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The band policeRecently I got an e-mail from a new amateur radio operator who told me about an encounter with an unpleasant character on the bands. This new operator was following all the rules of identification while enjoying an EchoLink contact with a DX station. Someone jumped in and told him he should get off the air if he wasn't going to identify. Interestingly enough, the guy with this unsolicited advice didn't identify his station at all. The whole incident confused and worried our new amateur radio operator. It wasn't exactly a way to feel welcomed on the amateur radio bands, was it?
Let's deconstruct this incident.
First off, our new amateur radio operator says that he was following all of the rules of identification and I believe him. Because it was an EchoLink contact, it is possible that because of delays in the various interconnected systems and possible packet loss, the station that broke in with the comment about identification may not have been able to hear all of the conversation. So there could be a technical issue here, but there is certainly no need to break into a conversation to rudely chastise someone with unsolicited advice. After all, all identifications were being done properly and sometimes band conditions or Internet connectivity can change what a third station might hear. Even if there is a compelling need to break in, the best way to do so is with one's callsign, not with an unidentified scold.
What our new amateur radio operator had the misfortune to experience was a visit from one of the lower life forms on the amateur radio bands: the band police. Who knows if they even hold valid amateur radio licenses? If they do, do they think the rules about identification do not apply to them when they are busy butting into another conversation to complain about something they don't like? Well, I suspect that these "band police" are pretty under socialized in other respects. I'd be willing to bet they are blowhard know it all's at the Field Day site and at the radio club meetings. For them it's "my way or the highway", and that probably extends to other areas of life aside from amateur radio!
We all know that there are unpleasant and even downright toxic personalities out there, so in amateur radio as in the rest of life we need to have a strategy. Just as you would avoid contact as much as possible with an unpleasant and unreasonable neighbor or a pushy bully at the office, you can devise a strategy to minimize your contact with unpleasant people on the amateur radio bands. You may wonder how this is possible when they break in with unsolicited comments, but the best advice is the long-standing recommendation from experienced operators: simply ignore them. Don't acknowledge them. Like Internet trolls, they like to interrupt and disrupt with off-topic and controversial or unsolicited comments. The more you engage them, the more you feed their egos. Ignoring the band police may not be as satisfying as telling them to mind their own business, but if you go down that road you are asking for trouble. Yes, there may be times when the situation gets so bad that you may need to escalate it by bringing it to the attention of the ARRL official observers in your area. One thing you should NOT do is let an incident like this spoil your enjoyment of the amateur radio bands. Almost all amateur radio operators are friendly, helpful, and understanding – and especially so when it comes to welcoming new amateur radio operators to a lifetime of fun on the bands.
This is a reminder that the Handiham office is open only with very limited services and hours this week. No renewals or new membership requests can be processed until July 16.
Email me at email@example.com with your questions & comments.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham remote base stations up & running, but...
...there are a couple of issues.
While W0EQO has returned to complete service following severe storms which took down over 20 trees at Courage North, W0ZSW remains only marginally useful. The problem is the internet connectivity and network problems at the Handiham headquarters office at Camp Courage. I do plan to spend some time working on these problems this week, which unfortunately means even less time to answer phone calls and emails or to work on the new Extra Class lecture series. Both stations remain accessible via Echolink for receive, but with occasional dropouts on W0ZSW.