Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ham radio craziness

Yesterday was the annual PPRAA Megafest. I was up by 5 a.m. and on the road headed to Monument by 6 a.m. I promised to help with admissions. When I got there I barely had time to say hello to my friends, and there were a couple of people I really wanted to see, people I hadn't seen in about two months, but no such luck. I think I spoke to one friend for a whole five minutes the entire day.

From 7:30-9:30, I collected money, stamped hands, and gave out raffle and door prize tickets. I joked with people, held a lot of hands, smiled and had a fairly good time teasing and being teased by the guys I know from the ham club. At 9:30, as promised, Bill came and relieved me long enough to head to the VE testing room, which was empty. People were lined up along both walls in the hall leading to the room, but Dennis, the VE liaison, wasn't there. I went looking for him and found him just in time.

Unlike other testing sessions, we didn't have enough VEs and we needed at least three, according to ARRL/VEC regulations. Some guy (Rand) from Franktown sat in with us since he brought his credentials with him and, with Dennis and me, made three. We were busier than a one-armed man in a sheep shearing contest because we had 32 candidates, three of which were women, and one of which was a 10-year-old boy. Only six people didn't pass, but all the women and the boy (who was literally jumping up and down because his dad promised to buy him a radio if he passed) passed. Hooray! for the women . . . and for the boy.

Since the FCC took out the Morse Code requirement in obtaining a ham radio license, exam sessions have been packed. We had 19 at the last PPRAA session in April and 10 or 12 at the MARC session last month, and now 32 at yesterday's session. Most of the people are younger and that's a really good thing and there are usually quite a few in the sessions who are friends or relatives. Looks like taking out the Morse Code requirement has been a good thing since it probably kept people from giving it a shot. I guess when the older hams are gone, there will be a new and younger crop of hams to take their places, most of them husbands and wives, and even entire families, each with a license of their own.

By the time we were finished yesterday, it was about 1:30 p.m. and I was beat. The gym was cleared out and only one vendor was still loading his equipment into his truck. I didn't get to see who won the big prizes (not me) or if I won a door prize (you had to be present and I wasn't) or even look at much of what was for sale, but it was a good day and I'm glad I went, even though there were some disappointments, like not spending time with friends and acquaintances. I didn't get any brats or hamburgers, but one guy was nice enough to get me a bottle of water and it took a few minutes to work the kinks and stiffness out of my butt and legs when I stood up again.

I wonder how many times plans are made with the specific purpose of having the time and leisure to see someone you haven't seen in ages, someone who probably lives in the same town, but circumstances make long visits nearly impossible. Work or responsibilities or schedules get in the way and all that's left is a feeling of having missed a great opportunity. Then again, living in the same town, even with busy personal lives, you'd think one or the other could make the time to meet for coffee or lunch or even breakfast, giving them a chance to catch up and reconnect.

All too often, we are so caught up in the minutiae of every day life that we don't take the time to keep in touch and time moves so swiftly that the idea to call tomorrow gets lost in the shuffle until tomorrow is two or six or ten months in the past. Oh, there's always email, but email, unlike a handwritten letter, is not very personal. No matter how long the email or how personal the content, it doesn't replace a phone call or a handwritten letter or (better yet) sitting down or taking a walk together, a real up close and personal visit. I know people whose jobs require them to spend a lot of time on the phone cringe at the idea of spending any more time on the phone and they just want the sounds of silence, but the people on the phone at work cannot hold a candle to the sound of a friend's or relative's voice. There's something soothing and comforting in hearing the voice of someone you actually like when you can't (and don't take the time to) visit. That voice becomes like a little bit of home like a life line connecting you to simpler times or fond memories.

It sounds contrived, but if you live close enough to see someone, you really should schedule a time to meet, even if it's for 15 or 20 minutes. Take the time to reconnect and share a few minutes together even if you don't talk about anything important (or even if you do talk about something important), but spend some time together. Life is so short and regret takes a lot of energy. Indulge your senses and get the full experience of life; make a memory and see an old friend. Be part of the world and not just a bystander. Even if you're rushed off your feet, don't get to sample the donuts or the brats, and even if you don't spend more than 5 minutes with someone, make the effort. You'll be glad you did. So will they.

That is all. Disperse.

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