Next weekend, North American amateur radio operators will crawl from their basement and attic radio rooms, known as 'shacks', and face the bright light of day and oppressive heat of summer to take their radios and antennas to open fields and picnic shelters everywhere to participate in the annual Feel Day.
Feel Day is an exercise to simulate how radio amateurs would function in an emergency situation, such as an extended Internet outage, and would have to actually revert back to the fundamentals of amateur radio, that is, actually using radios. For many amateurs, this is the only time of the year that their monitor glow tan is supplemented through natural means. Sans the modern conveniences of computer control and Internet spotting networks, they are forced to exercise the age old skills of grasping a tuning knob, tuning through a band and listening to signals. These ancient skills have most acutely atrophied among the modern DX'ers and contesters who have perfected the cluster based 'click and shoot' skills so prevalent today. But fortunately, the hand position of gripping a round tuning knob is not significantly different from that used to grip a computer mouse. Although the immobility of the tuning knob has causes some confusion, most mouse-based radio amateurs quickly adapt. Users of trackballs have been reported to have significantly more difficulty adapting to the tuning knob.
Many amateurs find the exercise of ancient skills tiresome and tedious. But they can find relief and comfort in another of Feel Day's tradition - the Feel Day feast. After a grueling hour or two in front of a radio, the weary amateur can retire to the refuge of culinary delights. While the extent of Feel Day feasting varies by group, whether it is a well stocked cooler or an elaborate grilled buffet, one can be certain that it will not include any items made with tofu or with the words 'low fat' on it's label. Some amateurs come to Feel Day and never touch a radio the entire time, but plant themselves at the food tent for the duration.
Whether it's dusting the cobwebs off a J-47 key or dusting off a bowl of campfire chili, Feel Day has something for all radio amateurs. While many spend months planning and anticipating it, after 24 hours outdoors in June battling bugs and Murphy, they understand why it's only done once a year.