A time to be brief, a time to be polite…

So there I was, on a lazy summer afternoon at home in Hawaii, surfing the ionosphere for PSK31 contacts. One of the first things I say on my waterfall was a very strong booming signal:

CQ CQ CQ de <other guy> <other guy> <other guy> k

I’m not picky about who I work on PSK31, so I responded using my macro:

<other guy> <other guy> de WH7GG WH7GG WH7GG kn

The response caught me off guard a bit:

WH7GG DE <other guy> UR 599 k

Normally at this point one would see a bunch of pleasantries in addition to the signal report: the station’s QTH, his name, his grid. And usually it’s via a macro on the digital software that automatically sends this info, and one would respond in kind. Still, this response in this situation came across like walking up to someone at a party and saying, “Hi, whatever-your-name-is, I hear you.”

I had to check for a minute. There are no PSK31 contests I know of, not that I’ve seen on the waterfall. This guy is not on a DXpedition or working a special event sign. Still, I sorta got the message that he wanted just the REAL basics, so I responded, free-typing:

<other guy> de WH7GG ur 599 in Hawaii also k

Then came his response back.

WH7GG TU QSO <other guy> QRZ? k

Ummmm…OK, so you don’t care about my name or where I’m from. In fact, I’m not even a human to you. All I am to you is a call and a signal report. I got the message, loud and clear.

I later looked up his info on QRZ.com, and saw this note at the bottom:

Quick note : sorry guys looking for a ragchew etc (especially digital modes) I just need call and report (min. required for a valid QSO)

I am always doing other stuff when on the radio (working on the side), unless when I’m contesting.

So no need for name, qth, antenna, pet’s name, grid, club number, favorite color, year when born, month when conceived, etc.etcetc I dont even read that

Thanks a bunch !!

That didn’t sit well with me. Of course, he does have the right to make contacts however he darn well pleases. And yes, during contests, DXpeditions, and such, brevity is key. The point of those is to make as many contacts as possible, bam bam bam bam bam. In the short time I’ve been on HF, I’ve worked contests before on voice and on PSK31, and know the drill. Exchange calls, signal reports (in a contest you’re always 59 to the other guy and vice versa), and your required other piece of info, and move on.

Still, not all of ham radio is a contest. Not all situations call for a QSO stripped down to its bare essentials. Especially on HF, where you’ll run into hams from all walks of life and all countries and cultures of the world, it’s good to be open.

And it is worth noting that there ARE humans on the other end.

Truth be told, even on voice I have yet to master the art of the ragchew. In my case it’s more of a rag-nibble. I’ll exchange signal report, name, QTH, maybe weather, maybe talk about my rig, maybe another comment or two, but then I’ll let the other station go. I’m not very talkative in real life, and ham radio is no different. Still, when I’m working someone, he or she has my full attention, as it should be even in face-to-face conversation. And I’m polite as I can possibly be. After all, I understand that his impression of me is based how I conduct myself on the air.

I often find that being from Hawaii and having a KH6-region call sign opens up a lot of conversation possibilities. On voice and PSK, I often find that saying I’m from Hawaii elicits fond memories of a visit here, or if not, a desire to do same. Similarly, say you’re from Oregon, and I’ll wax poetic about the natural beauty of the Northwest, my time at Lewis & Clark College, and my many trips since then.

I really wonder what this guy is like in person. I wonder what sort of impression people get of him when they work him on the air. Sure, he must be a contester extraordinaire, with skills as polished as that. But it must be REALLY boring to have a conversation with him, if his ham persona outside contesting reflects real life. Does he have a life outside ham radio? I wonder, too.

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