By Caitlin Macy
I got a clock radio when I was 8 and experienced an immediate joy of connectedness that's never gone away. I'll listen to anything: country; Keillor; Communist chat. Indie college stations that play bands I've never heard of. Radio France International—the station of the Francophone diaspora—or the BBC. I get supper on the table to All Things Considered and clean up to a cheesy "Hits of Yesterday and Today" playlist.

That you can cook and clean to the radio (and drive and dress and endure dental work) is to me central to the appeal of the dial. It's stimulating...but not coercively so. It's pleasurable, but, like tea to television's coffee, the addiction it incites is a mild one. Radio is not only wildly cheap, it's durably so: The machine I listen to now is not remarkably different from my clock radio of 30 years ago. Let your stereophilic husband have his fancy speakers and his subwoofer. Optimum sound quality is not the point of radio. For me, just listening is—tuning in, wherever I happen to be, to this private conversation that always includes me.

Caitlin Macy's new collection of stories is Spoiled.


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