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.