To err is human
That aphorism by an ancient Roman philosopher contains an unexpressed thought: that man, recognizing his error, can correct it, surpass himself, and approach perfection.
And here is another term, circulated by the operators of rare DX stations who reside in exotic locations and by those who spend time and money on DXpeditions and contest operations. It is “European behaviour”, this term is used by our friends across the pond and assumes too much. “European behaviour” negatively characterises the conduct of amateurs from more than 50 European nations, so different in origin, culture, language and temperament, that it is difficult to find for them a common denominator. These operators firmly allege that in most every occasion the much-trumpeted amateur spirit of friendship and international co-operation is forgotten, when arises Hamlet’s question, To work or not to work a new one?
No wonder, say those exasperated amateurs, that many DXpeditioners, bored by the silly hodgepodge produced by European operators, prefer to turn their antennas toward the USA or Japan to maintain a reasonable QSO rate.
No wonder many amateurs resident in rare countries, stuck on believing amateur radio is still a hobby, hide on frequencies less monitored by DX’ers or simply go QRT when found and cornered by Europeans. They probably don’t feel obligated to devote their leisure time to making thousands of rubber stamp QSOs and filling out thousands of QSL cards because destiny threw them onto one of the rare islands on the DXCC countries list.
Blinded as we might be by our continental patriotism, we are forced to admit there is quite a lot of truth in the term. If someone compiled a classification of the manners on the amateur bands, he would be forced to put the European countries at the bottom of the list. We would have to console ourselves that YO amateurs aren’t distinguished amongst their continental partners by deliberately or accidentally QRM’ing DX stations. The jamming champs are elsewhere, and we DX’ers know them. And, for the most courteous operators we look to Japan.
Amidst the mayhem that constitutes “European behaviour” an attentive listener can discern a few, distinctive, types. Risking oversimplification, let’s examine these DX’ers. They may occasionally provoke a smile, but too often spoil our fun.
Prefers the microphone, but can sometimes be found on CW. He is usually equipped with very reliable and up to date equipment, with which he monitors the bands for his victims. It does not matter too much for him who will be his interlocutors, or what they say to him, he has too little patience to listen. The only role others have is to listen to what he says, despite its lack of content.
Hopefully, the Monologist has VOX, so when the victim has nearly fallen asleep, he can save himself by shouting “Break!” and pretend he has to go QRT. After doing this it is recommended the victim does not show on the bands for the next few hours in case the Monologist finds him again.
The Monologist type of amateur is not generally interested in DX contacts or QSL cards, but still calls DXpeditions and involves them in long QSO’s against their will. The illness of the Monologist is a chronic one, and has to be regarded rather like a natural calamity, which is beating you without any possibility of self-defense.
This one is under continuous strain. He is driven by an unhealthy curiosity. The Impatient posts himself on the DX station’s transmitting frequency, despite the operator indicating he is listening up, and then starts to ask questions. He immediately wants to know the DX station’s call, his QTH and QSL information, and in the process disturbs everyone trying to work the DX station.
With a bit of patience the Impatient could hear the DX station provide this information every 10 or 15 QSOs, and spinning his VFO a bit he would find where others are calling. In nets the Impatient ignores net control’s instructions and carries on calling, even though he is not located in the country requested by net control. He calls regardless of the situation, usually in the middle of your QSO.
The best expedient, and one not usually advised by DX’ng experts, is to give him the information he wants, accept him, let him join the QSO, put him on the list. Otherwise he may continue to call and cause endless disturbance.
This one knows he can teach everybody else. If he thinks an operation is failing he will not hesitate to interfere, nursing and lecturing the ignorant, setting the situation right from his vast store of knowledge and experience. Let’s say a novice at working DX dares to ask something on the transmitting frequency of a DX station working split. That is enough for the Omniscient: vigilant and deeply worried about the destiny of the operation, he takes prompt action. He remains on frequency for hours and hours continuously sending or shouting “Up!” to reprimand intruders. His QRM completely covers the DX station and nobody can tell whom the DX station is answering. Despite his well-meaning intentions, one prefers hearing the novice’s short questions than the “teacher’s” repeated reprimands. There is no remedy for this “helpfulness”. Hopefully he will get bored and move on to another crowded spot on the band. Attempts to silence him only redouble his claims of eminence.
