Quoted from Clnilsen:
Got my license a few years back… never saw a worse gatekept hobby. Tried a few clubs, wanted to find an Elmer, and besides the political advocation pervasiveness, the general distaste to help anyone younger (and I’m pushing 50!) was beyond the pale. I have a radio I bought that sits on a shelf unused. Pretty much decided I couldn’t be bothered to figure out why I’d even want to talk to these people tbh.
You reminded me of my first experience with a skilled/ professional operator. He had several computers linked up to a radio, antenna hooked up to 2 car batteries and was maybe 2 stories high. Guy lived in the country where 5 houses would be seen at a dead end. He had built a few radios himself from scratch. I figured this would be the perfect guy to learn from. I think he was pretty well known in the region but whatever.
One of my good/close friends knew this guy from when in college who was into radios and kept very distant contact (via e mail) over the following decades. Even this friend of mine had observed in "field day" with this operator a couple times years back. He told me the gathering usually drew about 15-20 people who brought their radios. So this friend of mine got me and pinballplusMN an invite to field day 2022 at this operators house knowing that neither of us knew anything and we were thinking about getting into radios and we had questions.
(For those who don't know. Field day is a 1 day event either national or worldwide where everyone gets their radios out and sees how many people they can talk to in that day. Think of it like Pinball Expo for radios and everyone participates from wherever they want)
This operator had traditionally done it around a 3-4 hour event of his own and made it somewhat of a BBQ...Say 2pm-6pm I don't remember. So I drove us to his house right at 2 because I wanted to be early and introduce myself before things got nuts and ask questions while not being in the way. I had already done some of my own homework so I could get a basic understanding of the terminology so I wouldn't look like a complete dumbass. I bought an exam book and read through it.
As we pull up he's sitting there in a lawn chair at the edge of his garage with his equipment pointing outward with his antenna outside etc. Couple more people there also sitting in lawn chairs. I pull up right by the stall and roll down the window and smile and pop my head out and ask where we should park. He says "right along there is fine" which he points along his gravel driveway towards the side of his property. So I figured I'd pull off quite a ways to keep the area clear for more people to arrive since it sounded like 15-20 people were coming. He immediately yells "well NOT on my lawn would be nice". Keep in mind it's the country and I can barely tell where the driveway transitions to his lawn. So we look at each other and sigh. A part of us already has our minds changed about being there.
So we introduce ourselves and introduce a 6 pack of beer and some light snacks. He says nobody drinks and he already has plenty of snacks inside.
Turns out the rest of the people there are his neighbors. Super nice guys actually!
So we sit around "nice weather today" Blah Blah Blah. Then it's...yeah so we are thinking of getting into radios. He's like....what do you want to know?
I ask what would be a good radio for a beginner. He immediately goes from 0-100 rattling off technical jargon intermixing it with model numbers. I can actually keep up with him a little due to my research I did on my own. But barely.
Then his neighbors start giving him a hard time and say things like "so which one should he buy" and "what does that mean" and "in English please".
That goes on for about 30 more minutes. Now it's time for BBQ. There goes another 45 minutes. This part was nice. Got to talk with his neighbors who were retired military and shared stories etc. One of the neighbors goes home, then another, and the other. Now it's just us two and the operator. So to break the awkwardness I'm asking to get a tour of the radios he built years ago and thought that would be fun to see.
Nope. The two he built were the size of my palm. Had two dials and about 10 components. Basically electronics and soldering 101. Then I asked to see his ham shack which was a small office in his basement. Oh fine...he says. So he holds the door open and it's just a couple more radios. Just something basic. Then he whisks his hands at us like GTFO of my space.
Now I'm thinking let's go back out to the garage and see what's going on with the radios, maybe we can get a demonstration or learn something. Not really. As he sit's down he clasps his hands together and says "well, anything else??"
Me....no no this was great thanks for the opportunity and the delicious food it was nice meeting you and we'll say hi to our mutual friend for you.
Him: okay sounds good. Then he wheels up to his computer and would seem like he's unpausing an intense experience or something like that.
At this point we are walking back to my truck and now realizing....wait, weren't there supposed to be 15 to 20 more cars coming? It didn't take us long to put that part of the puzzle together.
Normally I wouldn't have put up with any of that shit but since we were invited upon request and actually got some good BBQ and desperate to learn about something new I was a little more lenient. Turns out we learned jack shit and amongst a dead end road of nice people we found there's an asshole that lives amongst them.
TLDR: Got an invite to field day at a guys open house whose a Ham expert with POS attitude knowing we were coming to learn. Expected a big turnout but we were the only ones who showed up for the radios. His neighbors showed up just for the food.
HOWEVER...fast forward a few months into last September. Nice Sunday evening stop by a small cigar bar. Bought a few and sat outside to smoke one. Noticed only one other car in the lot than mine. Had a vanity plate which appeared to be a ham call sign. I ran back in and asked the shop keeper if that was his vehicle. He said yes and that he wasn't into radios much anymore as the hobby is dying off and the rest of the people are assholes.
I'm like...YOU DON'T SAY.
So I told him I'm just looking for a basic setup and don't want to get into it too seriously.
He opens his laptop and asks for my e mail. He say's he's sending me some links to a couple of great YouTubers that are into radios and included specific video links for noobs. He also sent me some links for beginner, intermediate and expert level radios. He also sent me links on where I could study for the exam and other great links for resources and graphs and charts. At the end he gave me his number and to call him if I had any questions.
Now that information didn't come from a ham radio guy....that came from a cigar guy.
(I didn't proofread any of this)