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Restarting a relationship with farm tech

Restarting a relationship with farm tech

Money Today Johnson

As Jeff sat in the combine and watched the morning slowly disappear, he thought this was just another instance where technology had made his life miserable.

What started out as a normal Wednesday soon ended up being a continuation of Tuesday for Jeff and his technology. The combine ran flawlessly for the first hour of harvest. The weather was calm and the sun was shining. Corn yields were a little better than he expected, even in the poor spots that seemed to be problematic every year.

Jeff stopped at the end of the row to take a phone call from his wife and then shut off the combine to talk with the semi driver. After the short break, he walked back to the combine and fired everything up. As he turned to start down the next pass, he noticed the yield monitor was blank. It did not show the field map, combine speed or any of the icons.

Jeff stopped the combine and pushed the power button several times. Nothing happened. He wondered if he had accidentally knocked the cords in the back loose. Everything still seemed to be connected. He then shut off the engine and started it again, thinking that perhaps this would cure the problem. The screen was still blank, completely unresponsive.

Jeff pulled out his phone and called his son, who was his first line of technical support. He was given the sage advice of pushing the power button and restarting the engine. Still no change. Next, he called the dealership and explained the problem to a secretary because all of the technicians were busy. She also suggested pushing the power button and restarting the engine. She told him a technician would call as soon as they were free.

Jeff sat at the end of the field. He was frustrated and not in the mood to be patient. His opinion on the matter was clear. Technology is great when it works but extremely frustrating when it doesn’t.

The day before, Jeff had climbed into a grain bin to replace a burned-out light bulb. The task was pretty simple and only took a few moments to take off the glass cover and put in a new bulb. A few minutes after he had climbed down from the bin, he reached for his phone and noticed it was gone. He retraced his steps up to the bin and looked inside but nothing but corn looked back at him.

This was no small annoyance for Jeff and required a call to technical support — his son. After a few minutes of explaining the problem, his son logged into his account and told him the phone would soon start ringing as loudly as it could for the next five minutes. Jeff was standing outside the grain bin when he heard his muffled phone going off somewhere inside it. He made his way to the top and carefully down inside.

After a few minutes of doing his best not to disturb the grain too much, he was able to retrieve his phone. The experience was more embarrassing than frustrating.

Two nights before that, Jeff had been home trying to look at his bank accounts. He knew his username and password for the website, but every time he tried to log in, the website said it was invalid. After too many tries, he resorted to local technical support and called his son.

After a few minutes on the phone and no progress, the support technician said he would come to his house. Upon arrival, the technician pushed the number lock key on the keyboard and the bank was now happy with his username and password. Thankfully the support technician brought along one of Jeff’s grandchildren, so the night ended on a high note as everyone drank hot chocolate and laughed about the problem.

Jeff found phones to be an extremely difficult item to deal with at times. More than once the icons that allowed him to make phone calls or check his email mysteriously disappeared on all the screens.

He felt important because his phone was constantly ringing with helpful people reminding him about the warranty on his 2001 pickup. It was about to expire and he could save money by renewing the policy. He also received many calls about health insurance. More than once, when things were quiet, he had long visits with these helpful people. Eventually they grew tired of Jeff and his somewhat sarcastic remarks and hung up on him.

One of Jeff’s pet peeves was people spending hours looking at their phones in public and at home. As the clock slowly counted the minutes while he waited in the combine, he found himself looking at his phone.

He checked the markets and then he checked his favorite social media sites. They showed him where all the higher-class people were vacationing. There were pictures of people laughing and smiling, riding in boats, and sitting on the beach. Everyone wore matching shirts and seemed really happy. As Jeff was really getting into the highlights of others’ lives, his phone rang. It was a technician from the implement dealer.

Jeff described his problem again and said that he had already pushed the power button numerous times and started the engine several times. After a few minutes, the technician said that he had accessed the monitor equipment through his computer and thought he had fixed the problem. He asked Jeff to start the engine and push the power button. Much to Jeff’s surprise, after the combine started and the power button was pushed, all of the monitoring equipment starting working again.

After 45 minutes of waiting, Jeff was traveling across the field again. He was going to moan and groan about how technology had ruined his life. However, he wasn’t steering through the rows because the combine was basically steering itself. He could automatically adjust the concaves and sieves without getting out of the cab. He could see the moisture of the corn and the yield as he traveled across the field. He could see the wet spots and the dry spots. He could also see how corn yields compared to last year.

Later that afternoon, Jeff’s wife called to remind him about the school program that night at 7:30. He needed to be home early enough to get a good seat. Then he received a text message telling him corn was up and Jeff thought maybe he should sell some.

It was warm for early October and now the cab was quite toasty. Jeff turned up the air conditioning a little bit more and decided that perhaps technology had not made his life quite so miserable.

Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at

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