On the Road Again

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Alison Reese is Editor of Harp Column.

Alison Reese is Editor of Harp Column.

Plenty of great harpmobile options are hiding in plain sight.

Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where you learn something new—an obscure word or maybe an odd hobby—and suddenly you see and hear that thing everywhere? There’s actually a name for it—maybe you’ve heard of it before—it’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Every time I encounter this phenomenon I feel like I’ve just uncovered this secret underground world that I never knew existed.

I remember I felt this way when I first started playing the harp. Once I discovered this instrument, I saw a harp or met a harpist everywhere I turned. This was also the case the first time I was pregnant. I had never noticed pregnant women in public before, and now it seemed like the entire world was walking around with a baby bump.

This phenomenon can be a little annoying at times, like when your awareness is heightened of something that you aren’t really interested in. My youngest son is currently obsessed with bulldozers and backhoe loaders, so I am constantly spotting them, even when I’m driving around by myself.

But the largest, most disruptive Baader-Meinhof I’ve ever experienced has been my recent immersion in the world of harpmobiles. Obviously I’ve known about harpmobiles as long as I’ve known about harps, but earlier this summer when I started researching potential candidates for Harp Column’s 2014 harpmobile review (see “Ready to Roll” on pg. 24), I was suddenly up to my eyeballs in Baader-Meinhof. It wasn’t the fun or interesting kind, either. No, this was an all-consuming awareness of something I couldn’t care less about: cars.

To say I’m not a car person is an understatement. My level of interest in automobiles wouldn’t even register on the scale except for the fact that I have to have one to get me (and my harp) where I need to go. A car is a vessel to get me from point A to point B. Cars are a necessary evil, similar to computers in that I don’t understand them, they always seem to malfunction at inopportune times, and they cost way more than I think they ought to.

But once I started delving into the world of SUVs, station wagons, and crossovers, I started seeing them everywhere. I used to be able to drive down the road and not even notice the make and model of a single car I passed. Now my thought process goes something like this: “Oh, what’s that little crossover? Is that a Mazda? No, it’s a Toyota. What model? I need to get closer to see. A Venza? Is that on our list of harpmobiles to test? I wonder if it can hold a harp. It looks a little small. But it’s bigger than that Ford Escape next to me. I can’t believe I know that’s a Ford Escape next to me. Who am I? I don’t even know myself anymore.”

For the better part of the summer I haven’t been able to go anywhere without a similar dialogue about harpmobiles playing out in my head. It is so distracting that I haven’t been able to think about much else in the car for the last few months.

Such are the burdens we bear here at Harp Column to bring our readers the biggest harpmobile review we’ve ever done. In this year’s review, we critiqued 44 harpmobiles, testing a wide range of wagons, crossovers, SUVs, and minivans.

Even after spending several months consumed by cars, I can safely say that I don’t have any more love for them than I did before. But I did learn a lot, and I did start to get embarrassingly excited about fuel-injected V6 engines and standard automatic rear lift gates. But for me, a car is still simply a tool of the trade. Whether you are a gearhead or just a harp nut, hopefully our harpmobile review will help you get to the gig, and maybe even enjoy the ride. •

Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. Email her at areese@harpcolumn.com.

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Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

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