Monday, October 27, 2014

Googling - My Trivial Pursuit

I’m enchanted with Google. It’s so versatile: You can research your ailments and discover that every one of them is potentially fatal; and you can check on and then ignore the warnings that service stations are fiddling with their pumps.

You can also Google yourself. I’ve done that but the results have not always been satisfactory: of the eight pages of entries under my name, 2½ are filled with background checks. I won’t go into detail but they involve a notorious namesake, a Texas Court of Appeals, and a gun.
Google allows me to see whether the person I met at a party is really as interesting as I thought he was. Or as he wanted me to think he was.
Last week, after a wonderful dinner party, I rushed upstairs to the study – yanked off my Spanx so I could think and breathe simultaneously – and hit the Google Search button on my laptop.
"What did I tell you,” I yelled down from what John calls my control panel – the desk from which I issue proclamations, edicts, and orders – “that fabulous young bartender tonight was not the star of Billy Elliot! Must have been Moira’s younger brother. The one that’s always hoping to be discovered by some talent scout.”
"I didn’t notice him, I’m afraid,” answered John, who was still contemplating the conversation he’d had with a guy from the World Bank.
What’s not to notice about a guy mixing martinis in a tutu and ballet slippers, I wondered.
Occasionally, just for recreation, I google superfluous facts. Were you aware that King Edward VIII’s proper given name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David? He abdicated more than 70 years ago so you can be forgiven for not knowing. But with Google’s help, I’ve memorized every syllable of his moniker. I just know that one of these days someone that’s seen the recent film The King’s Speech will stop me in the street and ask, “Do you happen to remember the proper name of King Edward VIII?” and I’ll make my public debut by rippling off this useless bit of trivia, insouciantly.
It’s tricky trying to slip such random bits of Google-gleaned information into ordinary conversation. For example, the late Pamela Harriman, America’s English-born ambassador to France, and courtesan extraordinaire, was actually Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman, thanks to a number of advantageous marriages and some nimble sexual activity.
Yet inserting these details about Pamela – and her remarkable horizontal ascent – into commonplace discussion requires unique conversational contortions: “According to Google, a bar of soap tucked between the sheets really does stop night-time leg cramps, but I’m sure Pamela Harriman didn’t need such devices in bed…”
It’s not only people I look up, but unfamiliar words as well.
Homunculus!” I cried out late one night recently, yanking off the duvet.
"No. Water softener,” mumbled John from a deep sleep, anxious to allay any fears I might have.
I dashed out of the bedroom, still clutching the book containing that mystifying word, and clicked on Google. Instantly, appeared in the search results. I clicked on it. And what I got was ‘The Iconophile: an angry web geek’s multimedia reliquary of the lesser, hard-to-find goddesses and saints of the celebrity pantheon’. The site offered, helpfully, ‘Profane Images’.
"Ohmygawd,” I whispered aloud to myself, “I think I’ve hit porn!”
I slammed the computer shut and rushed back to bed.
"Porn!” I exhaled as I slipped back into bed.
"Yup," murmured John groggily, "and it backwashes every Thursday night.”

And - marvelling at how betwen John and Google - I manage to stay pretty well informed, I turned out the light.