Last October during our soybean harvest, I ventured to town with my tractor-trailer with a load destined for our local elevator. It was windy, cold, and overcast and of all the things to worry about, flies or mosquitoes were down the list quite a ways.
But as I pulled to the back of the line, I could see a group of farmers swatting. They were swatting first their chests, then the sides of their vests, then their jeans in the front and then their jeans on the backside. If just one of them had been doing it I might have thought of the term the old timers used and called them teched (as in, he was teched in the head, meaning a bit unstable mentally) (I think they meant "touched").
What were these folks doing? It looked much like a training exercise for future major league third base coaches. ("Okay men, the steal sign will be 5 touches to the body, but only after I've first touched my hat.")
What could these folks be doing? I got out of the truck to investigate but on my arrival to the party, everything seemed normal. After a few minutes talking about the local farmers who had made some "public" mistakes during harvest - like who hit a tree with their unloading auger or how that truck on the county road had landed on its side while turning into the field or who had pulled the unload switch on the combine when they meant to hit the "auger swing out" switch instead and left 50 bushels of beans strung in a line, right by the side of the busiest blacktop in the county.
Well they weren't talking about me this time so I was feeling pretty smug when the swatting mystery was solved right before my eyes.
One person's cell phone rang and everyone started swatting at their bodies in search of their own phone. It looked like a group of TSA airport agents in training. It is indeed a problem for farmers because where their phone is, depends on how they are dressed and what job they've been doing. If they have on vests or sweaters or jackets or coveralls, the phone could be anywhere. And believe me, it could be hard to get to. No one recognizes their own phone when it rings because we all learned a long time ago that we can have a different ring for each person who calls us and so there could be someone whistling or my wife is calling. A band is playing a jazzy little tune on the radio or my buddy from Colorado is calling. A doorbell is ringing in this tractor cab or one of my sons from Lincoln is calling.
I've even been known to be driving down the road in my pickup while moving my hand around the dash trying to stop that incessant buzzing noise emanating from deep inside my gauge cluster, only to realize my phone is set on vibrate and is sitting in plain sight on my dash, and that my wife is calling wondering why I won't ever answer my phone. The short answer is that I couldn't hear it ringing. Because, well, technically it wasn't ringing.
Most meetings I go to have attendees seated at tables spread with note pads, calendars and their cell phones. If just one of those cell phones rings because it hadn't been put on the silent setting, everyone else picks up their own phone. It gives the appearance that they are doing the only polite thing and checking to make sure their own phone won't ring. In reality they've picked up their phone to check for text messages. I can only imagine how disconcerting it is to try to speak to a group preoccupied with their phones.
Old guys who have lost some of their hearing are particularly vulnerable to cell phone problems. More than once I've had someone interrupt a conversation we were having by saying, "Is that you." I answer, "You mean, am I me?" "I sure am." Next they ask, "Is that your phone that's ringing." I start swatting myself.
I'm not sure we're making upward progress in this technology arena, but at least we're busy. Give me a call sometime. I may answer but only after a quick pat search.