Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Object at Hand

It’s a car radio antenna, even if it looks like something Harry Potter would be waving around

Smithsonian magazine runs a regular feature titled “The Object at Hand,” in which a particular item in the Smithsonian collection is featured and discussed. It’s usually something slightly obscure, but that has a strong human-interest story behind it.

The object at hand on my desk is a car radio antenna. It may not be as venerable as most of the items in the Smithsonian’s collection, but it has a story.

Some time ago, the radio antenna was stolen off El Caballero. I knew that going to the local GM dealer would get me an antenna just like the stolen one, but also probably at a premium price, so I went online to see whether I could get a better deal. I was expecting to spend $40 or so.

A quick online search revealed that I could get a much better price than that. I even found an online merchant who specialized in nothing but automotive radio antennas. This merchant could provide an antenna identical to the General Motors original equipment antenna for $15, or a cool-looking “Eurostyle” antenna for a mere $10. Comments on the website indicated that the Eurostyle antenna actually performed better, but I discounted those comments. I bought the $10 antenna because I’m a cheapskate.

Shortly after I placed the order, I received an email from the online merchant: “Our warehouse has been hit by three hurricanes in two months, and some of our shipments may be delayed. If you wish, you may cancel your order.”

I chose not to cancel. Two days later, I received my antenna. Its standard configuration is General Motors, but it came with adaptors to make it fit Ford, Chrysler, Asian, and European cars. Since El Caballero was General Motors, I discarded the adaptors and screwed the antenna onto the antenna fitting of the car.

I discovered that the low-life who stole my antenna did me a favor. The new antenna performed awesomely. I could pick up my favorite stations much more clearly than before, and I could pick them up from farther away, such that there was no longer a gap between where my favorite Albuquerque station faded away and where the radio could pick up the Chama station.

Then this summer came the accident that totaled El Caballero. One of the items we salvaged from it, before the insurance company took possession and subsequently took it to an auto-parts-salvage/auction operation, was the antenna. My dad’s car is General Motors, and his favorite radio station is a classical station with a very weak signal. His radio is identical to El Caballero’s, so this antenna should be a great improvement for him.

In a way, I guess, this lowly car radio antenna is about hope and recovery. Because of the theft in the first place, I ended up with a better antenna. In spite of the hurricanes, the antenna seller managed to deliver. El Caballero may be no more, but my dad’s car can get an antenna transplant.

I have to keep holding on to little things like that … otherwise the big things overwhelm me.

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