Ham Radio Jerks

September 16, 2014 — 7 Comments

I’ve only been a licensed ham radio operator for two years.  During that time, I’m certain I’ve made my share of mistakes when it comes to accepted operating procedure.  But never during that time have I ever been a jerk to anyone on air.

Before I had any exposure to the hobby, I had this romantic idea that the hobby was full of old men talking late into the night with other old men around the world.  I’m thinking “old man” in the sense of that friendly Grandfatherly type.  However, it never occurred to me that some of those old men are that of the curmudgeon type.

Early on, I discovered that the sort of people that pursue ham radio as a hobby aren’t any different than the sort of people you know from just about any other facet of life.  To say it a different way, there’s always a bad apple in every bushel.  Such was a brief reminder I had while on Whiteside Mountain last week.

I came of age as the Internet became publicly available, so I’m usually immune to the keyboard commandos that shoot their mouth off from the comfort of their mother’s basement.  So I don’t know what it was about this old cuss on 14.230Mhz that really got under my skin.  Since he knows my callsign, maybe he’ll come across this post and find out for the first time that he’s a jerk.  I can only hope.

When I was certain I had logged everyone there was interested in talking to me on 40m, I headed over to 20m to find a clear spot in the band to start calling CQ.  (For the non-hams, calling CQ is saying you’ll talk to anyone, anywhere.)  I spun the dial until I found a relatively quiet spot at 14.230Mhz and listened for several seconds.

Hearing nothing, I keyed up the microphone, “This is Kilo Kilo Four Lima Oscar Victor stroke Portable.  Is this frequency in use?” and waited about 10 seconds.

Hearing nothing, I keyed up the microphone, “Nothing heard. This is Kilo Kilo Four Lima Oscar Victor stroke Portable on Whiteside Mountain.  Is this frequency in use?” and waited approximately another 10 seconds.

Again, hearing nothing, I keyed up the microphone, “Nothing heard.  Alright, I’m going to start calling CQ for Summits On The Air Whiteside Mountain.  This is Kilo Kilo Four Lima Oscar Victor stroke Portable.  Standby.”

At that point, I hit the key-combination on my radio to record a playback message and recorded a my CQ message for this SOTA activation.  (Again, for the non-hams, some radios allow you to record/playback a message infinitely so you don’t have to do it over and over while waiting on someone to talk to.)  Having done that, I set it on playback and my radio automatically began calling CQ.

I unlocked my phone and typed a text message that would automatically spot myself on the SOTA website so SOTA chasers would know where to find me and clicked send.  Meanwhile, the recording I set had repeated a couple times.

During a break in the playback, I heard a voice yelling, “This frequency is in use!”

I’m thinking… it sure is, I’ve been calling CQ for nearly a minute at this point.

Not wanting to ruffle anyone’s feathers, I figured I’d roll the dial and find somewhere else to operate even though I had JUST spotted myself and no doubt there was someone somewhere tuning to that frequency to talk to me.

I replied, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know this frequency was in use.  I’ll QSY up the band.  This is KK4LOV portable.”

I didn’t reach for the tuning dial fast enough.

My fiber-deficient friend began, “This frequency is in use and if you’d taken the time to ask before calling CQ, I would have told you!”

I responded, “I did and if you’d taken the time to respond then I wouldn’t have began calling CQ.  This is KK4LOV QRT.”  (QRT, meaning I’m going to stop transmitting now.)

Before I continue to get too wound up, there is something worth noting.  Often times in ham radio, you can only hear one side of a conversation.  It could be that this gentleman was in a conversation with someone that I couldn’t hear when I was asking if the frequency was in use.  And if the other person was busy talking, he wasn’t going to hear me — especially since I’m using low power.  So, it could be that he didn’t know I was there until the other individual was no longer talking.  Or, it could be that he’s still a jerk.

It’s been my experience that are jerks on-air don’t identify themselves (as they’re legally required to).  And that makes sense, because if you’re going to say not-so-nice things to someone, the last thing you’re going to do is muster the nerve to tell them exactly who you are.  (Your callsign is unique internationally and any one can use it to look up your contact information.)

