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An Open Letter to the “Ham” in Thursday Night’s Pile-up
By Don Keith N4KC
Copyright 2018 by Don Keith
Dear Sir (and I use the term “sir” with some hesitation):
Could you please help me with something? You, I, and hundreds of others were on 40-meter CW the other evening attempting to make a quick contact with the VP8STI dxpedition on South Sandwich Island. Yes, it was quite a pile-up but the DX operator was doing an admirable job of pulling stations out of the bedlam for this rare one. He was especially diligent in getting partial calls and staying with them until he finally got the station’s full call from the din and made the contact.
Then, there you were. VP8STI would send something like, “WA6?” and wait. But you blasted away, despite the fact that your call sign—a one-by-two starting with a “K” and with nowhere near a “6” contained therein—was totally different from the station’s he was trying to work. You did not just do this once or twice, by mistake. I heard you hammering away out of turn for at least a quarter hour, consistently calling when the DX clearly was not responding to you. And you were usually on the same frequency the targeted station was transmitting on, as if you landed there on purpose.
So help me understand, please. Is it your experience that these types of bullying tactics actually work? Is that how you managed to be ranked, according to your QRZ.com page, #1 on the DXCC Honor Roll? Do you still have to do this sort of bull-in-the china-shop thing, even though you have a multi-element beam and an amplifier that appears fully capable of exceeding the maximum legal limit of power output? I’m serious. Is this the kind of operating it takes to get the most satisfaction from this aspect of our fine hobby?
Oh, I know there are far worse transgressors. They deliberately launch QRM galore on the dxpedition calling frequency, attempting to ruin it for everybody. They send or utter words and terms that would make a stevedore blush. But these are clearly disturbed individuals who merely add to the challenge of the chase as they demonstrate their psychoses right in front of God and everybody. They have no interest in contacting the DX entity. The only tingle they get in their miserable lives is provoking the “band cops” to respond. And it works. But I understand their behavior. They are sick folks. You, though, seem perfectly normal, an exemplary Ham, from what I can tell from your profile. But not so when your big sig is rattling my headphones while a weaker guy underneath you tries to complete his precious contact-in-progress. That is when you fire up that full gallon and repeatedly ignore the DX operator’s specific instructions, delaying the process, keeping others who follow procedure from making the Q until propagation goes bye bye.
There is another difference between you and those mentally challenged tuner-uppers and sick serial dit-senders. You, it appears, are actually hoping to make the QSO. Make it with all urgency. And make it at all costs. Never mind if you are wiping out the station the DX is doggedly attempting to respond to. And you continue to emit RF even if it is obvious the VP8 op is not going to acknowledge your boorishness. Trample on! And do all you can do to make the contact, even if you already have South Sandwich confirmed. After all, since you claim to be #1 on the Honor Roll, that would be the case, right? Oh. You need the “band/mode.” So grab it ahead of all those who need just one contact for an all-time new one. They can get their ATNO in fifteen years, when the next VP8S group activates that frozen little patch of dirt.
I also know there are many who denigrate both DXing as well as those of us who enjoy it. They decry the quick-and-dirty “599 TU” contact and absence of any real human interaction in such “communications.” You and others like you are a primary example they employ to make their case, too. But many of us are avid DXers despite you. We simply look at tyrants like you as another obstacle, like lack of sunspots or a weak final tube in the amp, something we really cannot do anything about at the moment, making the eventual consummation of the QSO even more rewarding. As with other Amateur Radio activities, I believe we should enjoy what we enjoy and freely allow others to enjoy what they enjoy without ridicule. But do you really have to confirm their most negative stereotype of the typical “serious” DXer, with your Extra-class call sign, your Honor Roll certificate, and your big-boy station?
So tell me, is it worth it when and if you get the “599” and can move on? Is this really the way we all should be behaving in the pile-ups? Does it ever work? It must, because you kept doing it.
But then, you know what? After about fifteen minutes of obliterating just about every station the VP8 tried to work the other night, I heard you make a call when you were actually supposed to. And the VP8 came right back to you.
Accident? I don’t think so. I think the DX op was doing a good thing by ignoring your butt when you were pushing the rest of us around. It would have served you right if he continued to do so, even when you did it the right way. But I suspect you are too arrogant to get the message and would have simply categorized him as a bad op and just kept creating your mayhem.
Thank you for reading my letter although I suspect you have no idea I am directing this diatribe at you. Regardless, allow me to wish you a sincere “73” and “Good DX!”
Emphasis on “good.”
Don Keith N4KC has been a ham radio operator for more than fifty years. After a long career in broadcasting and advertising, he now writes full time and has published more than thirty books, fiction and non-fiction, on a wide range of subjects including amateur radio. See www.donkeith.com or www.n4kc.com for more info.