Estate Sale

Copyright © 2018 E.W. Horne. All Rights Reserved.
September 8, 2018

The Amateur Radio club that I'm a member of announced that a local ham operator had become, as we say, a "Silent Key." In order to help his family, two ham clubs held an online auction for the estate: lots of accessories, plus transceivers, plus odss-n-ends.

I looked over the list, which was on a spreadsheet. There were some very tempting items, but I (virtuous soul that I am) resisted, and put in bids on a few low-end items, like a power meter and some audio cables. There were two very nice transceivers, and a really nice broadband RF amp. I resisted. There was a Heil headset, plus a Heil microphone and mounting boom. I put in bids on both.

I also offered to help, and sent emails to the auctioneer, pointing out things that he might want to do, trying to be helpful and make it all easier. I've been helping out families who have inherited ham radio equipment for years now, and I know a few things that make it less stressful for all concerned.

I never got any answer. I wasn't surprised: ham operators are so by-the-book that we don't start our cars without consulting the instruction manual first, and the guys who were running it probably had their own ideas about how and when and whatnot.

There were some items on the spreadsheet that I thought could have been done better: a catch-all of miscellaneous things contained a couple of items that clearly belonged with other items, like a control cable for transceiver "x" that couldn't be used for anything else, or some mounting hardware for transceiver "y" that wouldn't fit any other rig. I told them that, too: I don't know if I'm a "typical" ham radio nerd, but if I had wanted the transceivers I would have been very annoyed at the thought of having to pay extra for a grab-bag of things I would never use just to get a control cable or a mounting bracket.

Well, I told myself, "that's how they sell the little stuff." The grab-bag had a couple of interesting items in it, such a morse-code keys, but hams seldom use morse code anymore, and the thought of buying stuff I'd never use ... OK, I'll drop it.

When it was over, I found out I'd won a couple of toys that I've needed for a long time, such as a high wattage power supply and the microphone and boom, plus a "dummy load," which is what high-class Amateurs use to tune their transmitters without interfering with other stations on the channel they're getting ready to talk over. I'd also won a box of "audio cables," and the power meter I had wanted.

Everything had to be picked up during an hour-and-a-half window of time, at a city more than an hour away by car, and we all had to bring "certified" checks or cash. That's common in these cases, and I didn't mind, but my banker did: the person sitting in the office didn't know what a certified check was, nor how to find out. She told me that a teller's check is all anyone ever asks for, and that they use them for all the lawyers, and that it was "certified" as far as she knew.

I shrugged my shoulders, paid the $10 for a teller's check, and headed out to collect the loot. I had both a GPS and Google Maps directions to guide me, and I'd left plenty of time.

Except for one thing: if the pickup location had been any better hidden, they could have used it to bury Blackbeard's treasure. I found the "Industrial Park" with no trouble, and the "outlet store" for the business where we'd been told to go. Easy, no problems, and then ...

Everything ground to a halt.

The Outlet store manager directed me across the street to a different buidling where they process and sell "Country Ham." The folks at the Country Ham store though I wanted to buy some of their old rendering hardware – be careful who you say "Ham Equipment" to – and I resorted to following another arrival, who turned out to be as lost as I, and then to circling the building and knocking on every door, which was no small feat since I had a brace strapped to my leg.

At long last, somebody coming out pointed me to an employee who knew where "the radio guys" were – about ten feet away from the loading dock, behind two interior doors and down about 100 feet of hallway – and the crew welcomed me and handed over five boxes, numbered by lot, and then helped me to bring them to my car.

The microphone and boom will be a nice addition for contests, but when I found out that the mic was designed for one of the transceivers, I asked the auctioneer to put me in contact with the guy who had bought it. I can use it – in fact, I got audio reports from four other hams that proved that – but it's really designed for the older rig that someone else had bought, and I figured they'd want a chance to trade for it.

I don't know why I am so annoyed by all this. Maybe it's because there was no step-by-step guide to the destination, or because I had to explain a "certified" check to my bank manager, or because of the way the control cable and mounting hardware were thrown in with an oddbin lot – or maybe because they didn't need my help.

I'll deal with it.