Denis Lehane: How will we cope with the silence?

Look out! Beware of silent electric cars.

“Are you deaf or what, Lehane?” fellows have often roared in my direction.
“Of course I’m deaf,” I bellow back, “for amn’t I’m a farmer?”

For many years, I have been as deaf as can be.

Decades of listening to the racket that farm machines produce has rendered my ears more or less redundant.

They are now basically in place for decorative purposes only; I use them to hold up my glasses.

But devil the harm it is, for in Irish farming, hearing loss can have many advantages.

For instance, when faced with a frosty bank manager, and he trying to convince you to sell up, how great can it be to ignore all that he has to say? The miracle of poor hearing has given many a fellow breathing space in such times of financial pressure.

And when attending a farm meeting, where a speaker, with convoluted charts, is being about as interesting as a scarecrow flapping in the breeze, how great can it be to tune out from the bore — and better again — even close the eyes?

I’m telling you, a lack of hearing can give a farmer great opportunities for rest and relaxation.

Or on home turf, where small playful children or a talkative wife are present, the ability to throw a deaf ear in their direction has allowed many a farmer indulge in a quick read of a newspaper.

A task which I’ve no doubt would be impossible in a house where the man has two fully functional ears.

It’s a well documented fact that a little hearing loss can lead to great peace and harmony within the martial home.

But alas, looking to the future, I fear going deaf from farming may not be an option at all. The world of the noisy machine could well be coming to an end.

Last week, I bumped into my neighbour, Nora, and she after purchasing a brand new car. And a fine stylish car it was too.

“It’s electric,” says she.

“Indeed,” I replied, deaf as to what she was saying.

“Well hop in girl,” I demanded, “and let’s hear your pistons purr.”

“No,” says she, “you don’t understand. ’Tis electric.”

“Ha?” I responded.

So left with little choice, Nora got in and pressed some switch and up the road she went, in complete silence.

Then, to my utter horror, she came down my way again, in total silence once more. “What the devil are you driving, Nora?” I asked, totally dumbfounded.

“Tis an electric car,” she explained, “there is no noise. You simply plug it in every so often and away you go.”

“Tis the future, Denny!” she shouted into my good ear. Alas, I heard her this time, loud and clear.

Nora was delighted with her car, but I was far from happy.

And while I feigned a smile, wishing her well as she drove off in silence, there was no denying that on the inside I was crying like a baby. For I feared for the future of the farmer.

You see what begins in the car has a nasty habit or transferring to the tractor in no time at all.

My head was now filled with startling visions of the tractor that neither splutters nor roars. Silence in the fields of rural Ireland.

A future where noise is absent, and deafness in the farmer is a thing of the past. What a cruel fate awaited him, I thought.

What kind of future will there be, for the poor farmer who hears everything?

It might be the future, but I sure don’t like the sound of it.


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