Get it over with…

Midnight… tuning around on 40 meters looking for some action. I’m running the FT-817 and I’ve blasted out CQ calls up and down the band. No answers. BTW, I’m operating CW with my new straight key, and terrified. I’m not sure what I’ll do if someone even answers me.

Background noise is S8 on the 817’s meter, but I have been spotted on the Reverse Beacon Network. I change to 30 meters and call CQ. No takers there either, and RBN never spots me, so I’m not getting out on that band.

Back on 40 meters a wavering signal emerges. I can in fact copy his call, WW0SS — a very unique callsign, so I check QRZ.com and RBN to confirm I copied him correctly. Check; according to RBN, I’m right on his frequency. He’s called CQ repeatedly and no one’s answered him. His signal wavers from a clear S5-ish to nearly uncopyable at times.

I work up the nerve to answer him. I have my hand on the key ready to send WW0SS de KK4DSD, when another caller beats me to it. It sounds like the new guy is running a bug key. This is the first time I’ve heard one, and it’s a distinctive sound. His dahs last forever, but his dits sound like they are about 40+ wpm. I can’t copy a thing he’s saying. I tune around a bit more.

Eventually I dial back down and run into WW0SS again. He CQs for 10 minutes or so with no takers. What the hell. I’m going to do this. It’s well after midnight now and I really have nothing to lose. I’m only running 5 watts. Doubt he’ll hear me anyway. The only way I’m going to move forward is to just do it.

I respond with WW0SS de KK4DSD AR … OK that was dumb… I should have sent my call twice. But he isn’t going to hear it, so it doesn’t matter… I’m so stunned when he comes back with a copy on my call that I literally don’t know what to do. I’m frozen with my hand on the key and I’m not sure what happens next.

I’ve taken too long to respond and he begins his CQ call again, eventually fading away into the harsh static of 40 meters.

Needless to say, since that missed opportunity I’ve spent some time since refreshing my memory on CW QSO procedures. I feel like I’m getting very close to that first code contact.

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