It is usually after 10pm. Or in a winter lull of traffic on a Saturday morning after 9am. Or because all of the sectors are open, even though all of the airports are snowed in. That happened a lot this winter. So, I only have one or two airplanes, or there is a gaggle of flights heading westbound into a strong headwind, and I'm just waiting for Cleveland to take some handoffs. The frequency is quiet. Nice and quiet.
Ahh, the silence is broken. Most controllers just say "yup." Some say "unfortunately." A few throw down a sarcastic "nope." All are, frankly, unproductive use of the frequency.
Do I know who you are? Do you know who I am? None of these are rhetorical questions, but they are left un-asked most of the time.
Pilots: How about "Boston Center, (callsign), radio check"?
The question is being asked by a pilot who is concerned that they are lost in frequency land. If I answer "Yes" to the original question, then the pilot will assume all is well, even though he/she may be hundreds of miles from my sector, on the wrong frequency. If the pilot had called for Washington Center, for instance, I would have immediately known something was wrong and could attempt to remedy the situation. It's slow in my sector, after all, so I have plenty of time to make a phone call and find out where that pilot belongs. Who knows, that far away controller may be trying to call this pilot to issue a much-needed clearance.
Controllers: How about "affirmative, this is Boston Center, who is calling?"
I've been guilty of responding with a "depends, who are you?" Not exactly the most professional (see above), but my point is made.
Every transmission should have a purpose. "'still there?' 'Yup'" does not qualify as productive use of frequency.
till next time....
PS. Yes, there are crazy, stupid things going on in the world, and I am intentionally ignoring them. It takes more effort that I can muster some days to focus on the task at hand, but I'm trying. I'm sure a few bloggers listed under adjacent sectors have answers to other questions you may have. For now, I'm still here...mostly.