One Amateur’s Rant

Posted in the forums by one of our members, we decided that this too good not to share.

Like many of us, I got interested in radio after 9/11. Add to that a measure of frustration with the cell phone networks, and a pinch of working in K-12 public education where carrying a VHF portable was part of my job, and wanting to learn better operating skills. I was first licensed in the “4” callsign district, a Southern county hit repeatedly by hurricanes and wildfires. There was a large, active ARES group with ties to the local radio clubs and the big university nearby.

All this meant lots [of] both equipment and people, from all walks of life and at all stages of their careers, with tons of experience and new ideas, too. The local ARES group had solid expertise in digital modes and was frequently deployed to in- and out-of-state emergencies. I had an interest, but was too busy working my tail off at that time. How much I took for granted.

Last year I finally got the huge promotion I had sweated for. With it came a move North to colder weather. I wound up in a nice little town, a mid-sized city in the “0” callsign district, and had more free time for volunteering. So, I thought, now’s the time to approach ARES.

Boy, was I ever in for some “culture shock.” I looked on the statewide ARES web page (terminally “under construction”) and looked up the name and e-mail for the local ARES point-of-contact. It was a [email protected] address. I e-mailed the gentleman and quickly got a bounce message. His ARRL address was being forwarded to a local ISP mailbox that no longer existed.

Well I guess that left me little resource but to contact the state emergency coordinator, someone [email protected]

Would you believe THAT bounced too. At this point I was wondering if all hams in the midwest tought that e-mail was like a toy or something. But whatever, I’d go to the local club meeting and track down the guy in person.

So at the club meeting (by the way, a place that I will never, never take my wife in my quest to persuade her that ham radio isn’t uncool and that she should get licensed), I met the ARES coordinator. I walked up and told him I’d like to join ARES. He seemed like a nice guy, quite a friendly retired gentleman.

ARES? Oh that’s great, he said. First we’ll need you to get licensed. No worries, we have a course coming up. Then we’ll help you find a good 2-meter radio.

That’s OK, I said, already have a General ticket and my own rigs.

He blinked. I guess they weren’t used to the idea people could show up at a meeting who were already licensed. No offense intended, none taken.

Well around here, he said, ARES is Skywarn and Skywarn is ARES. We really don’t have anything going on until March (four months away).

So… no trainings, no activities, just the weekly net. That’s fine, and in the meantime maybe I’ll come to the monthly club meeting and get to know folks.

Next month I came to the meeting and chatted with the president. They all were real nice guys, and just because I was the only white male under 55 in the room I didn’t hold that against them. I asked how I could join the club.

Oh, well our membership guy isn’t here tonight, was his reply.

And that was it. He took his leave and walked away.

Well at least I can still talk on the local repeater. I had one or two good rag-chews, until one of the old Extras abruptly signed with me in a huff. I had DARED to comment that (in the state where I came from) my friend the police sergeant was really happy with their 800 MHz statewide system which had withstood numerous hurricanes and had awesome coverage in rural areas.

Just you wait, he snorted — around here (also a newly 800 MHz state) they’ll be pulling that thing down in a couple of years and going back to analog. Kxxx OUT!

By the way, remember the licensing classes I was invited to? They were cancelled due to zero attendees. Too bad the classes weren’t posted on the ARRL training locator which my friend, who WANTED to become a ham, had searched through and couldn’t anything within 70 miles, until she finally gave up.

Can you guess how they did promote the classes? They handed out flyers… at the radio club monthly meeting.

Hmm, that explains why I couldn’t find a Field Day site using the locator last July, either…

So, here we are in May and Skywarn is in full swing again. I took the spotting class (again) and e-mailed the Emergency Management official who oversees Skywarn to find out how to join.

Do you suppose I ever got a response? What do you think?

Tell you what… I’m sure that “Hamsexy” means something a little different to everyone. And if you don’t like my definition, good for you.

But to me, Hamsexy means: there are some operators who really are cutting-edge, advancing the state of the art and all that… But ON THE WHOLE there are way too many hams who are woefully inadequate in technologies that are already mainstream, and that most _employable_ people are expected to be proficient with.

Like e-mail. And the crusty old Extra who told me the problem with new hams is that they (should I say “we”) don’t have any technical skills, was later overheard on the repeater getting directions how to use the “file upload” dialog box.

Hamsexy means: a lack of people skills, below the basic standard of what any business would need to compete in the world.

Hell, if I was the president of a club and a prospective new member came out of nowhere to join up, I’d take their cash and write a receipt on paper towel, if that’s all I had nearby! Where do you EVER turn away a customer because “our membership guy isn’t around tonight.”

Hamsexy means: saying you want new people to come into the hobby, but then complaining that somehow, they’re not the “right kind” of people.

Hmm, maybe that explains why there are clubs whose officers don’t have a functioning e-mail account, or don’t use online media to advertise their Technician licensing classes or Field Day events. Apparently the right kind of person is one who doesn’t use a computer.

If you use a computer to learn about ham radio, then you must just be memorizing the exam answers, so we need to petition the FCC (again) to increase the question pool size.

Sadly, what Hamsexy really means is: using the technologies of the past, to keep solving the problems of the past.

Sure, let’s show public safety what’s wrong with 800 MHz and maybe they’ll go back to low-band VHF. Heaven knows there’s all kinds of spectrum down there. If we’re lucky, the next bona-fide regional emergency will be in the summertime, all the agencies responding can just work sporadic-E with each other. We’re hams; we know better than FEMA.

Like my friend the 18-year police veteran said: back when he was a kid, he had an uncle who was a ham and had a rig that could talk around the world, and it was like, “wow.”

“Of course, that was impressive,” he added “…in those days.”

Hey, thanks for reading (or ignoring). I guess all I want to say is, there are hams out there who are “with it” and hams who aren’t. I can’t [blame] anyone for being who they are.

But why the hell do they have to be THE ONLY ONES AROUND!!!

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3 Responses to One Amateur’s Rant

  1. KB3JUV says:

    Unfortunately true. Oh well.

  2. n0loh says:

    As the new Iowa Section Manager, I’ve had fun trying to get in contact with section appointees and have been running into the same problem. It’s too bad, because when an ARRL member doesn’t keep their e-mail reflector up to date, they also miss out on bulletins and contest news, etc.

  3. kc8vwm says:

    Had a similar problem with making a MARS membership inquiry in the past.

    Seems no one is at the receiving end of the emails, phone calls get you into a situation of discourse when you are “offering your services” to an organization, They seem to come across like you are imposing on them for some reason.

    Tell you what,

    How about we forget the whole thing…

    Let the whackers have fun with them. Perhaps they will be a little more persistent than I was and they may actually get somewhere with them…

    I don’t have the time to beg and “appease” anyone. Only if they had any idea of my background they would probably “beg” me to become a member.. but they don’t, so who care’s anyways..

    I know this is unusual and everything but I actually have better things to do with my time.

    Besides, I have been involved with the real deal in the past anyways. I don’t need validation from an amateur organizations. However, these organizations should at least be responsive because they have no idea who they may be tossing aside that could be an asset to them.

    Then again, if you think about it, I suppose that explains exactly why these organizations are they way they are today…


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