Please note this article first appeared in the December 1996 edition of MARA NEWS
WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE TALK TO ME?
Submitted by Gil WA1GDJ
[From Popular Communications ' The Ham Column' Nov. 1996 issue, by Kirk Kleinschmidt. NT0Z]
Pins and needles? Fluttery stomach? That tic in your left eyelid bothering you? Palms sweaty? You must be about to make your first repeater contact! Relax, it's easy. You've probably just unpacked a shiny new 2-meter rig and you're dying to use it.
First things first. You punch up the local repeater frequency and listen.
Nothing. No QSOs in progress, no weather reports, no machine-spoken IDs are heard. This is the moment you've been waiting for. You key the mic and in a confident voice, announce, "This is NT0Z listening!"
The repeater works its magic. Somebody has to be reaching for their microphone, right? They'll respond any second now, won't they? The seconds stretch on. You repeat your call, perhaps sounding a bit less confident. Still nothing.
Just when you're about to give up and hit the big switch, the repeater comes to life! "WQ0XYZ this is WV0ABC. You around, Bill?"
Anger flares and pushes aside your former feelings of isolation. You realize that at least one of these guys was probably on frequency and listening when you made your calls. Why didn't they answer you? Is it because you're a newbie? Do they hate you already? They don't even know you! As you'll discover, therein lies the problem.
The Paradox: Most Hams are Shy! Ham radio is all about communicating-with one great contradiction. Most hams are painfully shy! Want Proof? Go to any hamfest and watch how clusters of ham buddies talk up a storm with other hams they know. Otherwise, most hams walk around in relative silence. Some are difficult to engage in conversation!
A friend of mine thinks it has to do with the nature of amateur radio itself. I tend to agree. You see, when you're on the air talking up a storm to some other ham in Oregon, you're "invisible" (SSTV and ATV modes excepted). You don't have eye contact. You could be reclining in your boxer shorts or standing on your head. The world is at arms length.
Through ham radio, people who might be fearful of close, personal communications still get to communicate. Breaking the shyness barrier is what's necessary to make those first repeater contacts. When you announced that you were listening, more than a dozen other ops probably heard you. They heard you, but they probably didn't know you. They were all waiting for someone else-and they knew there were others listening on frequency -to be the first person to break the ice. If everyone waits, unfortunately nobody responds!
This scenario is repeated (pun intended) on machines across the country many times a day. The problem isn't you, or that you're a new ham. It's that you're a stranger. An unknown quantity. Making the transition from stranger to friend will ensure many repeater QSO's.
Clearing the Fist Hurdle. If you keep announcing that "you're listening," someone will eventually reply, but it may take a while. An easier approach is to become part of an existing repeater conversation. Monitor the repeater and listen for opportunities to join in, even if you're just asking a question.
"KX0ABC from WV0XYZ. I'm definitely gonna order that Weber Street-Lethal carburetor for my Toyota. I think it's the best way to get the extra horsepower for pulling my camper." "I don't know, Hector, I think you should start with an exhaust header and a set of cams tweaked for towing power." Here's your golden opportunity to jump in and make friends. If you don't know anything about souping up 4x4s, just ask a question! If you do, pop in and contribute your two cents worth. In a pause between transmissions, announce your callsign.
"NT0Z? Whoa, there's a new voice! Ah, NT0Z.. this is KX0ABC. How can I help you?" "Hi my name is Kirk and I live in Little Falls. I couldn't help overhearing your discussion and I wanted to suggest the Mikuni carb over the Weber. It's not as easy to install, but it provides more horsepower for towing. And if you change the cams, you'll wind up replacing the rockers and the valve springs. It's a lot of extra work."
At this point, you're no longer a stranger, at least to these guys and those who are lurking on frequency. Make enough conversations of this type and you'll gradually wear down the opposition. In time, your call sign will be familiar to everyone who regularly uses the machine, and when you say, "NT0Z listening," you'll get replies. After all, these people now know you!
A Few Repeater Tips:
Another way to get to know repeater-dwelling hams is to attend a few local ham club meetings. Make friends there and you've made friends on the repeater! Through that local club, volunteer for various public service activities. Helping out at public service events is rewarding in ways beyond the accumulation of ham radio friends. Try asking for a signal report instead of just announcing to the world that you're listening. When there's a reason to reply, your chances improve. Do something or go somewhere unusual. If you say, "This is NT0Z, overhead in the Goodyear Blimp, Listening." you're bound to get a reply.