through.

Drive safely, y'all!

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 15, 2005 11:42:18 PM

That's pretty funny. One of the reasons I don't like FM Transmitters though. Your BEST option is to get either a vehicle specific or universal integration module. They are easy to install and only cost a little bit more and that extra money you spend is well, well worth it in my experience. I've tried the FM modulator and cassette adapter and integration modules are the REAL DEAL. Listen to me I sound like a commercial.....Okay bottom line go to www.mypodcarkit.com and order a module from them. The end result is your iPod is HARD-WIRED to your car stereo which means CD quality sound. You might even get to control your ipod from your factory stereo and see album/artist text display. Woo Hoo! Have fun! Getting groceries won't ever be as fun without your iPod hooked up in your car (the right way). Ciao!

Posted by: Chuck | Jul 31, 2010 7:00:37 AM

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