The Amateur Amateur: Don't Hurt My Car!
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My wife seemed
excited when I gave her the new radio. Hidden in her smile, however,
was just a hint of a panicky grimace that meant, "You're going
to mess with my car!"
November 1, 2005
My wife Nancy has
been very tolerant of my Amateur Radio activities. She didn't
complain about my turning the basement of our house into a ham shack.
She said nary a word when I installed a conduit from the basement to
the attic and ran miles of coaxial cable. And she even helped me when
I struggled to put up masts and antennas on the roof. It's true that
she's an Amateur Radio operator herself, but she's dubious about all
of the modifications
I've made around the house. Still, she
Nancy's first new car. Orders of the day: Don't hurt it.
But when I bought a new mobile rig to put in her Toyota, she
immediately said, "Don't hurt my car!" It wasn't a request.
It was a command
I should mention
that through much of my wife's adult life she was limited to driving
used cars. It was the family business. Her Toyota Corolla, now two
years old, was her very first new
car. She takes very good
care of it. She never misses an oil change or a scheduled
maintenance. She has it cleaned regularly. And she gets a deep frown
on her face any time I get near it with power tools.
So how did I
install the first
mobile rig in her Toyota? Simple. I waited
until she was away on a business trip. By the time she returned, the
radio was installed, the installation mess had been cleaned up and
everything was ship-shape. After verifying that the car was not
scratched, dented or dinged, that it ran fine, that I hadn't used up
all her gas and oh, incidentally, that the radio worked, she thanked
But this new
radio, well, that was a different story.
I guess I should
I got her a new mobile radio. Her old rig was one
of a pair of identical models I'd bought for us about 10 years ago. I
installed them in the vehicles we owned at the time and transplanted
them when we got newer cars.
I don't know what
the normal lifespan of a mobile transceiver is supposed to be, but it
seemed that half of my Amateur Radio-related activity was dedicated
to repairing those blasted radios. Ninety-nine times out of a
hundred, the problem was in the control head. I think I returned the
control head on Nancy's radio to the manufacturer for repairs twice
and the control head for my own radio went back once. In addition to
repairs, I disassembled and repaired both units
myself many, many times. In my more rational moments I felt that
perhaps there was a design flaw or, perhaps, a quality-control
problem with that particular model. In my less lucid moments I was
convinced that there was a curse on them.
Earlier this year
the control head on my mobile rig started acting up again. Something
in my mind went, Ding! Maximum aggravation limit reached. Time for
a new radio
I put a new unit
in my car. After repairing the control head for what I swore was the
last time, I set up the old unit in our study. The advantage of
having an extra radio in the study was that I could join in nets and
make SKYWARN reports without having to go down to my basement shack.
That worked fine for about three weeks, at which point the control
head croaked while I was running an ARES net.
urge to tear apart the control head, I retired the rig to the
I'm-not-sure-what-to-do-with-this pile in the basement.
In the meantime
Nancy was unable to use the mobile transceiver on those occasions
when she drove my car. For years and years our radios had been
identical. Now mine was a different model, and--surprise,
--the controls were laid out completely differently.
It didn't take me
long to decide that Nancy also needed a newer radio. I had bought
myself a quad-band transceiver--much more than I really needed.
Fortunately, there was also a dualband model with exactly the same
control layout, so that's what I bought for her.
Trunk testing the new radio.
I know, I know. You're thinking: What a jerk! He bought a
quad-bander for himself and only a dualbander for his wife!
Believe me when I say that neither
of us is going to use those
additional bands. If I could go back in time and buy the dualbander
for myself instead of the quad-band model, I'd do so. I'd use the
money I saved to buy a tank of gas.
seemed excited when I gave her the new radio. I knew, however, that
hidden in her smile was just a hint of a panicky grimace that meant,
"You're going to mess with my car!" And indeed, the day of
the installation saw Nancy working in the back yard, raking leaves,
mowing, trimming and doing everything she could to avoid thinking
about what I
might be doing to her Toyota.
But her fears
were groundless. The installation went fine. The worse thing that
happened was that I tipped over a container holding a bunch of tiny
screws that I didn't really need. The Toyota survived unscathed.
Nancy says the new transceiver sounds much better than the old one.
And once again, we had a spare rig to use as we saw fit.
I took Nancy's
old rig and set it up in the study so that I could chat on nets and
make SKYWARN reports. Ten minutes later the control head went dead.
And no, I am not
going to try to fix it this time.
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. 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
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2005 American Radio Relay League