Tortured by feelings of frustration, by a real inferiority complex. He hasn’t learned to be a good loser. Net control didn’t call him first? The DX station didn’t hear him, or, perhaps, some QRM when he called? That is enough for the Revenger; he switches his transceiver to the tune position and puts an endless carrier on the frequency. Like an incandescent nail it pierces the ears and brains of those digging out the weak DX station with their AF and RF levels at maximum.
The Revenger injects various noises into his microphone – ever hear a vacuum cleaner on HF? Some Revengers are music lovers; they love to broadcast piano music on DXpedition frequencies.
If you fail to answer the Revenger’s call because you want to work DX, and answer a DX station, the Revenger waits for you to finish. Now he wants to work that UA9 you just finished with and if you do not give up the frequency you have occupied for the last hour, a heavy artillery barrage commences. Linear pushed beyond its limits and beam turned in your direction, the Revenger ruthlessly QRMs with a keyer stream or CQ’ing endlessly. In a rage, the Revenger is completely irrational. Dialogue is useless. The only solution is to QSY to another frequency, mode, or, better still, to another band.
In many respects related to the Revenger, but his attacks are direct, often without a call sign, and not under the guise of a CQ and noises.
The Aggressive works with high power, but unfortunately doesn’t use it very successfully. He calls desperately, for him the pile-up is a matter of life and death, a place where common sense goes untapped. If other well-equipped operators on frequency dare compete with him, he feels hurt. His reputation and his honour are endangered, and he will defend it his way. Discarding civility, the Aggressive splashes competitors with abuse.
Polyglot in this field, he knows how to offend each in their mother tongue and indulges in chauvinist outbursts. He relies on the last word being his, because no one else will degrade himself to reply in like manner.
Endowed with the most sophisticated equipment, his linear and antennas are custom made to his pretensions. He usually lives in desert areas so he can surround his house with a thicket of towers and antenna systems, approaching in scale those of a broadcasting station.
As he has nothing more to achieve on the higher bands, he indulges in 80 and 160 metres, stretching many thousands of metres of wire in all possible directions. He gives 59+20 dB signal reports to antipodean stations not even heard by others on the band. His signals bend S-meter needles as he breaks the hugest pile-ups, working the DX station on his first call. He doesn’t even trouble to give his call sign, simply says, “Hello, Jackie”, and Jackie, who is on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific, immediately recognises his voice.
Super-DX-Man is on the Honor Roll for ages and has worked everything workable. He doesn’t like to chat with amateurs other than Super-DX-Men of his size, if someone else calls him he seems to have corked ears. He ceaselessly wonders how others have the patience to stay in nets for long hours to work a single DX station, as he boasts that not one of his 360 countries has been worked with anyone’s help.
It seems Super-DX-Man cannot fathom some people struggle to work with 10 watts, stretching out antennas each night, because they haven’t permission to erect a poor ground plane on the roof of their flat. He only really becomes annoying when he stops to ask the operator of a DXpedition “What’s new on Kingman Reef?” or “How’s the weather on Peter I today?”
