A Different Drummer: Pandora’s box
By Steve Gibbs
THIS IS A STORY OF HOW THE HARMLESS, free music website Pandora cost me a hand and a foot and two days of Christmas shopping this year.
I asked around for what family members wanted for Christmas. I asked my daughter, Kristi, what my 10-year-old grandson, Tyler, wanted from Papa Santa. She told me, “All Tyler really wants is to be able to play his favorite Pandora stations on a mobile device. He basically wants a portable radio. Instead of AM/FM, he wants one that streams Pandora.”
“That seems like a reasonable request,” I replied. “I’ll just pop out and get something. No problem.”
No problem for her. I didn’t know what I was in for.
I drove to Fry’s in Concord. I explained to the clerk, “A 10-year-old wants to stream Pandora.” He directed me to the tablets that start at close to $200 and far exceed. He waved his hand over the entire section.
I leaned in. “You don’t seem to understand, pal. He’s a kid. He just wants to stream some music. Like a radio.”
The clerk again swept his arm across the tablet section. “This is it.” He showed me a cheapo model for $129. I said, “All right, that’s a nice device. It has all the apps, games, Pandora and Bluetooth. He’ll like that.
“As long as I’m trapped in Tablet Town, what’s the hot device? Besides the iPads, Microsoft and Google, what are people buying?” He directed me to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. I had to admit, it was a slick device. The price was $179. I broke down and said, “Ah, heck. Give me one of those.”
“We are sold out of them, sir.”
Reluctantly, I accepted the cheapo model. He printed out the paperwork to take to the cashier. Instead, I sat in the coffee shop with my iPhone and searched opinions on Samsungs and tablets in general. The stars pointed toward the Galaxy, so I searched for a Best Buy. Found one in Pleasant Hill. Drove there. Found parking. They were sold out. She checked the Vallejo and other Bay Area stores. Many were out. A few including Vallejo had one in stock, and Emeryville had 118.
So, I drove to Emeryville on a shopping weekend during madness hours. I read a lot of license plates up close. I got the Samsung. I also bought a Bluetooth speaker for $60 so Pandora could play without ear buds. I don’t want my grandkids wearing ear buds. I drove home at sunset. The day was shot. I texted my daughter. “I got Tyler something to stream Pandora. I got him a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.”
She texted back, “What! Are you out of your mind? He’s 10 years old! I don’t even have a tablet and I’m 39.”
“Oh,” I replied. She went on, and I paraphrase, what will Tyler’s seven-year-old brother Jack have to say on Christmas morning when Tyler opens up a $200 freakin’ globally attached mobile computer with a million games on it? “I know what Jack will do,” texted Kristi. “He’ll freak out. He’ll want one. For the last two years you’ve got them both the same Nintendo DS models. Jack will expect one, too.”
“Gee. I can’t go buy another one. They’re expensive. That’s way over the top. Can’t I just say to Jack, ‘Because Tyler is older, he gets a better gift’?”
“No way. Now Chad and I will have to go buy Jack a freakin’ Samsung Galaxy and we don’t have the money.”
“No, wait,” I texted. “Don’t do that. Your mother has an idea.” Thank god for Susan. Honestly, I’d be lost without her.
I texted, “Your mother says I am to give you the Samsung Galaxy and then you just be generous and let both of the boys play with it. It will really be for them, through you so you can supervise sharing.”
Twenty minutes later she responded, “OK. That will work. But now what are you going to buy Tyler for Christmas?”
Wow. I was back to square one. I went online. I bought him 4,000 Microsoft Points from Amazon for his Xbox and it arrived a few days later as a plastic card with a code number on it. Susan was unimpressed. “That’s what you’re giving your grandson? A plastic card with a number on it?”
“But, Honey, they’re Microsoft credits.”
“Whatever. It’s not going to play well under the tree.” Back to the doghouse.
The next morning I turned on my Woot app on my iPad as we do every morning to laugh at the daily T-shirt and see what one item Woot has on super sale that day. Up popped a Vizio 8-inch Tablet for $119 and I bought the darn thing. Susan watched me push the Buy button, encouragingly. “Whew,” I said. “I did it. Problem solved. Now I’ve bought two Pandora devices.”
Then Susan said quietly from her pillow, “And what about Jack? He’s seven and has nothing from you.”
“Crikey!” I said and opened my Craigslist app. I found a second-generation iPod Touch for cheap in Antioch. I spent the next afternoon driving over there and meeting the seller at Starbucks.
Now my kids’ family has three Pandora streaming devices and only one cheap Bluetooth speaker. I may have to order a Sonos 3 or the Bose Soundlink.
This is a modern day Pandora’s box.
Steve Gibbs teaches at Benicia High School and has written a column for The Herald for 28 years.