How did anyone survive without Google? I almost can’t fathom it.
If I think about my own, personal use of Internet searches, the bar graphs would be short at first. Little toes in the water here and there, mostly for fun or curiosity. No real conception of how powerful is the tool. I’d searched on Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, Altavista, Hotbot, Excite, and probably some others I’ve long since forgotten. But those searches were sure so mundane. So pedestrian. “Good Halloween Costume,” maybe. Or, “Red Sox Schedule.”
I didn’t realize the unbreakable magnetism Google held over my life, really, until we got a puppy last May. That little black furry creature brought a whole bundle of “what the hells” with her. And a whole new epoch of ridiculous-in-retrospect search queries began.
I’m savvy enough to have long-since discarded lengthy queries with proper sentence structure and punctuation. I haven’t asked Jeeves anything in a very long time. Particularly in seemingly urgent situations. So a brief sampling of my initial, Wailea-related Google searches looked like this —
dog eats vomit
dog eats own vomit
dog eats dog poop
dog eats poop then vomits
These sorts of behaviors are not things that matter to you until you get a dog. They probably wouldn’t even penetrate one’s consciousness before then. If you don’t have a dog, I disgust you. Sorry about that. The fact that I typed them in then, and now, with such detachment (“hey, what’s the big deal?”) is in itself odd. I admit that readily. I love my dog, and I am not afraid to type just about anything in that search box, no matter how seemingly disgusting.
If, on the other hand, you are searching for the answers to these sorts of questions and you don’t have a dog? Now that would be weird. You’re very likely on some NSA list somewhere. Guess you’ll find out next time you try to slip nonchalantly through the airport security line, doing a quick mental inventory of all your recent Google searches.
Actually, by now, perhaps we should all be conducting said inventory. Sock-footed, pants drooping beltless held up by the occasional one-handed tug, eyes darting among grey-trayed valuables about to be x-rayed. Mannequin-smile covers up the sophisticated mathematical computations jumping from one synapse to the other in our brains. Thinking, “Let’s see now, is there anything illegal about searching for ‘kill my dog’? There was that time last week when I had to jet spray her poop off the driveway and some splashed in my mouth. God, it would be highly embarrassing to have to explain that story to the TSA agents. But I would do it. I hope this would be a private conversation in some side room, not right here with all these people staring at my plastic bag of shave cream and splay-bristled toothbrush. What else? Well as a joke, I did type ‘bury wife in parking lot’ on my buddy’s laptop the other day.”
That query sat there for hours, unnoticed in an extra browser window, surviving a few laptop sleep cycles. It was funny as hell when discovered, the humor enhanced by my steadfast denial that I had any idea what he was talking about. The vision of his face looking around the room with outstretched hands, eyes leaping from one friend’s to another’s, voice sounding increasingly pinched. Initially laughing, then pissed as we all stare down on him with (faux) judgment, then even a bit defensive — “C’mon, do you really think I want to bury my wife in a parking lot?!? That didn’t come out right, I don’t want to bury her in a parking lot. I mean, I don’t want to bury her anywhere. I mean, I don’t want to bury her at all! I mean I LOVE my wife, guys! Aww, goddamnit, this is ridiculous!” Laptop slammed shut, curse words mumbled inaudibly.
That was good comedy. But at what price? (I ask myself now, standing in the airport security line).
I mean, that can’t be traced back to me, somehow, can it? These TSA people with their mall cop uniforms and crisp haircuts and inside jokes amongst themselves and X-Ray screens that we can’t see — do they know about the “parking lot wife” search query? If they do, I’m afraid I will have only one choice: To twist the knife a bit further into my buddy’s ribs. The buddy who left his laptop open, vulnerable. It will be hard for him to explain this all to his wife — “Hi honey, I’m, uh, in jail and need you to come pick me up. I was on my way home from the Tahoe trip, sitting at my gate at the airport. Suddenly two TSA agents tapped my shoulder and started asking all sorts of odd questions about my Google Search usage. Apparently someone–I have to assume it was Keir– had typed ‘bury my wife in a parking lot’ on my laptop while I wasn’t looking. Now you know how much I love you, and that I do NOT want to bury you in a parking lot. I mean I don’t want to bury you…[the scene repeats itself from above, and so on]….
So all of this has flashed through my mind as in a long daydream. But now I snap to, suddenly, finding that I have miraculously slipped through to the other side. Scrambling madly now to retrieve all my belongings as my fellow passengers rush around me. Somehow I made it through security. My Google Search history has set off no alarms, the TSA agents’ stone-faced gazes have turned on other Google Searchers yet to be scanned. I breathe a sigh of relief, and shuffle, continuing on my way.
Safe for now. Or at least until our dog manifests her next outrageous act, sending me sprinting in a panic with outstretched fingers to the nearest keyboard, blindly mashing out my next Google Search, tripping some silent alarm somewhere. The next airport trip is going to be really uncomfortable, I fear.
Thanks for reading.