I recently completed duty as a jury member for a civil trial in downtown Chicago. I was picked before I even walked in the room and could come up with a good reason not to serve! The request was for funds from a car accident injury. A person in a cab claimed to be in severe back pain from an accident that happened on Kennedy two years ago. Problem was, the cab was actually hit from behind by another car. It was the usual tight expressway traffic through the section of the Kennedy that has ramps on both sides and traffic is always stop and go. In this case, they had incredible video coverage from the dash cam that clearly showed that the cabbie had come fully to a stop and a split second later, the cab was crushed by trailing car. We were instructed not to make judgements on the case until all of the facts were presented. Three days of evidence, testimony and argument ensued. During this time, we were told not to speak to any of the other jurors about the case. So most of them didn’t speak to one another at all. It was kind of eerie. All the while, I kept thinking, why are we even here at all? Doesn’t the law state that if you get hit from behind it is the fault of the other guy? Well, sure enough, by the time we got to the deliberations, the jury had an unanimous vote without discussion. Case closed. We found for the defense. The cabbie was off the hook. The question still lingers in my mind, what lawyer would ever allow such a case to come forward? The expense of his fees, the travel of his client back to Chicago and witnesses from New Jersey all had to be pricey. I know they were seeking a million dollar settlement, but they were standing on a very flimsy premise. I am proud that the jury so quickly saw through case and that gave me hope about the jury system, but what a waste of time for us all.
So, with that behind me, I headed off to Dayton for the annual trek to radio Mecca. Traffic through Chicago was its usual nightmare. Took almost two hours to drive through the city. After that it was clear sailing. I usually leave on Wednesday to get to the QRP seminars on Thursday. Friday we set up our selling tables and represented the club at the event. Sales were brisk and we sold almost all that we brought. Yes, we were making deals but we also knew that the gear was getting into the right hands. One guy took all of the Heath kit gear that we were prepared to throw out!
Meanwhile, many of the issues that Kermit Carlson discussed on his visit to the club meeting were resonating in my head. There are big changes happening at the ARRL, the hobby and the world around us. The most significant, I suppose, threatens the very core of who we are as an avocation. Can we keep enough people engaged in this hobby to make it viable in the future? The ARRL is addressing this issue by proposing changes to the band plan for Techs. The trend right now seems to be that many earn their Tech ticket and do not renew or advance. The result is a very Tech heavy roster and with very few Extra level hams. This is not healthy for the organization. To compound matters, the emergence of new phone technologies might totally replace the need for our services. The rise of 5G phone networks could be both an opportunity and a threat. Some say 5G will be so robust there would be little need for redundancy. Meanwhile, antenna covenants are taking our best hams and leaving them unable to enjoy the hobby from their homes. We have not been able to get traction in Congress to fix this issue because not enough ham radio advocates have leaned on their representative to accommodate us. It is a classic catch 22. We need more active hams.
I am an optimist by nature. I think there will always be room for the hobby to grow since its foundation is based upon simple physics: excite a wire and send a signal to another entity. Pretty basic. That is also the magic about radio that has attracted so many us to this hobby. The fact is that there is still plenty to discover about radio. I can see many more “hams in the park” or short term events in our future. Whether we will continue to be cultivated for public emergency communications is debatable.
Then there is Field Day.
When I re-entered the hobby, Field Day was meant to be a demonstration of how ham radio could be of service in an emergency. Since then, I have served on number disaster relief operations for the Red Cross and other organizations and I have arrived at a different opinion of where we fit into the relief continuum. The picture seems fuzzy. Our role might well be serving local neighborhood entities but for bigger things, we need to be associated with a served agency. Of course, there are modern disasters, like hurricane Katrina, that caught everyone off guard. Ham radio actually did save the day when all essential communications failed. This event alone brought ham radio back into the picture and organizations like FEMA and others started to re-evaluate our potential role.
Hams today need to work along side a served agency like the Red Cross, Salvation Army or other emergency agencies. We can no longer think of ourselves as offering unique communication solutions. That kind of thinking actually got us in trouble. People no longer see us as a resource but a bunch of arrogant untrained rogues. Today, we need to be team players and demonstrate our ability to be flexible. We have to rebuild the trust that agencies used to have for us. The Auxcom position in the emergency response world is just one way that we can begin to build a bridge to the service communities. Auxcom training teaches you about the structure of response and clearly shows our place.
So, what then is Field Day? It is what it has always been — a gigantic PR effort to show the world that ham radio is still around. Call it a contest, call it a drill, cal it a social event — it is a call to action for all ham radio operators to bring their friends, family, public officials to show who we are and what we do. Field Day is the public face of ham radio. I encourage all of you to participate this year.
Field Day is always the 4th full weekend of June. June 22 and 23 this year. 24 hours of radio operating facing whatever challenges nature brings. Become radio active! Support Field Day. Support the hobby.