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Road Trip! (Tuesday July 22)


The story so far...
Prelude
Mon Jul 21

This is the day I had an appointment with my car dealer to install the trailer hitch and wiring harness on my vehicle.  I'd already pre-ordered the parts, and made sure they'd arrived before I brought in my car.

I took my car to the dealer early in the morning.  Well, early in the morning for me: I normally work from 11AM-7PM; one of the perks of being a systems administrator is that you can sometimes make your own hours.  I dropped my car off about about 8:30AM, and the dealer gave me a ride to where I work, about ten minutes away.

I know that installing a trailer hitch and harness takes about an hour; I did some research on the web, and even watched a video of how to do the installation.  I might have done it myself, but I know my limits. I may be able to program in C++ but adjusting a muffler bracket would probably invite disaster.

I found out that they had to get inside the spare-tire compartment in order to install the wiring harness, so I had cleared out my trunk to make it easier on them.  This also gave me a chance to inspect my spare tire; I hadn't seen it in years.  (Not good auto maintenance, I know.)

I also asked them to do some regular service on the car (oil and filter and such-like), and generally make sure it was ready for a long road trip.

Have you caught what I forgot to tell them?  I missed it.  So did they.

I'm at work.  I've made arrangements with one of my colleagues to give me a lift around 4:30PM to pick up my car; surely the work would be done by then.  I wait... and wait... and they don't call to tell me that my car is ready.  Around 4:15 I call them.  I'm told, "They're still diagnosing your vehicle.  Can we keep it overnight?"

Diagnosing?  What the heck?  I just brought the car in for a trailer hitch and an oil change.  What had happened to my poor car?  Was the transmission about to explode?  Did they need to bore new holes in the engine block?  Arrgh!

They said they would call me back.  I may work from 11-7, but the other folks in the office have have normal working hours; I couldn't ask my colleague to wait around forever to give me a lift to the dealer.  I also knew that the dealer's shop closed at 5.

I began to make contingency plans.  Perhaps I could borrow one of the "company cars."  These are actually huge vans, and the one I'd have to "borrow" was the largest one of all.  I began to wonder if I could fit a 15-passenger van in my parking space in my apartment complex.

At 4:45 I could stand it no longer, and called them back.  My car was ready.  Evidently "diagnosing" just meant they were putting the last drop of oil in the car or something.

My colleague gives me a lift to the dealership and I pick up the car.  The trailer hitch is there.  It's actually rather disappointing; for the amount of money it cost, I thought it would be a huge, glowing attachment to my car.  I wanted it to impress all passers-by with its magnificence in the way that's promised by those spam ads for male enhancement products.  But no; it's a small thing, easy to overlook.  So much for my male ego.

My next stop is Auto Zone, to purchase a trailer ball mount.  And a trailer hitch pin.  And a trailer hitch ball.  And a socket wrench to attach the trailer hitch ball to the trailer ball mount.

Here's where I hit another hitch (if you'll pardon the pun).  Trailer hitch balls come in different sizes; the heavier the trailer, the larger the ball.  You have to get the right size ball for the particular trailer.

I had asked H what size trailer hitch ball was needed for her trailer.  She had no idea.  I had asked her the make and model of the trailer; I figured I could look it up on the web.  She had no idea; the title for the trailer was buried in the back of her car, under a pile of travel supplies.

I became aware that I never really thought to investigate how heavy H's trailer was.  Trailer hitches come in classes:  class I, class II, class III, and so on.  Roughly speaking, class I hitches can tow up to 1000 pounds, class II up to 2000 pounds, etc.  I had a class II trailer hitch, the highest class they made for my car.  If H's trailer weighed more than 2000 pounds, I'd be in trouble.

The web sites all said, "Consult your owners manual for the towing capacity of your vehicle."  I just looked it up on the web.  Why, oh why, didn't I pay attention to the web sites?  Then I would have caught the crucial thing I missed...

But that realization wasn't to come until later.  I had to decide what size trailer hitch ball to buy.  H had told me that it was a pop-up trailer, and web searches gave me an answer: all pop-up trailers either take either a 1-7/8-inch ball, or perhaps a 2-inch ball if it was exceptionally heavy.  So I purchased both sizes.

The salesman at Auto Zone assured me that I could return the one I didn't use for a refund.  He was being helpful and nice, but I just sighed.  Trailer hitch balls cost only about $8; compared to what I was spending that day, it was a drop in the bucket.

I also needed safety chains, just in case I had figured everything wrong and the trailer hitch snapped.  Or the trailer hitch mount snapped.  Or the trailer pin snapped.  Or the trailer ball snapped.  Or I snapped.  Or something.

Auto Zone doesn't sell safety chains.  So it was off to Home Depot.  There was another nice salesman there.  He cut a custom set of chains for me, and selected some attachments to hook the chains between the trailer and the car.

Then I went to the Apple Store to pick up a brand new iPod.  After all I'd been through so far that day, I seriously thought about getting an iPod Touch.  It was nifty.  It was cool.  It was a lovely little toy, and I could use a lovely little toy.

But the iPod Touch does not have a microphone.  That means I couldn't use it as a voice recorder.  I need a voice recorder as much as I need an iPod; I'm constantly dictating short messages to myself to compensate for my wimpy excuse for a memory.

Right now I use my smartphone as a voice recorder (I have a Treo).  If I got an iPod Touch, then I wouldn't need a smartphone; I could trade down to a dumber, cheaper phone.  That is, I could do this if the iPod Touch could be used as a voice recorder... which it can't.

So I picked up an 80GB iPod classic, which was more-or-less the same iPod I had lost.  No new toys for me.

Little did I know that I would have the chance to trade my phone, much sooner than I expected...

Finally, Tuesday came to an end.  I looked at how much I had spent that day.  It was over a thousand dollars.

I couldn't decide if this was the price of friendship, the price of comforting toys, or the price of rampant consumerism.  In the end, it didn't matter, as long as the credit-card company was happy.

Next: Wednesday, July 23.

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