I’ll admit, I’m a fairly open book with my family and friends. Although I have many hobbies outside of DXing that I share with others, I have found that I tend to keep DXing to myself.
Outside of the internet, only a few close friends and family members know that I DX. Many others have seen me packing my radios or related gear while on vacation or when visiting their home, but they always assumed I was just listening to music on local radio stations, not that I was searching for distant signals.
I’m not ashamed of being a DXer. In fact, I’m quite proud of what I’ve achieved in the past 14 years, given the limitations of both my location and equipment. DXing is a true passion of mine, as I’m sure it is for those who also share this hobby.
I believe my decision to keep DXing to myself largely involves the expected reaction I’d receive if I told somebody about the hobby. I don’t mind if people think I’m strange for listening to FM static or staring at a ‘no signal’ indicator on a television screen waiting for a sporadic E signal to pop in. I believe DXers largely understand that the general public simply will never ‘get’ DXing, even if every DXer went on a multi-city, star-studded campaign to teach the world about how fun DXing can be.
However, it gets tiring to have to explain to uninterested individuals what DXing is. Granted, if someone asks why I am constantly tuning my radio instead of sticking with a station I’d be glad to explain and I’d enjoy sharing my passion of the hobby if they are interested. But most people I come across who ask what I’m doing really don’t care for the answer. They just think I’m weird (that’s okay by me!)
Several times, when asked about my ‘strange’ radio and TV habits, I would tell an uninitiated person that DXing was like ham radio, except instead of receiving signals from other people, I get them from radio stations, and that I don’t respond back with confirmation that I received their signal. This has made it easier to bridge the gap between the odd stares and acceptance while I’m at the dial. Other times, I simply say that I can’t find a good station to listen to.
Thankfully for me, those who know about my DXing hobby largely understand the basics of it and don’t think I’m crazy. My non-DXer friends, for example, know that the major point of the hobby is to log the most radio stations possible. My parents even have an understanding of how I can pick up FM stations from Oklahoma and Texas in Virginia during the summer months. They’ve heard the distorted Sporadic E signals and always asked what state I was getting that time, for example. These people also don’t take it personally when I inadvertently miss a phone call while working a colossal Sporadic E or tropo opening, which is good. I’ve run out of good excuses to tell uninitiated people when this happens, though!
But sometimes, DXing can make things look suspicious for passers-by. Before IBOC ruined the local FM dial in 2006, I often DXed in my car near my home. I had a few select parking lots on some fairly high hills in the area that I’d often drive to during favorable conditions. Some of my best DX logs came from these impromptu DX ‘sessions.’ This, understandably, caused some strange looks from other people. I understand their view: why would a man be sitting in his car in a parking lot, looking at his dashboard constantly? I’ve done my best to coincide these excursions with trips to fast food restaurants so I’d be eating while dial scanning to avoid stares. Although this has never happened to me, one of my DXing friends had a police officer approach his car during a dial scan. My friend didn’t get in trouble but he had one heck of a time explaining why he was parked in a parking lot after dark and listening to static! Granted, I only DXed in my car during the day, but I would do a quick dial scan at night if I already happened to be out and about while shopping or running errands.
Although the world has much more important problems and issues than DXing by far, it would be better if DXers could practice their hobby anywhere without the general public thinking they were crazy. Other hobbies, like painting, could be done in a parking lot. Although people would likely think the artist was strange for choosing the lot as a location, they would probably dismiss the choice as being artistic. But it isn’t that easy with DXing!
This article was not a rant at all about how DXing is perceived by the public. Instead, it was just a way for me to explain my observations with interacting with non-DXers for over 14 years. Part of me likes that DXing isn’t a fairly large, widespread hobby (such as painting). I hoped that, over time, the general public would be more understanding of what DXing is, however I think more and more people are beginning to forget what radio is to begin with, that is with Pandora and other alternative music sources that have popped up in recent years.