He can be found in the stands of all the sport stadiums. In amateur radio he has a fondness for criticizing DXpeditions. He suffers omniscient kibitzer syndrome: he knows better than the player how the ball should have been passed and how the goal should have been kicked, better than the coach how the team should have been composed, and better than the zebra when a penalty should have been granted. But a run from one end of the field to the other would bring on convulsions. From his comfortable chair the Discontented ham loudly declaims the DXpedition. He doesn’t like the operators (they are lazy, deaf, incompetent); he doesn’t like their organization (they didn’t turn their antennas toward his QTH when he thinks the opening occurred); the DXpeditioners have materialistic preferences (they worked ten Japanese stations in a row, they requested, “North America only” – Aha, these QSO dealers!!! They want green stamps!!!); they didn’t keep their word (starting later and departing earlier than announced). No matter the DXpedition crew assembled and then dismantled 20 antennas in extremes of heat or cold; made tens of thousands of QSOs; slept fitfully in tents; and made their meals from canned goods: all that plus paying, handsomely, for the honour of satisfying the Discontented – this all doesn’t matter. If he missed the expedition his verdict is final and irrevocable: they are blunderers. An expedition was a success only if the Discontented got it in his log on nine bands and in all modes.
The name given to the amateurs whose working methods leaves much to be desired. Lids are very numerous and often originate from those amateurs who got their licenses without too much trouble, and who did not bother to go through a learning process before getting on the air. The Lid never understands what is happening, tunes up interminably on a DX station’s frequency, not because he wants to disturb anybody, but without first checking the frequency.
The Lid doesn’t listen before calling CQ, and gives the impression he doesn’t have a receiver because he doesn’t hear “QSY” from the people he QRMs, nor hears the weak DX station on frequency. He calls the DX station on his transmitting frequency, despite the DX station stating he is listening up, because the Lid doesn’t know what “up” means. The Lid calls the DX station when he comes back to someone else, or even while the DX station is transmitting. If the DX station catches a suffix only and states he is only listening for that station you can be sure that some Lids will call, even though their call signs bear absolutely no resemblance to that suffix.
The Lid continues to call the DX station even when the DX station comes back to him, because he doesn’t realize it. When he eventually understands he will ask the DX station to repeat his call sign several times. Then he wants all the other details, as he has not heard when the DX station repeated them periodically.
The European Lid answers “CQ DX” calls from other European stations, because he doesn’t know what “DX” means. On CW the Lid sends much faster than he can read, causing the other station to send his name and QTH several times, because he refuses to request “QRS”. The Lid inadvertently works split, not to keep his frequency clear, but because he doesn’t realise his clarifier has to be switched off.
The Lid will call you when you are calling in a pile-up, and worse still, will start the contact without waiting to see if you have come back to him, or will end it without knowing whether you have logged him or not. He confuses YO with YA and Bucharest with Budapest. The Lid is able to send CQ 25 times and his call sign only once. The inventiveness of the Lid, in that he does everything upside down, is inconceivable and exhaustless.
Now, to end this enumeration, let’s try to discern why there are so many Lids on the amateur bands – because we are pretty sure the majority of amateurs branded with “European behaviour” are not Revengers or the Aggressives, but Lids.
Is it human nature to make mistakes? Of course, especially when one is not prepared. It begs the question why the European novice does not learn about on-air procedures before using his new call sign. After passing the examination he shouldn’t be left to his own devices to find out about procedures on the air. He should be advised that he should initially listen for 90% of the time to avoid finding himself suddenly in the middle of crowded amateur bands, exposing himself to the risk, unintentionally, of the shame and reputation of a Lid.
It was different aforetime. Long before getting his transmitter license the amateur started by being a short wave listener. For many months he only listened to the contacts of other hams and undoubtedly he enjoyed it, since some amateurs, for some reason, remained SWLs. (Let’s not forget those living under dictatorial regimes, who would like to become transmitters and aren’t allowed to do it.) Reception was the best school for learning our written and unwritten laws. Then came the day full of excitement for the first QSO made from the club station, under the instructor’s attentive guidance, then other contacts, the first DX stations, the participation in contests. And, only when the young amateur accumulated some experience, and he built his own station started to work from home with his own call sign. The Internet offers study and work tools to help get novices on the air while avoiding the epithet “lid”. They should use them diligently – knowledge is not innate.
Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum (To err is human, to persevere is devilish).
Francisc Grünberg, YO4PX