QRZ Logbook

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"We have nothing in common, kid..."

Sometimes I wonder what drives people to become a ham operator. I'm sure there are many reasons, such as the technology, the curiosity, the public service, the comraderie, etc.

When you're an adult, like I am half the time, you enjoy talking with your peers about a plethora of subjects. Some subjects that I hear hams discuss at length on local repeaters are aviation, motorcycles, hiking, travel, politics, religion, family, and health. All of these things can be interesting, especially to someone who has shared in that same passion along with ham radio.

For kids, however, well, there's not necessarily a whole lot they can share in some of these areas. Imagine a 30-something ham who's a pilot talking aviation with a 10-year old. There's not a lot of ground to be covered, figuritively speaking.

My daughter's been licensed for almost a year. In that time I can count the number of QSO's she's had on one hand. It's not that she's not interested in ham radio, far from it. But one issue she's raised with me is that there's not a lot of kids her age that she can talk to in the area.

And it isn't for lack of trying, either. We have friends that live in Bristol (some 90 miles away from home) and they have 2 sons who are licensed hams. Earlier this Spring we tried to check in on a new "Youth net" they'd started up. Problem is, there wasn't a net. Apparently, they forgot to call one. We've tried to schedule the kids to have a QSO, but the schedules just don't come together.

But I wonder if more kids are not getting on the air due to intimidation by those who are much older.

A couple of cases in point. I met with George Bowen (W2XBS) a few weeks back and we were talking about our kids getting on the air (his daughter Jessica and my daughter Lauren are both recently licensed youth) and he told me the story of how one radio club near his home was trying to encourage youth into getting licensed, yet when they (the kids) try to talk on a local repeater, the "old guys" who were club members would weasel their way into the kids' QSO and then just continue their QSO with one another with the kids left out in the background. Not very encouraging when all is said and done.

Here in Knoxville, I haven't heard of that occurring, but I overheard something that got me equally riled. I'm surprised I didn't jump in and chew the guy out, but I knew discretion was the better part of valor in this instance.

This ham (I won't give him the pleasure of the publicity) is one of those folks who probably is on your local repeater. He's the kind of person who can grate on you with just their manner, their inflection, or their pomposity. He says one thing, then does another, and has an excuse for being the exception to his rule no matter what. I've not talked to him but a handful of times. But I've heard him more than I've talked to him.

A few weeks back, he was having a QSO with another ham and the subject came up about a young ham who's from Chattanooga. The kid has been licensed for a short while, but his enthusiasm was one to be appreciated. I was one of his first contacts if I recall.

Apparently the kid's enthusiasm for being a new ham got on this guy's nerves.

He began bragging about how he chased this kid off the repeater. Saying he wasn't the kid's babysitter. He boasted about how he and the kid "have nothing in common" and that he wasn't going to talk to him anymore.

I don't know how long ago this QSO he spoke of took place, other than to say that I've not heard this kid on the repeater for several months now.

Is this how our current generation is to indoctrinate the next, by telling the next generation of hams to kiss off???

I seem to recall talking to hams who've been in amateur radio longer than I've been alive about how they would "elmer" new hams, young and old, and be their inspiration for staying in ham radio. Now I'm hearing about how we can scare them off and ensure they won't return to the airwaves anytime soon. And these are hams who have not been in the hobby less than half the years I have.

Kids are impressionable. They'll want to do something until someone gives them a bad experience involving something they feel they've done wrong. Even if it's the other person who's had a bad day, or misunderstood the intent of what the kid might've said, one bad ham's attitude will run a kid off the radio real fast.

In this ever-changing world we live in, where Facebook and Twitter are on the minds of kids more than the dits and dahs of ham radio, we need to all remember that they are the future of ham radio. No one's asking us to babysit the young hams, but we should be mindful that they are the ones that will carry ham radio into the future.

Nevertheless, I reported him to the repeater owner, who was pretty passive. Not much he could do really, but I felt I had to tell him in order to put it out there that we have a few jerks running around.

I'd rather not say what I would do if he said anything of the sort to my daughter...let's just say it will probably violate some or all of Part 97's rules...