As the insidious curses of hand-held (soon to be brain-contained) technology are widely documented, I’m gonna head in the other direction and say cellphones have worked out great for one very specific category of generally non-communicative rural Midwesterners: Me and my two brothers.
Jed (a logger) and John (a whatever-you-need but likely involving either a bulldozer, a rifle, or an airplane) (ask about his special 3-in-1 rate!) would not only be fine with my referring to them as Luddites, they cultivate the image — but each owns a cellphone. (One a flip model, and one a brand that pairs nicely with a latté, but that’s as far as I’m going with this outing, as I still enjoy Thanksgiving.)
We three don’t talk much. If one of us calls the other to wish a happy birthday, I guarantee you one of our wives handed us the phone. There is no family feud, it’s just wiring. Our love and loyalty were long ago drop-forged in crisis. We feel little need for cards and affirmations. On the other hand, if it’s dumb or goofy, we can’t wait to share it. And while our lives and livelihoods have taken us in three different directions — certainly in occupation and sometimes in philosophy — thanks to those dumb phones we can be giggling in an instant.
Last month, when I tried to spit through the face shield on my logger’s helmet, I immediately called one brother and texted the other — one so he could laugh at me and one so he could laugh with me. Did the same thing last November after I field-dressed and butchered three deer in one day without a single nick — only to jab my palm on the final cut, then, while washing out that wound, gash the thumb of my other hand with a knife I was holding in my teeth. Nothing mitigates pain and stupidity like a giggle-tears emoji forwarded by a logger in a forwarder.
There is also the fact — and this gets back to those differences in philosophy — that the impromptu sharing of off-kilter truths reaffirms our common perspectives. Thus when I see the headline “Man Injured After Shooting Self in Leg,” I immediately call John, who answers with his dozer idling in the background. “I’m gonna read you a headline,” I say, with no other preface, “and you tell me what’s wrong with it.” The instant I finish, he intones, “It should say Man Injured WHILE Shooting Self in Leg.”
“THANK YOU!” I say, then, “See y’later!” And we hang up and that is it. My heart is lighter for an hour. It’s the same when one of them rings me or pings me out of the blue with some oddity overheard at the implement store, or some knuckleheaded self-own at the timber landing.
I believe these little techno-check-ins keep our hearts young (certainly the level of discourse hovers around middle school). But it also lightens our days. Keeps us focused on humor, upon which we agree. We are letting each other know, “I saw this goofy thing, I heard this goofy thing, this goofy thing happened to me … and I thought of you.”
Still not gonna hug.