Zedd Explains the Meaning of Life to the Boys

Originally published in the April 1982 C&E.

Some of the boys were sitting around the SCARS shack the other day, warming their feet on the power supply for the TS-120 and talking about late wintry bluster and how it would likely affect DX come summer, when WHANG! (not to be confused with Wang, the computer people), the door flies open, and into the shack with a few late snowflakes and some of last year’s Johnson grass comes the great Q.R. Zedd himself.

“Howdy, boys,” says Zedd, turning down the volume on the TR7 he has attached to his Elton John tee shirt with velcro tape, “how’s DX?”

Well, at that, naturally nobody said a word, because having the great Q.R. Zedd ask you how DX is a little like having Bill Banowski ask you if you have any good ideas for raising money. W5MCN sort of looked off in the general direction of the 2-meter rig, and W5SQJ got so flustered he spit his Juicy Fruit instead of his chewing tobacco into his plastic cup, but other than that there was silence and obvious deep respect. WA5MLT, joining club members for his semiannual visit, cleared his throat; WA5RPP, intrepid club reporter, leaped to his Big Chief tablet; N5DWN opened her portable filing cabinet to get out her latest 312 QSL cards, but no one spoke.

Suddenly and without warning, Zedd, pricking his ears, leaped to the club 120, advanced the af gain, and thumbed the keyer. A burst of CW at about 80 WPM boiled into the ether. Zedd listened to what sounded like QRN and possibly a berserk Cuisinart to the rest of us, nodded, sent a couple of R’s, a 73, an SK and his callsign, and leaned back from the rig.

“My pal Rhandi in VU-land ” Zedd explained. ‘I waited to make sure no one else in the room wanted to work him, but I didn’t want him calling CQ indefinitely. I hope nobody minds.”

No one else heard him,” said AF5X, “except the two real CW operators on the premises; Q.R. you and me.”

“Well,’ said Zedd modestly, stuffing shag tobacco and shredded DXCC stickers into his ancient clay pipe, that only illustrates what I have often tried to tell novice DXers — you know, guys with fewer than 350 countries. Half of working the rarer ones is in good listening. Listen, listen, listen! And don’t talk so dadblamed much. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, you shouldn’t talk all the time, you should listen. Even if you are not going for DX but only engaging in casual conversation, in my opinion it is only good manners to keep your mouth shut and your ears open. Remember the old saying, little pitchers have big ears, and that goes for the great ones like Johnny Sain, too. Silence is golden. You show me a man who talks too much and I will show you a loser. It’s like I was telling Tondelayo the other evening, any fool can get in there and talk a person’s leg off, but it is a mark of greatness to be succinct and still make the contacts. Are there any questions so far?”

“Q.R.,” said W5OU, who had just arrived, “I think all of us would truly appreciate it if you would tell us what you think lies ahead for amateur radio.”

“Yes,” said KC5CU, “and while you are at it, if you could tell us the meaning of life, some of us younger boys would sincerely appreciate that, too.”

“What I think lies ahead for amateur radio is a decline in the sunspot cycle and a rise in the cost of equipment,” Zedd said briskly. “As to the meaning of life, I will tell you a little story that I think illustrates my view on this matter.”

Everyone leaned back to listen except RPP, who flipped over to a clean page on the Big Chief tablet.

“It was in 1969, I think,” Zedd resumed, “when I made my one-man Dx-pedition to Africa, that I learned the meaning of life. I landed in Kenya about 2 a.m, on a beastly hot day, don’t you know, and immediately began setting up my tent, antenna farm, and so on, working single-handed except for the meager help offered by 29 native beaters, three technicians from RCA and the crew I had hired from the Yasme Foundation. Well, as you can imagine, we were all pretty tired by the time we were ready to start operating, about four hours later, and everyone went off to bed except me. I jumped right onto seventy-five and gave my name a couple of times, along with any call, and got a right nice pileup going.

“I was working ’em right along just as dawn came, and I heard a small sound beside me. Yelling for everybody to QRX (which is DXer’s lingo for ‘Everybody else shut up and let the 4s call incessantly by themselves for a while’), I turned and stared straight into the eyes of a huge male lion. At about the same time, he let out a blood-curdling roar, showed me about 300 sharp teeth, and enveloped me in the nastiest case of zebra-breath it has ever been my misfortune to encounter.

“Obviously Mr. Lion was hungry, and obviously he figured I was going to be his next meal. I had to think fast. So what I did was shove the microphone into his face.

“Well, boys, you may not believe it, but Mr. Lion took one look at the microphone, let out another terrible shriek, and turned and ran out of there just as fast as he could go. “

“And we never saw him again.”

“Just about the worst case of mike fright I ever saw for my own self.”

Zedd sighed and puffed his latakia. “Which led me to the insight I have since carried close to my heart about the meaning of life for any DXer. And that is this. When in doubt, grab for the mike; and never be concerned about lion.

— KU5B