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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Worked All States

As we were leaving for our trip I observed to the ineffable and longsuffering Mrs. Bruck, “we’ve never been to Minnesota before; you know what that means, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know.” Rolling eyes. Pained, patronizing expression. “I know, dear.”

There are myriad certifications and distinctions available to amateur radio operators, based on making contact with (“working”) stations in diverse geographical regions on different bands, using different modes, etc. Hey wait, come back here! Don’t worry, we’re not going to spent the whole column today talking about ham radio! Just a little, just to set the stage…

Worked All States, or “WAS” is usually the first certification to which a new ham radio operator aspires. There are several versions of it, but most basic WAS entails simply making, and confirming, contact with each of the 50 United States, on any band (range of frequencies available to hams), in any mode (a.m., morse code, single sideband, etc.), over any period of time. This accomplishment garners the operator a certificate suitable for framing and display in a location far away from where any normal person might see it. There are many other ham radio certifications but I think I’ve already told you about 74% more than you wanted to hear.

Since you asked, no, your faithful editor does not have a WAS certificate. I could apply for one, as I do have confirmation cards from contacts with stations in all 50 states including MN, but… applying for it just hasn’t risen to the top of my priority list over the 11 years I’ve been licensed, and I don’t expect it to any time soon.

Okay, there. Done with the geek speak.

Long before I had heard of ham radio or contests or certifications, two of my college friends devised a “Worked All States” contest of a different kind. Their competition was to be the first to micturate outdoors in all 50 states, vying for a prize of a case of beer to be provided by the runner-up. I assume the contest was governed by the honor system, as any kind of confirmation of such activity would be impractical and potentially incriminating.

I don’t know how the competition is going, or even if it is still going on; I’ve lost track of the fellows over the years. I do know that they were taking it very seriously during the years shortly following graduation. For instance, one of the contestants and I took a driving trip out east after graduation, and he was quite keen on “hitting” all the states we passed through. We actually went a little out of our way to maximize the number of states we passed through. I was driving when we passed through Rhode Island, and at one point, as we were approaching a rest area, my passenger said, “Stop! Pull over here! This is our last chance to hit Rhode Island!” So I of course pulled off, whereupon we proceeded to try to find the most inconspicuous spot for him to “work” RI. It wasn’t easy in a highly-populated urban rest area, but he found some semi-secluded bushes and I positioned the car strategically to help reduce his exposure.

I was not personally in on the urinary Worked All States contest; I could have joined it, but declined, foreseeing that completion, let alone winning, was a rather remote prospect, and certainly more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe when I’m retired and the Mrs. and I are tooling about the country in our Four Seasons RV with Good Sam Club and Wall Drug stickers on the back, I might dangle my catheter tube out the side door, but back in my young adult days, and even now, it really wasn’t and isn’t a constructive pursuit.

But I was, and still am, intrigued by the idea of the contest, and participate in spirit by endeavoring to lay claim, in the canine sense, to any new state, province, or country I visit. I would like to know how the contest is going, so if a wedding or funeral ever brings us back together, that’s probably going to be the fourth or fifth thing I ask them about.

Mrs. Bruck and I spent last weekend in Minneapolis, attending a wedding and visiting her brother and his family, who happen to live in the vicinity. The wedding was a pretty straight-up affair, despite the tacit involvement of a dead rabbit and a shotgun, and uninspired officiation by a rather unconvincing rent-a-preacher. The visit with the in-laws was richly rewarding in many ways as well; my bro-in-law handed my gluteus maximus to me on the skeet range, and I took the opportunity return the favor on the racquetball court the following day.

And by virtue of a simple but meaningful ritual performed on the levee of the Minnesota River, the state of Minnesota is now the sovereign territory of Bruck.

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