Were the weather not turning sour, my wife and child waiting on me to finish so we could get off the mountain AND I were not 1 contact shy of this being a successful activation — I would have waited on frequency to determine if it really were in use and who this individual was so I could send him an email telling him what a world-class jerk I thought he was.  But the time and elements weren’t on my side, so I collected three more contacts before packing up.

And wouldn’t you know that no sooner than I had packed up, the menacing looking cloud forming overhead had moved on.  Oh well.

So if nothing else, this was a great personal reminder to be courteous to others when “playing radio.”  Our ability to use certain sections of radio spectrum are a privilege licensed by the FCC, not an inalienable right.


Aaron Melton


7 responses to Ham Radio Jerks

  1. Go get ’em, Buddy. I still say I want you on my island if I’m ever stranded. Radio or not.

  2. Yup, i got my license about 3 months ago. I bought a 2 meter rig and got to “meet” some of these older hams. Well, the 2 meter rig is disconnected, and going on ebay soon. I tried the hf side of things; same deal, now i’m back on the free band where i really have no issues with anyone. Sure, there are some noisy operatirs, but generally not so bad or jerky. If the FCC ever takes any bands away from the amateurs, i’d say good! Less pompous old fools crudding up that band.

    • The original intent of this post was more of a rant than to stereotype all Hams as a bunch of jerks. I’ve certainly met a few, but it doesn’t make them any different than any other cross-section of people you’d find in any other hobby. In fact, I can count all those experiences on a couple of fingers.

      I hate that your experience was more of the exception than the rule and you’ve decided to exit the hobby quicker than you entered it. A word from a stranger probably isn’t enough to persuade you to say, but I think perhaps you should. Finding a local club of other Hams helps bridge that gap of talking to strangers on-air. But it certainly isn’t for everybody.

      I’d rather deal with the few crusty old farts I’ve encountered on the Ham bands than all the crude talk and profanity that accompanies the “un-policed” frequencies. Such has been my experience on the “free bands” where no legal requirement to uniquely identify yourself often results in less incentive to behave.

      de KK4LOV

  3. Yeah, I’ve met some of them… I’m an older ham, but just got my General a few years ago. I don’t know CW, and that has caused several jerks to treat me like they are jerks.

    I’ve been told, some people will claim the freq is in use, and it wasn’t. They just like to get you to turn the vfo. I haven’t encountered on yet, but they are supposedly out there.

  4. “…I hate that your experience was more of the exception than the rule…”

    This is not a true statement . . . I had wanted my ticket since about 1976 and finally in 2014 I went to a ham fest with a buddy that wanted to test and got conned into testing. I got my tech and general that day and 30 days later at another hamfest I got my extra ticket. Since then, I have belonged to a club and quit. I was made PR Officer . . . and walked away less than 30 days later because a high profile club member was arrested on paedo charges and the club all came down supporting him.

    The area here is filled with 70+ “walking dead” that essentially run off anyone but their buddies. Oh, they want you to join the club and give them your money . . . then shut the hell up and go away.

    To sum it all up, there is NO “brotherhood” among hams (at least not anymore that I’ve seen). I’ve been insulted, talked down to, lied to, lied about, and essentially been told I’m wrong about more things than I can count (despite 30+ yrs in electronics and broadcasting AND going from 0 to Extra in 30 days).

    So….. I’ve packed up all the handi-talkies, the Kenwood 530S, the antennas, poles, coax, tuner, etc. Taken the radios out of the car and Jeep. And in essence, after three loooooong years, I want nothing to do with “amateur radio”.

    The “walking dead” can have it.

    • I’ve now been a ham for about 4.5 years and I can say that experiences like this have often been the exception than the rule. I’ve had a few run-ins here and there and while at the time they’ve been quite discouraging, its never been so much that I would quit the hobby over it. I’ve had too many rewarding experiences, learned too much and made too many friends to throw it all away over an old fart with an axe to grind. I regret that your experience has been different. de KK4LOV

    • P.S. Being part of an excellent club (nfarl.org) has made all the difference!

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