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#71 Motorola Handsets

July 6, 2011

Submitted by MoreAltitude who blogs at Wanderlust: Notes from a Global Nomad. Twitter: @morealtitude.

Expat Aid Workers love gadgets. Especially anything unusual that they can brag about on Facebook or Twitter that shows just how awesome their day-job is compared to all their friends who work for a high-street bank, or a university, or in retail (all of whom make a lot more money than the EAW ever will). Prime candidates for this bragging include GPS units, Satellite Phones and Toyota Land Cruisers. Even better than these are any gadgets the EAW can refer to that show just how much danger they’re currently in, because it lends the EAW field cred. And badassity. These include things like Ballistics Vests, Quick Run Bags and, of course, Motorola VHF radio Handsets.

ROCKin' that Motorola handset!

The Motorola Handset is a part of the EAW accoutrement, par excellence. A posting that doesn’t require you to carry a handset 24/7 is a disappointment. And if the posting DOES require the carriage of a handset, then by culturally appropriate deity, you carry it. Not because the organization requires you to. Not because it might save your life. But because an EAW in a war-zone without a Motorola Handset is like Paris Hilton without a Chihuahua.

The Motorola Handset has a variety of actual uses. Its prime function is in coordination meetings, when great care is taken by the EAW to visibly and dramatically fiddle with the control knobs before the meeting starts, so that everybody notices the EAW is in fact carrying one. The handset may be placed obtrusively on the desk in front of the EAW so that this fact is never forgotten. Some EAWs will carefully punctuate the meeting by withdrawing to the side of the room to have a conversation, in stage whisper, with another EAW in another coordination meeting. Because this can draw the feigned ire of meeting participants, however, the savvy EAW keeps the handset clipped to the hip of his or her cargo pants, with the volume turned down low enough that the chatter doesn’t actually interrupt anybody, but loud enough so that everybody is reminded that the EAW does in fact have a Motorola Handset on them.

The Motorola Handset is also an essential accessory at house-parties. The EAW would prefer to show up naked than leave the Motorola Handset at home (and in fact there are documented cases of this happening). The presence of the radios sets the tone of the rest of the party, a reminder that at any given minute the place could be overrun by rebels, or bombed by government forces, or raided by the vice-police. The Motorola Handset, obviously, does absolutely nothing to prevent any of these things happening. But being constantly reminded of the possibility at a party makes the EAW feel way extreme.

Finally, the Motorola Handset gives rise to that great EAW event, the Radio Check. EAWs love the Radio Check, because it is an opportunity to show the rest of the EAW community just how experienced and hardcore they are, how many other intense deployments they’ve done, and just how ready they are to handle a crisis, by using the correct technical jargon, in the correct order, at the correct time, on live air.

At night, EAWs from around the response listen in baited silence from the privacy of their compounds as each agency sounds off their staff one-by-one. The tension builds. Every mistake made is a slight against the professionalism of the agency in question. Surely NOBODY who says ‘over and out’ at the end of their transmission could possibly work for an organization capable of delivering a good quality aid program.

And then finally, there it is. The EAW hears it. Their call sign. And with heart pounding, and fingers trembling, and the breath quaking in their chest, the EAW squeezes the Push-To-Talk button and knows that the entire response is listening. Their audience. Their moment to shine.

“Hotel Romeo India Base, this is Hotel Romeo India Two-Niner. I read you loud and clear. Over.”

The EAW releases the button. Lets out a breath. And the glow of satisfaction in the EAW’s heart, rivalling the sound of an IDP camp cheering after a food distribution, is the simple knowledge that, damn, they NAILED that puppy. And everybody heard.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 8:29 am

    Well written! Got a good laugh out of that… So, uh… where can I get one?

  2. July 6, 2011 9:55 am

    The handset is also useful for calling your gaurds to deliver the beer from your fridge to the neighboring NGO compound, when you and your hardcore EAW friends have run out.

  3. Anonymous Coward permalink
    July 7, 2011 12:02 am

    Of course only tourists take the radio check serious. Bitching about that “frigging” security officer who gave you a hard time after you slept through the radio check in the morning is the ultimate sign that you know your way around….

  4. July 7, 2011 7:58 am

    Motorola is for consultants these days. If you are a real badass mofo, you carry the kenwood VHF “currently been piloted by HRI DSS”, on your belt, next to the Thuraya (the old model, the reliable one with the big antenna and shit battery).

    And should someone ask, everything’s “Oscar Kilo”.

  5. Pappa Alpha Tango permalink
    July 10, 2011 1:46 pm

    HAH!! fantastic piece… and so true :-)

  6. morealtitude permalink
    July 13, 2011 11:06 pm

    @ Dr. K- Bonus points if you can casually report everything is “Oscar Kilo” when you’ve just been caught in a crossfire incident.

    Also, the truly hardcore EAW will no longer use the traditional phonetic alphabet, which is for noobs. They’ll create their own, ideally alcohol-based. “Roger that, Base. I read you Lime and Cointreau.”

  7. February 22, 2013 11:32 pm

    Even cooler is having TWO radio handsets — one from the project of which you are COP and another from the Embassy. Only problem is that having both bleeping gadgets requires you to carry a briefcase or, god forbid, a knapsack (unless you have the waistline of a sumo wrestler.) Then there’s the problem of explaining to the EXO why you keep dropping — and severely damaging — the Embassy geekphone. Either way, you pay. Pfffffffft.

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