“No Ham Left Behind” Feedback – Where are the Elmers?

In addition to the e-mails about restrictive antenna covenants, I’ve gotten several e-mails from hams who had a hard time finding Elmers. After describing his search, one guy wrote, “How many other hams have been lost
along the way because they couldn’t get just a little bit of real-world
help?”

This situation puzzling to me. Ham radio has had a long history of mentoring. Heck, we even have a special name for amateur radio mentors–we call them Elmers!  In recent years, though, more and more newly-licensed hams are finding it harder and harder to find a good Elmer.

There are probably many reasons for this, but two come to mind immediately:

  1. Everyone is busier than ever. That leaves less time for hams to do hamming, much less Elmer someone else.
  2. As the technology gets more complex, fewer “experienced” hams feel comfortable about the technology. So, if a question comes up about something, and the ham doesn’t know anything about it, he or she may feel embarassed. Who wants to be embarrassed like that? Well, the way to avoid embarrassment is to avoid Elmering, I guess.

When I run into a situation like that, I either try to figure it out with the person (that way I learn something as well!) or refer him or her to someone that I think might know the answer. For example, I have never operated 6m, but I know some guys who have. Should an Elmeree ask a question about working 6m, more likely than not, I’ll refer him or her to the guy that actually knows something.

This isn’t just a one-way street. I have talked to guys who have made an effort to Elmer someone, only to find them uncooperative or ungrateful. I’ve had that happen to me, too, and I can see where that would make someone less likely to extend himself or herself to help out in the future.

About the only advice I can give in this situation is to cut that person loose and move on to someone else who might be more receptive and thankful. Please don’t let that sour you on Elmering

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