Can You Hear Me Now?

There are moments in life where I am reminded that I am a dairy farmer. Moments like driving the family car on the wrong side of the road, hurtling toward oncoming traffic with a screaming wife and kids as I was checking out a neighboring corn field. Then, there are moments where we interact with the general public. Like the time I was explaining to the gas station attendant about higher input costs and low margins in the dairy industry and she casually used the fake money pen on my $10 bill.

However, I think there are a couple of instances where our profession is particularly poignant, and that is a farmer’s relationship with their cell phone.

Most farmers feel the need to turn their generic cell phone ringer up to a sound level that will awaken the dead and cause everyone within 3 miles to check their phone. Said farmer also likes to attend a co-op meeting with their ringer turned up and their hearing aid turned all the way down. Not content to disrupt a meeting with just a jingle jangle, our protagonist then proceeds to answer the phone and carry on a conversation for all to hear.

The other uniquely-farmer experience is when a dairy farmer must take their iPhone 2 to the cell phone store. Now, I’m not exceptionally savvy when it comes to the tech world. In fact, I miss the days of the Nextel walkie-talkie where you could just start talking to friends without them acknowledging you. Shouting at them while they were on a first date, in class or pulled over by a cop provided hours of adolescent boy humor.

Back to our fateful day at hand, where your author was having trouble charging his cell phone and needed assistance from a pimple-faced 16-year-old kid running the cell phone stand. I handed over my phone to Trystan, who was more annoyed than a first calf-heifer getting milked for the first time. He stood there staring at second-generation i-Phone that rolled out of a Chinese sweatshop before he was even born. I tried to break the ice by making a brief joke about this being the phone that I purchased to replace my rotary phone. Again, more
awkward silence.

The silence was broken as my new friend from across the generational divide expressed that he wasn’t sure he could help me but would do his best. He proceeded to try and take the cover off the back. A cover that had been firmly cemented to itself from years of being dropped in cow manure, and even some remnants of amniotic fluid from frantic calls to the vet after being elbow deep in the business end of a cow while trying to get a breeched calf out. Seeing the humor in this, I pointed out what level of nature’s compound he was facing. It was at this point that our young urban warrior vigorously pumped the hand sanitizer on the counter and reached under the counter pulling out disposable gloves. It was at this moment that I realized a farmer’s enhanced immune system may be a function of the fact that they hold a bacteria-laden cesspool against their face several times a day. This observation did little to assuage the fears of my new assistant as he silently started dry heaving. To his credit, our young Trystan marched forward undeterred, like Congress staring at a debt ceiling and hammering out new bills of profligate spending.

Then it happened. If this was a movie, it would be in slow motion and classical music would be playing. There was a final grunt, and the stubborn battery cover came flying off, and all forms of debris scattered over his beautiful counter. There were pieces of grass silage, alfalfa hay, dried cow poop, strands of baling twine and enough dust to put on a magic show. When the dust literally settled it revealed a young man that showed equal parts bewilderment, disgust and curiosity.

He stammered out the words, “I have never seen anything like this.”

There are two times when you don’t want to hear the words, “Hey, come look at this.” At the doctor’s office and apparently at the cell phone store. Several people came over to look at this cacophony of chaos, and they wondered how any cell phone could survive such a level of abuse. Our beloved device was now in the hands of many skilled surgeons as they took parts out, cleaned, blew and replaced until my relic was good for another 100,000 minutes.

I like to think of myself as somewhat motivational and this moment was now exception. As I was walking out the door, my new friend Trystan said, “My dad keeps telling me I need direction in life and should be looking into law school, and after today I think I will.”

Keep your cell phones clean, your ringer turned down and your hearing aids turned up.