The universe is speaking to me through my Squeezebox again, and I have no idea what it’s trying to tell me.
Our network music player is just one of many technical innovations my good husband bestowed on me for the sake of improving my quality of life. It can access the server on which all of our purchased music is stored, as well as numerous subscription services and even—shocking Luddism—the broadcast radio. Through its infinite electronic doors and virtual pathways, I can make my way to millions and millions of musical treasures. But at the conclusion of every symphony or jig, ballad or boogie-woogie, I can count on one thing: it will all come back to Robbie Dupree.
You remember him? Sure you do. Back in my freshman year of high school, he put out the song that now acts as a thumping period at the conclusion of every musical statement I hear. After thundering tympani, jangly banjo, or throaty clarinet, I can count on the plodding keyboard intro, followed by:
C’mon and hold me / Just like you told me / Then show me /What I want to know…
What I want to know is: Why? What misfiring of electronic synapses has led Squeezebox to conclude that no matter what path my mood has led me along musically that day, the next stepping stone should be “Steal Away”? Why can’t my device accept that, at the end of a selected piece, I might prefer silence for reflection? Why does it insist on force-feeding me on yacht rock? I know it ain’t right.
I thought that I’d escaped this kind of algorithmic insistence when I stopped using Pandora. At least with that service, I could thumbs-down a song when I disagreed with Pandora’s assertion of common traits. But with pushy Mr. Dupree surfacing across multiple platforms—from Napster to the server in my own basement—I must conclude that the universe is trying to deliver a message. What could it be? I consider.
I suppose I have felt a pressing wish to steal away lately. Away from my addictive consumption of Axios. Away from sandwich generation anxiety. Away from the decaying house and the jungle verdure of the neglected yard, and the relentless neediness of our domestic livestock. Just away. But where?
Assuming that the benevolent universe wouldn’t ask the question without having an answer in mind, I google, “where should i go” and accept the first hit. It is a quiz. Based on the data I contribute to its algorithm, the universe informs me that I should steal away to Thimpu, Bhutan.
I don’t know, Universe. I’m not sure I’m up to Thimpu.
I try plugging “steal away” into Napster track search. Maybe if I let it play all the way to the end, I’ll receive a different instruction. Maybe Christopher Cross or Toto could point me in a more realistic direction. But as it fades out and the next tune cues up, all I get is more “Steal Away.”