I've been spending a lot of time on the phone. We're going to have an auction -- selling off the big equipment that we don't use anymore -- and the phone's been ringing off the hook with people asking questions.
I've even started carrying my cell phone. This doesn't come easy to me. I stick it in the chest pocket of my shirt, set on vibrate, and when someone calls my first reaction is that I'm having a heart attack.
Real cell phone experts answer their phones by discreetly flipping them open, quietly saying, "I really should take this," and then excusing themselves. Me? When my phone rings, I grab my chest with both hands, moan, "It's a big one, call 911" and a couple seconds later say, "Oh, never mind."
Plus, I haven't really signed on to the cell phone "concept." One good reason for living in the country, in my opinion, is that you can get away from people. Answering your phone at every available opportunity seems a clear violation of that principle. My wife climbed in the pickup the other day, picked up my cell phone and glanced at the screen.
"It says you have 7 unanswered phone calls!" she said.
"Yep," I said. She was evidently trying to make some point, but I didn't get it.
The actual chatting has been kind of fun, though. The first thing most people do is to tactfully try to find out whether we're being foreclosed on. They usually say something leading, like, "You're awfully young to retire."
Then I explain that I'm a writer, and although it doesn't pay as well as being a pig farmer, I do smell better. Most people are okay with that -- usually in this world you can either have fun or make money. With three kids educated and on their own, I've decided that money isn't as important to me at it used to be, and I'm willing to pass up my shot at fame and fortune in exchange for meeting interesting people in interesting places.
I also admitted to one guy that I'm a county commissioner. He said, "Well, you may have stopped raising hogs, but you're right back in the stink again then, aren't you?"
I tried to think of a snappy response, but finally I just said, weakly, "Guess so."
Another problem is that people are always asking me questions that I don't know the answers to, and it makes me feel like a doofus. One guy asked me what the gear ratio is on our semi.
I don't know. I don't even know for sure how to find out. What I do know is that I climb in the thing, turn the key, push a little black button and it starts. Beyond that, I'm really not up on many details.
How do people find time to remember all this stuff? Is my brain just too small or what? Someone will say, "Yeah, my pickup has the new Vortex 27 TurboBoost with a Whammy Overdrive and the Raging Squirrel Differential. How 'bout yours?"
"Mine is...red. With dents."
I started keeping the auction bill and a stack of ownerâ€™s manuals about two feet high next to the phone, just so I can sound like I know what Iâ€™m talking about.