It all begins so simply.
“I think I’d like a new car stereo,” he announces.
First comes the endless surfing of the net, the trawling all over eBay and Amazon and ‘wherever car audio is sold’. Long late night sessions bleary eyed in front of the screen, researching until his eyes bleed.
“This one’s good but it doesn’t have a multi-channel radio controlled dual output dongle. I like this one but it’s two-hundred quid; on the upside, it has a guided ground to air missile launcher and perimeter radar.”
I smile and nod and nod and smile. I continue to flick through my crafting mags and listen to my music. Occasionally, I point out that he doesn’t need supersonic navigation control or nuclear launch codes.
So he finds one he likes. He orders it. It arrives. The dog barks like a Baskerville Hound at the courier, who eyes the dog suspiciously, despite me firmly clutching the collar. The delivery guy legs it as fast as he can, leaving me with a heavy box inside a polythene bag that would be far easier to manage if it was just a box. He comes home and slices through the bag to produce a shiny cardboard box that’s at least twice the size of the stereo inside. It’s glossy and black and white with attractive photos of the product inside. He beams. He grins. He turns it over and over and gazes with desire.
“Yes. Yes.” He mutters occasionally.
Then it’s the weekend. It’s fitting day. He disappears outside to mess about in the car. Fortunately the sun is shining and it’s a mild day. He’s out there for hours.
“Do you want a brew?”
“No thanks, I’m nearly done.”
An hour and a half later he appears in the living-room door.
“Not quite – it’s the wrong connector – but it looks great.” He is upbeat. He only needs a little adapter to make it work.
And so recommences the research. Once again he becomes a slave to Google. I wake up in the middle of the night a roll over to find him sitting in bed with the laptop on his knees and dark circles under bloodshot eyes.
In due course a little jiffy envelope falls on the doormat. The dog nearly eats it, but I rescue it before the slobber can reach the contents inside. He opens up the package and with glee produces a pointless looking bit of black-plastic coated wire with lumpy bits of different sizes at each end.
“Aha! This is exactly what I need!”
It’s already starting to go a little dark out, but he insists this is a quick job. When he comes back in I re-heat his cold dinner in the microwave and make him a hot brew. He blinks against the bright strip lights in the kitchen.
“No.” He looks glum.
He eats his tea in silence in front of Watchdog. When he’s finished I take away the tray and come back to find he’s replaced it with his laptop. He’s already on the motoring forums looking for a solution. Watchdog finishes. Panorama finishes. The News at Ten finishes. I excuse myself and go to bed.
“Don’t stay up too late.” I warn. He says he won’t. I know he will.
Next morning he’s triumphant.
“I’ve ordered a fascia.” He explains how it fits around the front of the stereo to make it fit into the gap left by the one that came from the factory. He explains how it just clips in place. He explains how he found out about it on a forum and that the guy who posted the link is a real joker. I butter his toast and make his cup of tea.
The fascia is coming all the way from Japan or Korea or somewhere so he has to wait a couple of weeks. It turns up in a polythene bag surrounded by bubble wrap. That evening it’s raining but he disappears out to the car again. He’s getting better at removing the old stereo and the new one has been sitting on the dining table for three weeks, so he doesn’t have to waste time with the box. He’s back in just under an hour. Looking like someone dipped him in a bucket of water.
“The screws don’t fit the bracket. Honestly, why don’t they make these things a standard size? It’s stupid.” He rants about it all evening. I can hardly hear what’s being said in Holby City.
“It’s alright,” I say in bed that evening, “we’ll go to B&Q at the weekend and get the right screws.”
He’s late home the following night. He’s been to B&Q. He holds out a bag of screws.
“Egg and chips for tea.” I smile.
“How long will it be?”
“About 20 minutes.”
He huffs and puffs but agrees to eat before trying the screws. He shovels down his food and leaves half a mug of tea on the table. This time he’s only half an hour. He comes back grumpy.
He doesn’t answer. We go to bed that night. He has his back to me and I can still feel his irritation.
The next day I finish work early. I get home and walk the dog and then take a good look at the stereo and the bracket. I find the manual, still wrapped in the poly-bag. I find the pages explaining how it fits and get on Google to see if I can find the right size screw. A quick visit to B&Q and I have a little bag of screws that look very similar to the ones he had bought, but they are thicker. He comes home.
“Chicken stir-fry for tea.”
“How long will it be?”
“I’ll make it in half an hour. Why don’t you get changed and try these.” I hold up the screws.
It only takes him ten minutes but he spends the next two hours in the car playing with his new toy.
This is our third time around. It is his third car stereo and the third set of problems fitting it. I’m getting to be quite experienced. Maybe one day so will he.