The Amateur Amateur: The Junkman Cometh, Part III
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
To recap, my
brother Chris, K1KC, was in town for a visit. He is often called "the
July 16, 2003
If it's junk, the Junkman wants it.
My brother Chris stayed with us for a week. While he was here, St Louis
Repeaters held "Winterfest," its annual hamfest. Naturally,
the Junkman wanted to attend. My wife Nancy, N0NJ, also wanted to
attend, but she figured she would leave earlier than Chris and I, so
she took her own car.
Our merry little
caravan set out early in the morning--with the sun in our eyes, of
course. Winterfest was being held just over the Mississippi River in
Illinois. Nancy and I had attended the previous year, but I couldn't
quite remember the way, so I used a computer-generated travel planner
to create a map.
Nancy led the way
in her new Toyota. By "new" I mean that I hadn't had a
chance to install any radios in it. But we were just taking a short
ride across the Mississippi, so we didn't figure that radio
communication was essential. Chris and I followed in his behemoth of
a truck, talking about guy stuff.
As we neared the
hamfest, we started to see other vehicles sporting Amateur Radio
license plates. Some of the drivers were clearly lost, because they'd
pass Chris's truck and pull in behind Nancy's car, which also had an
Amateur Radio plate. (Although my brother's truck had hundreds of
antennas, it did not look like a civilian vehicle. It looked more
like it had gotten separated from a military convoy.) By the time we
reached our exit, Nancy's car had become the lead vehicle of its own
exit," I told Chris. Dutifully, he turned.
My wife Nancy, N0NJ, stood out in the crowd. (Men, never
underestimate your wives!)
Nancy and her convoy did not.
"Oh crud, she missed the exit!" I told Chris.
There was no way
for us to catch up with her and no way for us to contact her by
radio. We pulled over to the shoulder and waited for her to realize
her mistake and come back. We waited for a long time.
either she's having a hard time getting turned around, or she gave up
and decided to go home," I said after 20 minutes had passed.
"Let's go on to the hamfest."
So we pulled back
onto the road and continued. We made the next turn, as indicated by
the map, then got thoroughly lost. The computer-generated route was
wrong! The street names were all wrong and the distances were all
wrong. Eventually we did get to the hamfest, but it was about 50
times the distance indicated on my map. As we pulled wearily into the
parking lot, we immediately spotted Nancy's car--in a primo parking
We went inside.
Nancy was waiting for us. "Where were you guys?" she asked.
She had remembered the correct route from the previous year.
Graciously, she already had purchased tickets for all of us. (Men,
underestimate your wives.)
I wanted to
introduce Chris to some of my friends I thought might also be
attending Winterfest. I looked around, and sure enough, I spotted a
few. I walked over and said, "Hi guys! I'd like to introduce you
to my brother."
As they looked at
me expectantly, I turned to find that Chris already had disappeared
into the crowds.
can't miss him," I said. "He's kind of heavyset, and he's
wearing a baseball cap."
My friends chortling, "He's heavyset and wearing a baseball cap?
Oh, that'll make him easy to spot!"
my description fit about 90 percent of the attendees, my friends just
smiled at me in a kind display of mild pity.
I left them in
search of my brother, whom I found. But then I lost sight of my
friends. Later I found them, but had lost sight of Chris again. This
ping pong game went on for a while, but we eventually did all get
together in the same spot.
As it happened, I
saw quite a few people I knew at Winterfest. Chris also knew a lot of
folks there, but most of his acquaintances were behind
tables rather than in the aisles in front of them. These were people
from he'd bought junk from or sold to at other hamfests. I suspect
more than a few deals were struck that day as well.
I did go to the
hamfest intent on buying one item. I spotted what I needed and tried
to catch the vendor's attention. Unfortunately, a largish fellow was
standing next to me playing with a hand-held radio. He had its
squelch turned all the way down and its volume turned all the way up.
Not content with the amount of noise he was making, he bellowed,
"Hey! What frequency are you on?" to a friend of his who
was standing on the other side of me. Since I was between the two of
them, the largish fellow yelled even louder, possibly in an effort to
make my head explode and leave him a clear line of sight.
Somehow I still
managed to catch the eye (if not the ear) of the vendor and was able
to make my purchase.
Later I ran into
my brother again. He asked if I'd bought anything. I showed him the
adapter I'd gotten.
"How much did you pay?" asked Chris.
I told him.
he wailed. "I just paid twice that much for the same thing!"
What can I say? Sometimes even the amateur
amateur gets lucky.
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, of Florissant,
Missouri, has been a ham since 1995 and an ARRLWeb contributing
editor since 2001. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The
Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur,
not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is
N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2003 American Radio Relay League