The Things They Googled: What Was There Before Google?
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How did they live before Google, they wondered. How did anyone know anything? How did anyone remember, while driving through Mohntown, Pennsylvania, the name of the young blond actress in the movie Witness who was from that town?
When they were hungry, they googled “recipe chard cannellini beans,” “recipe apple gingersnap,” or “recipe rice noodle salad.” How to freeze tomatoes. How to peel and seed tomatoes. Whether you can add grated zucchini to cornbread mix. How to tell if an egg is rotten, and if one egg is rotten, are all the others rotten too? “Best no-egg cornbread.” “Best no-egg omelette.” “Best restaurant brunch.”
Plagued by the familiarity of an essay they had read, they googled “The Things They Googled,” and again Google was there before they finished typing. It was the short story “The Things They Carried” they were thinking of, the beautiful Vietnam War story by Tim O’Brien. Google showed them where to read it online, and some dove in right away, while others ordered the book used for $.99 plus shipping, and still others reserved a copy at their local libraries.
But after all that searching and finding, all the slapped foreheads and the ahas, after all of it, there was still something missing. It was the size of a gingersnap, a two-week-old koala, a liquor store. It looked a bit like Kelly McGillis or Walter Mondale. It was excellent for soothing burns and heartaches. It was not in their computer or their phone or on any file server anywhere. Older search engines would be required.
Marion Winik is the author of First Comes Love, a memoir about her marriage to a man who died of AIDS in 1994. She lives in Baltimore. Reprinted from The Sun (August 2012), a monthly magazine that uses words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human.
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