One of the advantages of being on an IFR flight plan or using flight following when flying cross country is the help ATC gives you with traffic avoidance. Even though it is indeed a big sky out there collisions do occur, I lost five good friends in a mid-air between a skydiving plane and a student with his instructor. When ATC issues a traffic alert a good pilot does his best to locate the traffic and determine weather or not the offending aircraft poses a danger.
Now it may be just me but being a frustrated fighter pilot at heart I take call from ATC as a chance to see just how fast I can locate the “Bandit” because as everyone knows in air combat whoever sees who first usually wins. A traffic alert becomes even more personal when ATC tells the pilots of both planes about each other, now it’s contest, see first or die. It’s very satisfying to see the small black dot of another aircraft and call out “traffic in sight” first. It’s the same as saying “You’re dead sucka!”
On long cross country flights these little games you play help pass the time and sometimes if the radio traffic is light you might try to be a little humorous by saying “has the bandit or bogey in sight” Hey, air traffic controllers are people too, sort of.
Many years ago I was on a ferry flight somewhere over middle America when ATC called out an Army Cobra attack helicopter as traffic for me. Our courses were converging enough that the controller warned the Cobra about me as well so it was “fight’s on!” I scanned the sky and picked up the movement of his rotors first. Quickly keying the mic. I decided to be cute, “Chicago center, 48 Alpha has the bandit, he’s too close for missiles, I’m switching to guns.” That got a chuckle from the controller back then but I think if I tried that now I’d end up in jail.