the Internet Versus Hog Futures

My grandparents’ kitchen was THE place when I was growing up. A seat at the table was a place of honor, especially in the early evening when folks would stop by for coffee. In southern Iowa things move a bit more slowly than in other areas of the country. In Unionville, population 25, this is especially true.

Therefore, being able to sit at the table gave you a front row seat to the news and notes, whether it was how the latest crops were doing, whose son was back from boot camp, or even discussion on the fall out from the most recent high school football game (Moravia football was HUGE in Appanoose County in the 80’s and old habits die hard).

I remember sitting at that table one weekday afternoon a few years ago. My grandparents were playing cribbage, as was their normal routine, and the Royals game was on the radio. A truck pulled up outside and my grandmother, in a most Stepford-like way, got up to make a new pot of coffee.

A man walked up the front porch, knocked twice and then let himself in the front door. He was attired as one would expect: Kent Feed cap slightly askew and appropriately sweat stained, overalls just dirty enough, hand rolled cigarette dangling. There was definitely no doubt as to the man’s profession. He sat just off to the side of the table, took off his hat and laid it on his knee. My grandmother, ever the courteous host, handed him a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

They talked, chatted, joked. Time came for introductions as I was the unknown in a world of daily routine. The man – and it’s been so long I’ve forgotten his name – asked me what I did for a living.

“I work for a web hosting company,” I said proudly.

“Ah,” came his reply. Pause. “What’s that?”

Slightly taken aback, I replied “It has to do with websites. You know, the Internet.”

“Oh, the Internet,” he drawled. “I’ve heard of that.”

And that was it. The discussion of corn yields resumed, and my part was through.

“I’ve heard of that.”

Not “oh, of course” or “how interesting”. Simply, “I’ve heard of that.”

I took it for granted that everyone was familiar with the Internet – that everyone used it and that it was as part of their daily routine. I just assumed that even here in rural America, where mowing hay or plowing a field was a daily occurrence, that at least accessing email was a given. It never dawned on me that someone would simply have “heard” of the Internet.

We can all use a humbling experience like this once in awhile to remind us that not everyone knows what we do, much less how we do it. Not everyone is as familiar with things like “DNS” or “webmail” or “FTP”. We all need to take a step back and understand this, and be able to adjust our methods of communication accordingly. We don’t have the ability to hand over a fresh cup coffee, but we do have the luxury of a friendly and understanding ear.

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