QRZ Logbook

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to lose friends and influence righteous indignation

I've been a ham going on 20 years.  Back when I got my license, there was no "internet" as we know it today. We did not surf the web, e-mail, blog, or Google. And cell phones? If you were a celebrity or a doctor, you got the privilege of owning one, which might have been a 20 pound battery with a handset strapped to the top of it. & frget txt msging LOL :)

Remember these things?
We also didn't get our ham radio licenses in just a few days. I waited nearly 10 weeks to get my license in the mail. Once I got it I finally knew what my callsign was (at the time KE4HSM) and got on the air, and got the ball rolling.

My, how times have changed. I mean, now we can do all those aforementioned things and then some and even do it in the palm of your hand. Heck, with electronic licensing, we don't have to wait around until the postman delivers our mail in order to get our callsign, we just check the FCC database and once it's in there, we're on the air! Am I Right?

So last Saturday night I made my annual pilgrimage to Titanic in Pigeon Forge, TN to assist in operating the ham radio special event to commemorate the anniversary of the sinking of the ship. I've operated there the last 2 years, brought my kids along and let them operate, and they both tagged along this year. It was late but they wanted to operate for a while then crash in the car while I stayed for a bit longer, that's how it's been done in the past. It's never been a problem.

My, how times have changed.

So we arrive and there's only one operator there and he's working the 80m station. We make small talk for a a couple of minutes and Amber grabs a headset from another radio and I turn it on and tune to 20m where I start to hear some chatter. Just as I start to fine tune the signal, Amber tugs at me and asks "where's your license?". 

I didn't understand the gist of her question until the operator said "You need your ham radio license to operate here".

I said I didn't have it on me (I checked my wallet to be sure) and he said I was not allowed to transmit without my license in hand. 

Now understand, I don't know this guy from Adam. In fact, I didn't catch his call because either I didn't hear it or he didn't tell me, even after I introduced my kids and myself, and I think it was the latter. He was using the special event club call (W4S) when he was on the air. So I don't know his realm of knowledge with all things ham radio, but he berates me for not having a license in my possession when I know for a fact one is no longer needed to be in possession in order to transmit on ham radio, one just has to have an active callsign. And here is this guy trying to school me on what an FCC ham radio license looks like. I advised him I didn't need one to operate a station thanks to electronic licensing, but he was having none of it.

I could have gotten belligerent with him but 1) I had the kids with me, and 2) I've learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to speaking before thinking, especially when said thoughts are about what to do, where to do it, how to do it, and with whom to do it. I didn't say another word, other than telling the girls "let's go," and heading for the car.

Needless to say after 2+ hours and 80 miles of my life I won't get back, I'm pissed off. Royally. What good would it have been to argue my case, justifiably so, if it only creates a negative air and hostile tension between what's-his-face and myself? The kids are disappointed, I'm irate, and we are ready to have the day over with and done at this point.

When I get home I get on Facebook and let the guy in charge have it. His response was basically that due to events last year, there was a change in the rules and "it was in the notice". The specific rule in the notice says:
Non Members Must Present A Valid FCC License to operate the event stations !
Okay, fine. I honestly didn't read all of it. I didn't think I needed to because 1) I've done this event every year they've had it and nothing's changed except the location around the museum, and 2) it was buried at the tail end of the "notice" on the Facebook page, where few would catch it unless they were attentive. So screw me, right?

But basically this is a statement covering a lot of people. "Non-members" also includes the general public, as in non-hams. So what we have is a PUBLIC service club operating a PUBLIC event at a PUBLIC location not allowing the PUBLIC a chance to operate the equipment in order to make the PUBLIC demonstration hands-on. So what's the point of even having the damned thing if you prevent people from participating, maybe even getting some interested in ham radio and creating new licensees? Is this club going to instill this "rule" for Field Day, the biggest publicity event of the year?

But so be it, if this is how they want to operate, that's their prerogative. It's mine not to participate in the future with the event or this club, since obviously they feel "non-members" run such a serious risk to others. And this proves another example as to why I don't do clubs anymore.

Sometimes common sense fails miserably when trying to have a good time on the radio.

My, how times have changed, indeed. Now if you'll excuse me, I apparently need to make a photocopy of my license in the event some overbearing individuals need to see proof I know what the hell I'm doing.


  1. Let me give you a different perspective on this. I was recently the trustee for a special event callsign, W8P. As such, I was responsible for what was transmitted using that callsign. So was the guy who was the trustee for W4S.

    Now, you already admitted that you didn't know the guy who was operating there. Obviously, he didn't know you, either. On top of that, they apparently had some kind of incident last year, probably with someone they didn't know. All that being the case, I would also have been a little leery of letting you operate.

    I'm not saying that they ran a perfect event here. Obviously, they could have done more, but you're not totally without blame, either. Did you ever think about providing some alternate ID? I see that you have your picture on QRZ.Com. You could have showed him your driver's license and then pointed him at your QRZ.Com page.

    I understand your frustration, but you gotta see it from their point of view, too.

    73, Dan KB6NU

  2. Thanks for your input. The guy at the event remembered my kids from the previous year. That info I didn't think about until after I posted. I confirmed it with my kids.

    The overall point is common sense failed here. At what event would you NOT allow someone the chance to operate? License or no, if anything the point was that they were at a public location for a publicity op and screwed the pooch with this "rule".

    I have headed up many a Field Day operation and whenever someone who wasn't a ham but was curious about ham radio came to the operation, we showed them what to do and they watched for a bit, then we handed them the reigns and watched over them. No biggie there.

    By the definition of "non-members need to show a valid FCC license" that means no non-hams were allowed to operate. Curious people who might have had a passing interest in ham radio were forbidden to operate if they went by their rules to the letter (which they apparently did). What's the point of having the special event, then?

    If they were so worried about what could go wrong, then they should have either not had the special event, or let someone more confident in how to handle things take it.

    Another ham I know got to operate W1AW in Newington a couple of years back and he had to show his license. That I can understand. This, I'm sorry, it was just plain stupid.