Finding the answers

When I was a teenager - back in those pre-iPhone, pre-computer, pre-most-things-technical-and-smart - getting answers to questions that popped up in conversation or by circumstance was a completely different universe to how we do it today.  In those days, the encyclopaedia set was a mainstay, either at home (if you were so fortunate) or at the library.  It was the trusted repository of useful trivia.  Useless trivia was the stuff of books of lists and other fun tomes you could find in the discount pile at Zellers or Woolco (who remembers this department store?), or the latest edition of National Enquirer or People.  Sometimes you'd even have to talk to people, like your parents, to find out how to do something or glean some wisdom about this or that.  Imagine!

When we have an enquiry today, we have two incredibly dependent friends who seems to produce 99.999 percent of the answers: Friendly Facebook and Gracious Google. Providing the right search terms in the Google search bar or asking a clear question on Facebook produces almost instantaneous results.

I had snapped a picture of this beautiful bird yesterday.  Despite flipping though most pages in my Bird book, I couldn't figure out its name.  This was a situation where a Google search wasn't going to do me any good; there are a helluva lot of yellow birds in the world.  But within minutes of posting the picture on Facebook, I had several informed opinions and the answer I was looking for.  The bird in question was a male evening grosbeak.

One of our hard-wired fire alarms was chirping yesterday.  In the old days, I would have had to walk to the hardware store or call Laurence, a family friend who seemed to know the answer to every technical or mechanical question under the sun.  Instead I typed "fire alarm chirping" in the Google search bar and I had the exact answer in an instant.

How many times do we consult some kind of online tool to find the answers to life's essentials?  What is the weather going to be today?  What's playing at the theatre?  What does that word mean?  How old is that actress in that show we're watching?  If you're anything like me, you are probably asking questions and finding answers constantly, so much so that you don't even register the activity anymore.
Over the holidays, I went a full week without accessing the Internet in any way, shape or form.  Staying away from email and social media was easy; staying away from answers that were only a few keystrokes away was not-so-easy.  I managed to do it, but the number of times I unconsciously reached for my iPhone was extraordinary.

To our friends Friendly and Gracious: our deepest thanks.  Yes, we take you completely for granted most of the time, but today we stop, bow in your general direction, and express our sincere appreciation and respect. We can't imagine what life would be like without you.


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