Road Trip! (Prelude)

I have a friend who works as an actress at Renaissance Faires.  (“Excuse me. I’m not an actress. I’m a performer.”)  OK, I have a friend who’s a performer at Renaissance Faires.  Let’s call her H.

H was at a Ren Faire in Texas last April, working with her touring partner.  The two of them had a disagreement.  (To put a complex story into a single sentence: He wanted a romantic relationship; she wanted to keep it professional.)  At the end of the last day of Texas Ren Faire, he tells her, “I’ll be back in a few minutes” and drives off in his car.  He took with him about half of H’s possessions and all of the profits from the final weekend of the Ren Faire; he leaves behind H, a huge pile of her stage props, and the pop-up trailer in which they’d been staying.  By the time H realizes what has happened, he’s already in Arkansas.

It was a hard situation.  Fortunately, the Ren Faire community can be a supportive one, and H was able to get some help.  By spending the last of her savings and calling in a bunch of favors, H was able to travel back to the East Coast and have her stage props shipped to where she could transport them.  Eventually, she was able to get her possessions back from her former partner, in part by making him aware of a warrant for his arrest for grand theft now waiting for him should he ever return to Texas.

There was one major problem: the trailer.  She knew she was going be working at a Ren Faire in Pennsylvania in October, and it would far too cold for tenting.  She needed that trailer to be in Pennsylvania, and it was in Texas.

She was able to get a fellow performer to tow the trailer from the grounds of the Texas Ren Faire to a Ren Faire in Virginia, but that was as far as she could get it.  She tried for three months to call in favors or ask for help to get that trailer from the site of the Virginia Ren Faire to the site of the PA Ren Faire.  But every time someone would agree to do it, something always came up.  She even worked at the VA Ren Faire for a weekend or two, trying to make contacts to help her transport the trailer; she wound up spending more money in gas that she made at the Faire, with no results.

Maybe you’re asking, “Why didn’t H just sell the old trailer and buy another locally?”  The answer is: no money.  Remember, she had spent her savings (Ren Faire performers never have much) for the unexpected travel expenses to return from Texas.  The trailer itself was worthless; it had been given to her for free, and no one was going to pay any money for it.  The value of the trailer lay in the environmental protection it offered so she could perform her contractual duties at the PA Ren Faire.

H could not let go of her contract at the PA Ren Faire.  It wasn’t whether or not they’d release her from her contract; it was that she agreed to do it.  I’ve hung out with performers, and there’s one thing you never hear them say: “The show must go on.”  The reason why you never hear them say that is because it’s in the blood, burned into their souls.  You might was well say, “You must respirate oxygen.”  You agree to perform, you do it.

I talked over the situation with H in mid-July.  Time was running out.  She was working at a Ren Faire in Connecticut, trying to build up enough money for an alternative, but it wasn’t coming together.  The PA Ren Faire starts at the beginning of August, and she needed the trailer on the site by then.

I had an idea: I could use a little bit of fun before I started working at the NY Ren Faire.  I drive a mini-SUV.  Why don’t I have a trailer hitch installed on my car?  (You’re laughing, aren’t you?  No, I didn’t know how much this would cost… then.)  We’d drive down to Virginia, tow the trailer to Pennsylvania, and come back.  When I asked, H estimated the total travel time at about 12 hours; it could be done in a single day.  The drive itself would be no problem; H was used to extended cross-country drives.  I have more vacation days at work than I know how to spend; I could afford to take off one day for this.

H would get her trailer back.  I’d get the fun of a road trip before I started on the grind of the NY Ren Faire: two months of no free weekends.  And I’ve have a trailer hitch on my car, which might come in handy for the future.

We made a date for the trip: Thursday, July 24.

I made an appointment with my dealer to have the trailer hitch installed on the car on Tuesday, July 22.  I did a little research on the web, and I found I’d also need a wiring harness installed.  (Yeah, that’s when I found out how much it cost.  Oh, well…)  A little more research revealed that I’d need to get a ball mount for the hitch.  And a mount pin.  And a hitch ball.  And a wrench for the hitch ball.  And safety chains.

With all that, there was still something crucial I missed.  (Cue ominous music.)  Did you spot it?  Check your guess as I continue in future installments.

Hey, what are you doing?  Are you punching numbers into a calculator?  Are you figuring out that for the money it cost, I could have just given H the cash to buy a used replacement trailer, and saved myself the hassle?  Maybe, but then I wouldn’t have had this story to tell.

Seriously, H would have refused the money.  It was one thing for me to do a favor, even an extravagant one, but dumping cash on her would make it a matter of pride.  She took a serious blow to her pride when was abandoned in Texas.  In the months since then she had recovered much of it, and I hoped to help her recover some more.  Cash wouldn’t help, helping her to take action would.

Next: Road Trip – Monday, July 21.

“Hey, the road trip was scheduled for Thursday, July 24.  Why are you starting with Monday?”  Stay tuned for the answer…

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