Thursday, November 24, 2016

'Boast Encounter of the Director Kind ... '

Nov. 24, 2016 -- Whilst considering where this blog is going to go, I felt compelled to return tonight to recount some of my on-the-job training as a newly elected ARRL Section Manager.

First, I was fortunate that the outgoing SM supported my run for office; the damn truth is that the other candidate was an OM (emphasis on the "O") who was already well known for memory lapses during his advancing years. He had held the office 20 years earlier, and while I didn't remember his term, I was told numerous times it was one of tremendous inactivity on his part. He's a Silent Key now, enough said.

The outgoing OM said he would chose not to vote as to vote for the other candidates, which showed me that in his eyes, I was apparently better than nothing. In the voting I beat the other candidate handily. Little did I know what I was in for (my on-the-job "training" will be the subject of subsequent entries).

Sometime during my first couple of terms as SM I had a run-in with a director outside my division. My division director was a stodgy bastard who was as disagreeable as the day is long. I came to think I must have reminded him of a son-in-law he hated, as he was always acted like a bag o' douche when it came to his interactions with me.

I never understood what the hell his issue was; as I eventually learned, there's no shortage of hateful old farts among the Amateur Radio rank and file.

Fast forward to a past Straight Key Night. If you haven't operated this event before, it is a non-contest event that celebrates the use of manual keys -- straight keys, bugs, sideswipers, etc. No electronic keyers allowed. Over the years, SKN also has become a celebration of "old school" Amateur Radio, with classic rigs of the past fired up for a blast from the past. You haven't lived until you the distinctive sound of a classic transmitter on the air.

I have always loved SKN; in fact, I spend most of the operating time copying the mail of stations with the most interesting sounding CW notes.

HEATHKIT AT-1 CHIRP: RIG MALFUNCTION OR VINTAGE 'CHARACTER'?  This one particular SKN, I got a phone call from my director regarding a notice that one of my Official Observers mailed out to an op running a Heathkit DX-Chirpy. The OO notice mentioned that the OM's rig had substantial chirp, and advised the OM he might want to look at it. The OO had no idea what sort of transmitter the guy was running; he probably wasn't aware of the SKN operating event; the man's rig had a chirp issue.

Well, the OM who received the notice was best buddies with Reginal Q. Blowhard, the longtime division director of the Eastern Asshole division. The OM was pissed that he had received an OO card -- though he admitted he knew the rig had a chirp issue. Most old Heathkits do, you know. For an OO who was raised on solid-state, phase-lock loop transceivers, chirp isn't something so common these days. And let's keep in mind that an OO notice is just an advisory; it isn't a notice of violation or a fine -- its just to let you know (in the event you aren't aware of it) that your rig has chirp.

Nothing more; nothing less.

Now the OM's ego has been bruised, he appeals to Director Blowhard to intervene. As was the good (?) director's practice, he pushed the throttle of his asinine inclinations clear to the firewall. He bypassed my director, and appealed to ARRL HQ and its Field Organization folks. He expressed his outrage and horror over the fact his friend and esteemed colleague was targeted for character assassination by one of my Official Observers who dared to send him an advisory alleging the rig he admitted had chirp actually had a chirpy signal. How dare he!?

Director Blowhard demanded -- not asked, but demanded -- that the head of the HQ OO group
intercept the OO notice (to prevent it from being stored in the ARRL archives and dredged up in the future and employed as a weapon to embarrass his family and descendants -- none of who will know what the hell a chirpy signal is or give a damn about it), destory said notice, and force the offending OO to issue the man an apology for doing the job required of him as a volunteer Official Observer. I can only guess that ARRL policy forbade having him drawn and quartered due to budget limitations.

God bless the Field organization OO program director, who was one of the most level-headed men I ever met. As it turns out, the ARRL HQ folks have to deal with the inflated egos of division directors on a regular basis, and as a longtime HQ employee, he was well versed in handling these things. HQ's OO director agreed to destroy the OO's advisory, which pleased Dir. Blowhard to no end (he should have known that OO advisories are held for a year then destroyed anyway ... the only reason they are held at all is in the event of a repeat offender who may require a referral of a matter to the FCC. Fortunately for us fans of vintage ham gear, chirp isn't generally a federal offense).

The OO program manager sent an apology of sorts to the the director's friend (something I would not have approved had I a voice in the matter), and told everyone it was a "learning opportunity." Well, the lesson here was simple -- don't send an OO advisory to the friends of a sitting division director.

All of the proceedings happened between the director and HQ; neither me nor my division director had any say or input. It was a sad example of how someone with too much power can bully an organization to do something it shouldn't have to. The event became an example of the adage about shit rolling downhill. Director Blowhard's bullying (and my director's decision to not get involved) forced the League into an action that insulted the years of hard work and dedicated service from this particular OO. He felt shit on (and rightfully so), and he never participated as an OO again, despite my repeated invitations and my reappointments.

When I later brought it up with my division director, he basically said that Blowhard was his friend and ally, and he wasn't going to oppose him, despite the loss to my state's OO program.

EPILOGUE. This blog isn't about trashing the ARRL or those who serve as paid staff, volunteers, etc. With any membership organization, stupid crap happens at levels that can't be stopped by us peons at lower levels (aka the Field Organization). I find it incredibly sad and stupid for how a director's ego pushed a good volunteer to leave because of an OO advisory hurt the feelings of a ham who was operating a rig he  knew to be chirpy. Director Blowhard eventually retired. Personally, I'm glad his ass is gone. Bye, Felicia.


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