#71 Motorola Handsets
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.
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.