One of my biggest fears these days is that I will contract coneheaditis - a general driving disorder characterized by higher blood pressure and orange jaundice. Think about it. Those ubiquitous cones line our every pathway, sitting there, just through the car window, in endless queues of fluorescence. Will we by mere proximity take on that dumpy appearance and horrid henna as part of our communal penance for Utah's growth? It's worrisome.

I feel especially susceptible to the onset of coneheaditis after I've punched my way through all our radio options and come up empty-eared. Surrounded by that vast assemblage of orange, I find the "sha-na-na" oldies ooze into the "ooh-ooooh-baby" newies, and kickin' country pinches like a new pair of boots. Even Dvorak loses some of his charm.Those moments demand an instant antidote for the conehead blues. And how do I spell R-O-A-D R-E-L-I-E-F? Public library. That's how. In these parts we are fortunate - very - to have fabulous public library systems. You pay for those bastions of education and entertainment - go in and get your tax dollars' worth!

Next time you take your children to the library, take yourself to the audio book section. That is where I get true respite from my road-induced ailments. You'll find everything from classics like Virgil's "Aeneid" to John Grisham's legal thrillers. Self-help, humor, history, books-made-famous-by-current-movies - it's all available for the trip home at the flick of your library card.

Publishing houses, large and small, have figured out that we are not the only ones idling among the orange. Random House, Simon & Schuster and similar companies know that mobile Americans welcome access to current titles in a listener-friendly format. Our local libraries have followed the trend and, at least in the systems, I frequent, greatly expanded their audio book collections. Even these expanded options get picked over, however. If you have a particular interest, you may have to plan ahead so you can get it when you need it.

From experience, I suggest that you listen a little before you expect any old armload of audio books to be companionable on your road trip from Salt Lake to Gallup. On my last extended road trip, I learned this lesson well. I checked out a huge bag of taped books for the occasion. By the time I hit Levan, I found that some of the readers, despite marvelous British accents, were so dull that my interest waned. I was soon forced into the (Thump Thump) "Elvira . . . Elviraaaa" world of radio within the reach of my lowly antenna. Not a pretty sound.

Even if you would rather create your own audio book library than share with the masses, it's still a good idea to check out some public library audio books in your genre of choice before you purchase.

I have found through my years of listening to the written word that all tapes/CDs are not created equal. Even the finest publishers use the same few readers for many types of books. I have been surprised at the variance in voice and production of quality in products distributed by the same publishing house.

For complete listings of a company's audio books, call their toll-free number or write for a catalog. Addresses and some phone numbers are available in the liners of library audio books. In some cases, so is information about audio book clubs. The Internet, local bookstores and libraries can verify the existence of books of your choice in audio format and often provide a toll-free number as well.

I have not found many audio book rental options. Truthfully, it seems to me that you should plumb the shelves of your library before you spend $10-$20 (plus shipping) for a rented book.

I have only found one video store (the Video Vern's in Hol-laday) that rents audio books. Other stores outside of my 'hood may do so. Call locally owned video stores in your area and ask. The We-Are-A-Very-Big-And-Important-National-Video-Rental-Chain employees at the various stores I've visited look at me as if I were crazed when I request audio books.

And, of course, without the help of Damon Runyan, P.G. Wodehouse and others at my local public library, I might turn into a slightly dumpy, coneheaded, orange woman by the year 2002.