When is Hitler’s birthday? How do I fold a palm into a cross? Why do people hold up signs reading John 3:16 in the end zone? Where are olives grown? Who is the CEO of WordPress?
These are just a few of the recent Google searches, aka “google its” that have been in my Google search box. What did we do before Google, or in general, before we had information at our fingertips on the internet, that we could search in minutes, using a choice of search engines? The answer to that is a great story that people my age and older like to tell: gathering the kids around and regaling them with how it was “in the olden days.”
Back in the old days, when I was a kid, we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have computers, and hey, some people even think I grew up before electricity. Truth be told, we did have electricity then, but we had to go out and crank up our windmills to get it. Anyway, if we wanted to know something that we didn’t know the answer to, we’d a) look in a book or encyclopedia or b) ask someone. Looking in a reference tome involved hitching up the horse and buggy and driving into town to the library, so of course this was not always possible. If your burning question about Hitler’s birthday hits you at 2 AM, you’re not going to “chase to town” (as my parents liked to call it) then. So asking someone, provided there was someone around, was always easier, though not necessarily better. One could ask a teacher, librarian, physician, mechanic; someone who by their profession or training, might have a modicum of knowledge on your subject in question. My experience as a child was that most people around me chose to ask someone instead of checking a reference text, and it was invariably someone who had no qualifications whatsoever to give advice on said question. In fact, it seemed that the more underqualified they were to answer, the more import their answer held.
My dad’s favorite persons whom he considered to be fonts of knowledge were: anyone who was an American Legion buddy; anyone with whom he worked, and anyone who was a relative of the former. So if he needed a plumber, he’d ask his legion buddies, and if none of them was a plumber or knew a plumber, at least they always had a cousin or brother-in-law who wasn’t really a plumber, but owned two pipe wrenches and “did it on the side.” If Daddy came home from the doctor with a new medication, he’d never ask the doctor for information about it. Instead, The National Enquirer was the source of all medical information, or the folks at work, because they all lived in a bigger city than he did, so therefore were more worldly and experienced in such matters. Asking someone at work for directions to my nursing school interview is how we ended up 100 blocks away in the bad part of town when he drove me there. Buy a map? Of course not. You just ask people around you until you find someone who professes to know.
Mom had fewer reference sources since she did not belong to any fraternal organizations. Her font of knowledge tended to be her hair dresser. Yes, the same woman who turned us into poodles groomed with a hot glue gun turned out to be the expert on just about everything.
After growing up with years and years of receiving bad, bad information from others, you might understand why today I’m a big fan of Google. It rarely lets me down, and if the answers I receive seem spurious, shallow or incomplete, I’m smart enough to know how to look elsewhere.
If I want to google something, I type in exactly what I want to know, as if I were talking to a person. “How do I fold a palm to make a cross?” got me precisely what I needed this past Palm Sunday. My husband, the logical, pragmatic computer programmer that he is, finds this infuriating. He knows the computer is a machine and unable to interpret idiomatic expressions. He tries to turn every search into a broken English query such as “palm and fold and cross” and is frustrated and amazed when I get better results with my colloquial queries.
Perhaps another reason I’m fond of Google is that Google knows me. Want to find my blog? Just type “huffygirl” or “huffygirl’s blog” into a Google search, and there I am! And at least once a day, just about every day of the year, Google helps people worldwide answer the burning question of “how to stop tulips from flopping over in a vase?” by directing them to me, who at least in Google’s estimation, is the foremost living expert on this subject. Thanks Google!