That was fun. I think.

I ran the Columbia Amateur Radio Club’s Sunday night net for the first time last night. It was a trial by fire, as I didn’t realize I’d be running the net until minutes before it was due to start.

Sometime earlier this year I recall a sheet being passed around the normal monthly club meeting calling for net control volunteers. I remember signing this sheet, but was never advised on when I’d be running a net, or given any sort of training, or guidelines for net operations.

I was enjoying a quiet evening at home last night, and planned to work on some code practice and fool around with the N1MM logger while listening to the net. Several minutes before 8:30 p.m. my friend Ronnie sent a cryptic text to my phone that simply said “net” … I thought, sure, I do plan on checking into the net, but wondered why Ronnie was texting me about it. Perhaps he had some announcements he wanted to make concerning the next day’s meeting and didn’t want us to miss them.

I switched on the radio and seconds later Ronnie was calling for me on the club repeater. I answered him and he came back in a sternly urgent tone with this:

“Are you ready to do the net tonight?”

There was a long pause as I sat there mortified, mouth drying up, palms sweating. Then I uttered, in a way vaguely reminiscent of Beavis and Butt-head:

“Uhhhhhhhhhhh….. I’m supposed to be handling the net?”

“You’re on the schedule. It’s on the website.”

“OK …” I trailed off, muttering something about not knowing I was on any official list.

Ronnie offered to handle the net, but I didn’t want to disrupt the order of things, so I decided to give it a shot. Fortunately, the house was quiet, I had a notepad and pen at hand, Netlogger was already up and running and I had nothing better to do. I quickly downloaded the script from the club’s website and got to work.

The only topic I could muster up for discussion was some nascent, rambling mess about social media, and whether or not you use it in ham radio. If I’d had 5 minutes to think about it, I would have mentioned and explained things such as Worked All Twitter, the club’s Facebook page, podcasts, blogs, and the amateur radio Reddit group.

But I was nervous as hell. I have mic fright from time to time just checking into nets. And here I was, trying to get one going. I was literally twitching.

I stumbled through and logged 18 check-ins. Only several of those were short-timers and the discussion portion went OK. I’m admittedly horrible when it comes to improvising things to say on-air (which is why I prefer short QSOs: Name, location, RST, thanks and 73…), but our club members are forgiving of newbies, so everyone went easy on me. I also discovered most of our members don’t use any form of social media online. That allowed me to utter the old cliche, “ham radio is the original social network.”

All in all, it was a traumatic positive experience and I think I’ll get better with practice — not that I’m looking forward to doing that again any time soon! It’s almost better that I didn’t know I was on the schedule, because I would have spent the entire weekend worrying about it.

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