Friday, September 07, 2007

Hammin' It Up

For the most part, being an amateur radio operator (AKA ham) is not something I find the most thrilling thing I can be doing with my time. I only have my most basic privileges, which means I can use a little handheld radio and talk to people locally. In New England, I used to get lucky and hit Rhode Island once in a blue moon, but here, I only know the one repeater (which I think is a tower where you send your signal from) and no one is ever on it. My husband, Mr. Technician General Super Operator, can use the big rig and contact people all over the world. But even then, they might talk for 15 seconds to swap call signs and be done with it. So I don't much see the point--I live vicariously through his far hits. The night he hit New Zealand was pandemonium here, let me tell you.

There is one bright star in my ham world, which is the weekly nets run by the amateur club here in town. On Thursday nights, everyone who wants to can tune in and listen to a little roll call of sorts. It is run by our neighbor and dear friend, and I love listening to him run the nets, because he always sounds so happy and he always says, "Yeah, okay..." after each person's check in, which just cracks me up for some reason.

So, last night we were listening, and usually, it's a pretty tame session. You check in, say your comments, and then listen to everyone else's. Comments range from "I'm sitting in my car on I95 trying to get home" to "nothing to report, just thought I'd check in" to "we had chicken for dinner at the new place in town". You get the picture.

Well, last night, someone blasted a hole in the calm. There was a guy in there from out of town, and he showed up just as the net was closing for the night. After the net, we have a "swap shop" where people who want to buy, sell, trade, or acquire new or used ham equipment can list their goods or wish list. Kind of like free classifieds.

So, our friend closes the net and this guy jumps on and announces himself on the net. So patiently, he is wished a good evening, and the swap shop is open. Our friend is rattling off the various and sundry pieces of equipment and all of a sudden, this guy jumps in again and rattles off some stuff. So patiently (but perhaps a bit firmly), Friend asks the guy not to interrupt (very bad ham etiquette breach!).

Finally, Friend finishes off the list and asks if there's anyone else who wants to list anything with the swap shop, and guess who?

And all of a sudden, it's pandemonium. This guy starts rattling off his own system of phonetic letters, strings of numbers, and he's confusing himself about what he's actually talking about.

Most of us, hams or not, know some or all of the phonetic alphabet(alpha, bravo, charlie, delta...). And if you are a ham, you should know all of it. This guy was making it up as he went along.

"I need quantity three, quantity three six geronimo [G is golf in phonetics] sevens"

"I need one six geronimo kilowatt three"

"I need three, quantity three six bobwhite tango five"

So finally, after two or three minutes, another guy gets in there and says, "Forget all that stuff, just give me the numbers and the letters, I don't want the Mickey Mouse." We were cracking up. It was clear the old timers were not pleased about their swap shop getting hijacked. "Don't give me the Mickey Mouse!"

So then, the guy starts in again. "Six G 7, that's quantity three, six geronimo--no, wait a minute, six seven--wait, quantity three six geronimo seven tubes."

Meanwhile our friend is trying to keep up with what this guy is saying and valiantly tries to read back what the guy wants. "So I have you down for needing three 6G7's, a 6GK3, and three 6BT5s. Thank you and good night."

But the guy won't be deterred. He's somehow convinced that it's wrong. So he starts rattling it off again. Then Mickey Mouse gets in there and says, "They never manufactured a 6GK3!"

So this guy says, "I didn't say I wanted a 6GK3, I said I wanted quantity three six geronimo kilowatt threes."

So Mickey Mouse says right on the air, "Can you believe this guy? Did you hear that?" and our friend says, "He just said three times he wants the 6GK3's and now he's denying it!" There was an aura of disbelief, outrage, and hilarity eminating from the radio.

Finally, they tell the guy they have the information and quickly close the swap shop. Undeterred this dude again starts rattling off information, including his home phone number, and then seems to think better of it and says, "Yeah, but don't call me for any other reason than you've got my stuff. Have a blessed night."

So we shut the radio off, Michael's running in and out of the office to email our friend to take an informal poll as to whether this dude is drunk or maybe not quite right in the head, the two of us are on the bed laughing our heads off, and about 30 minutes later, when we've calmed down, I turned the radio on again, and the guy is still in there!!! He's talking to absolutely no one. So I keyed up the radio (tuned it into the repeater) and I guess he must have heard that, because he starts saying, "To the station tuning in, I can't hear you!!!" He'd wait a few minutes, say his call again, and then say, "Station!? I can't hear you! You aren't hitting the repeater. Try again!"

It was the general consensus that the dude was d-r-u-n-k. It was so damned funny. Makes being a ham just a bit more enjoyable.

3 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Talmadge G. said...

Oh man, you had me howling! "I don't want the Mickey Mouse" .... ROFLMAO!!

Yeah, no doubt about it his 'boy-alpha-charlie' was way up there.

As for general ham humdrum, it requires "that" kind of mentality to really appreciate. If I pulled in an operator from New Zealand, I'm sure I'd have matched the General in pandemonium level.

The 'net has killed a lot of the mysticism of talking with someone at great distances, however the sheer magic of radio waves ... and where they can take themselves ... can get me swooning in short order.

--73s from Tal

Kate/Susan said...

I'm still laughing so hard I'm in tears.

Last night after we shut the radio off, we were trying to fall asleep, and we were laughing so hard the bed was shaking. We'd finally calm down, and one of us would whisper "Mickey Mouse" and we'd both erupt again. It took us 40 minutes to calm down.

73 indeed! :-)

KB1JTU, over and out.

nettiemac said...

Now THAT is funny!!!!