I have had the good fortune to have been raised in the country, on a farm that never supported our family without my father working in the city operating an insurance brokerage, but a farm nevertheless. Since then I have always tried to live outside of cities, although I have had to work in them to earn my keep. My wife was raised in the suburbs where all of your companions could walk to your house and school. This is probably the major functional difference in our upbringing, and has sometimes led to a lack of understanding regarding human interaction.
When you are unemployed, you find that you have the time to talk to your neighbors and, if you are country-raised, having a conversation has certain rules of etiquette that must be observed if you are to maintain your relationship with the other country folk.
“Why can’t you just ask someone a simple question?” she says.
I reply, “You have to go through the formalities before you can get to the point of why you stopped by.”
“I don’t understand why it takes you a half-hour to ask some guy if he is willing to come and mow the hay field,” she says.
“It’s because he doesn’t see me more than a half dozen times a year and we have to ‘catch up’ before we can get down to business,” I reply.
Our neighbor, Jason, is a full time farmer and a member of a fairly conservative Mennonite Church (which is kind of like being Amish, except that you get to use tractors and drive cars instead of a horse and buggy). He is a deeply religious man with a farm and about eleven kids, who annually makes hay for us on the field across the road from our house. This past year, I went to see him about this project (boy, is this worlds apart from getting in the car and going to work for a corporation) and I began the conversation by asking him how his father was doing.
“Well,” he responded, “he’s doing better than he was since he got out of the hospital.”
This, of course, required further inquiry on my part regarding the nature of his dad’s illness and gaining the knowledge that his father suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He continued his description of the incident which sent his father to the local hospital which included informing me that, “He was doing poorly and we took him to the doctor’s office where they took his blood pressure and he didn’t have any.” He continued, “That really got the doctor’s attention, and he called for an ambulance to come fetch Dad to the hospital where they put him on a machine which got his blood going again. It’s a miracle that he’s alive and didn’t suffer any brain damage from it.” I, of course, expressed amazement that the old man was still alive and functioning, to which Jason replied, “There must have been enough blood left in his brain that it just kinda ‘drizzled down’ through there and kept enough oxygen going through it that he didn’t suffer any lasting damage.”
I love the fact that someone can look at something a fragile as a human life and equate it to something like the loss of oil pressure in a tractor without ruining the bearings in the engine. It’s just the kind of conversation that makes me wonder how, before I was suddenly unemployed, I managed to sit through all of those incredibly dull meetings in conference rooms where the most important topics of discussion were things like how to increase capacity on stamping machines in Mexico to reduce the backlog in our orders.