How a total stranger saved our marriage


Did you know that the radio frequency that police scanners use recently changed from analog to digital? I didn’t either. Nor did I care but it became a matter of vital importance to my husband, Mark.

Mark got his first  police scanner several years ago and since then has enjoyed listening to it and keeping up with what’s going on in the area. After hearing about the upcoming switch, Mark began to peruse electronics sites for a new, bigger and better police scanner. Being a fairly astute wife, I could tell that he wanted to get a digital scanner but I could also tell that there was something holding him back. But being a fairly astute wife who is also a dyed in the wool cheapskate, I suspected that what was holding him back was a big price tag on the new digital police scanners. My suspicions were dead on.

“You should get one,” I finally told him a week or so after the change while he was sitting dejectedly next to his old, silent analog radio. Even dyed-in-the-wool cheapskates can live with dejected spouses for only so long.

Mark perked up immediately but warned, “They’re pretty expensive.”

“It can be your birthday present. How much is it?” I asked, thinking that surely a dinky little radio couldn’t cost more than a hundred or so dollars. After all, they’re about the size of a walkie-talkie and how much does a walkie-talkie cost?

“You can get one for under 500.”

Dollars?” I squealed. “Your other scanner didn’t cost nearly that much.”

“But that was analog,” Mark pointed out. “Digital is always more expensive.”

So Mark ordered his expensive scanner—which quickly became not only his birthday present but also his Valentine, Father’s Day and Christmas presents for that year—and was as happy as a clam when it arrived in the mail. At least he was happy until he started to read the user’s manual. Thumbing through it, his voice became panicked in a matter of seconds.

“This might as well be written in Latin. I don’t understand a single thing it says. It doesn’t even tell me how to turn the stupid thing on!”

“You’ll get it,” I encouraged. “Just keep trying.”

Mark read the user’s manual and tried to understand it but in spite of his good intentions, the user’s manual never became user friendly to him. By the end of the week, he was on the telephone calling Best Buy, Radio Shack and every other store he could think of in, desperately searching for someone who spoke radio-ese. After striking out repeatedly, Mark sat at the kitchen table, his unused digital scanner in front of him. “I give up. I’m never going to get it going. We might as well return it.”

“We can’t return it. It’s past the return date. You’ll figure it out,” I said in a voice that had gone from encouraging to threatening.

As the days passed, Mark’s face grew longer and longer every time a police car careened down our streets with lights blazing and siren screaming. “I wonder what that calls about,” he’d say wistfully. “I don’t suppose I’ll ever know what’s going on ever again. I might as well go to bed,” he sadly announced even though it was just 7:30.

That was when I remembered a radio club in our area, a group of obvious brainiacs who understood things like frequencies, both analog and digital. In pure desperation to, I sent an email off to the club’s president asking if he knew how to program police scanners.

The president, bless his heart, not only answered immediately he also offered to program Mark’s scanner. We dropped the scanner off and one day later, it was programmed.

“It really isn’t all that hard to set one up,” he told us after we effusively thanked him.

Mark and I looked at each other doubtfully but didn’t bother correcting him. After all, it’s a wee bit embarrassing to admit that not only couldn’t we set up a radio, we were also the last married couple in America to get cell phones and neither of us can figure out Netflix. Thanking him once again, we left with the scanner tucked safely under Mark’s arm. As soon as we got home, Mark turned the scanner on and was immediately in a state of bliss as he listened to a variety of police calls happening around the town.

“He even programmed Minneapolis into my radio,” Mark told me. “Now I’ll know everything that’s going on.” He then left me alone for the rest of the evening to pursue my own blissful hobbies of watching reruns of The Golden Girls, sipping white wine and shopping on eBay.

Imagine that: a total stranger programmed Mark’s radio and saved our marriage all in one fell swoop. They say it takes a village but say all is takes is one person who understands electronics.



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