Sometimes, life goes off without a hitch. Sometimes, you want a hitch. I decided I wanted to put a trailer hitch on my vehicle, since there is going to be some trailer usage in my near future. Not so long ago, the process would have been simple: Look in the Yellow Pages under "trailer hitch," make a few calls to get estimates, pick out the best one, make an appointment, and pray you don't get hosed.
Those days, of course, are long gone. In the brave new world of Internet consumerism, we're better armed, better informed, and, theoretically at least, better off.
I googled "trailer hitch for 2005 Xterra" and got 219,000 results, including a bunch of "forums," where people who own Xterras exchange information about their vehicles. I found lots of discussions about hitches — the best, the cheapest, how to install them, etc. I got lost in this world for an hour, but it was time well spent. I learned I could order a trailer hitch for as low as $139 but that most ran about $159. I learned that putting one on my car was mainly a matter of attaching it to the undercarriage with six heavy bolts, using a power wrench. You also had to hook up wiring for trailer lights.
Both of these tasks are above my pay grade, so I started calling around to places in Memphis that advertised that they installed trailer hitches. One prominent dealer's voicemail was full, another's website kept crashing my browser. I called a local Nissan dealer, thinking maybe they would have parts in stock and give me a better deal. Uh, $568 to attach a $159 hitch with six bolts? No, thanks.
I finally read that a local self-moving franchise (hint, it has "U" in its name) installed hitches. I went to their national website, filled out an online form, and got a price quote of $278, including installing the lighting hook-up. Pretty good deal, I thought. And they could do it that very day — assuming the national online reservation system actually worked at the local level.
Turns out, it did. They had me scheduled for 1 p.m., and by 2 p.m. I had my trailer hitch installed — a triumph for web consumerism.
The only drawback, if you want to call it that, is that now I'm seeing ads for trailer hitches on most of the websites I visit. The Internet is on to me, stalking me, convinced it knows what I want, determined to sell it to me — even though I already bought it.
I guess there's always a hitch.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."