Here I am, late as usual, trying to speed through the kind of traffic all too content to nudge its way back to Ann Arbor. If only I had something familiar to listen to, but WDET is only midway through its two-hour powerblock of “All Things Considered” and 89X is having one of their Fred Durst Flashback weekends. This wouldn’t be so bad if the only choice left on the dial wasn’t WRIF, which has a habit of interrupting their broadcasts to remind me that they’re “Detroit’s most rockin’ rock” or something like that. But it’s this last factoid that really infuriates me – my entire music collection is riding in the passenger seat on my iPod.

Angela Cesere

I could find some irony somewhere in there: The point of the iPod is to eliminate compact discs – put them on the Everest peak of your closet, give them all to your girlfriend, etc. – yet the only music of mine that my car can play is off a CD – at least, I could find the irony if I wasn’t so pissed.

More irony: My car is supposedly too advanced for cassette tapes, and yet the most potent way to play your iPod in-car is through a $5 tape adapter. My car’s technological snobbery made the only choice for me an entirely new, iPod-ready stereo at a cost of almost $1,000.

But there’s a better way: the Griffin iTrip.

Out of the galaxy of white-hued iPod accessories, the iTrip is truly unique. What is it? Depending on your perspective, the iTrip is a white Staypuff marshmallow or miniature Humpty Dumpty that sits on top of your iPod and broadcasts the music you want to hear. All you need to do is tune any radio to the iTrip default – 87.9 FM – and whatever is “Now Playing” on your iPod comes through your speakers like the best “real” radio station you’ll never hear. For around $30, you get a radio station in a box, but don’t get too excited, it’s certainly not going to replace WRIF anytime soon.

But why would you want to? The one feature that makes the iPod truly revolutionary is its unwillingness to compromise – you want all the music you have heard in your life available in your pants pocket (and now, with the iPod Nano, your change pocket)? Fine, it’s done. Along those lines, the best part about the iTrip is its refusal to allow any bad music to pass through your car speakers.

The agony of wasting time in traffic now doesn’t have to have an endless soundtrack of beer commercials and one-dimensional rock DJs. Songs you would never hear on the radio come up one after another, and your girlfriend can keep your old, crummy CDs.

Everyone lives happily ever after – but there’s a catch: The official range of the iTrip is anywhere from 10 to 30 feet; just enough space for its radio signal to reach out and make love (consensual or not) with any nearby iTrip.

You see, radio waves extend outwards from the iTrip like a spherical peanut. When your iTrip comes anywhere near a sister iTrip, the radio signals swap and you get to enjoy the musical tastes of the car next door for a quarter mile.

Anyone who keeps an iTrip in their car gloveboxes or cupholders has had a similar experience to this one: You’re driving (it could be on the freeway at top speed or stopped at a red light) and start to hear your music warp and fuzz away, fading from your Interpol to their Gloria Estefan or Donna Summer. This musical transportation doesn’t end until you drive back out of range.

Now, you could completely avoid this phenomenon by switching the iTrip’s broadcast station off the default 87.9 FM to any other station, but why miss out on all of the fun?

Back when the iPod was first introduced, a similar phenomenon crept up in major metropolitan areas – “iPod jacking.” Maybe it was because the pioneer iPod owners felt some deep-seeded bond with themselves, I don’t know, but when two iPod owners met on the street, it was customary for them to pause and exchange headphones, “jacking” into the other iPod for a brief shot of musical expansion.

“ITrip Swapping” is even better than that because it isn’t limited to a handful of overly-assertive people walking in the city. You have no choice but to swap; no choice but to listen to somebody else’s personal radio station for a few seconds, no choice but to realize that you are a part of a greater community brought together forcefully by technology.

After buying an iTrip, I look forward to swapping. Every time my stereo starts getting fuzzy and warped, I can’t wait to see what kind of trashy music my iTrip-owning contemporaries are listening to; I can’t wait to be pleasantly surprised by their musical tastes and tail them for a few extra minutes to finish out the song.

 

Forest is waiting for the day when he hears “Hold On For One More Day” on his iTrip. He can be reached at fcasey@umich.edu.

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