What kinds of questions do you ask the internet to answer for you? I, like many adults who came of age before widespread usage of the internet, have learned to search the internet for answers to a variety of simple questions. We routinely ask Google or other search engines to spell words, find quotes, discover who that actor in that movie was, get driving directions, and find recipes. For these simple tasks, asking the internet has become a habit. We’ve even learned to check the internet for directions for easy projects around the house. Having an expert at the tips of your fingers is fabulous.
And yet, many of us still don’t automatically check the internet for information when we can. Perhaps this is because computers haven’t always been our place to go for answers. We grew up having to do research in books, having to consult the dictionary for spellings, and checking encyclopedias for basic knowledge questions. Consequently, despite knowing we have the internet at our disposal, we don’t always remember to go to it.
For instance, one time a small bird came into my house via the front door. It had been perching on the Christmas wreath when the door was opened inward. The bird took flight upward into a two story entryway and found itself upstairs. Although we chased the bird around the room from one perch to another and scared the bird poo out of it, we weren’t even remotely close to catching it. Finally, my husband looked at me, perplexed after another failed attempt to trap the bird, and said, “How do you get a bird out of a house?”
Then, something clicked in my head, and I said, “I don’t know. Google it!”
For some reason, until my husband phrased the problem as a straight-forward question, checking the internet for the answer hadn’t occurred to either of us. Once we realized that we had access to an answer, we asked, and the internet answered. To remove a bird, darken the room and get a blanket. The bird will settle in one place because, not being nocturnal, it doesn’t see well enough to fly at night. Once the bird stops moving, it’s relatively easy to walk up to it in the dark, toss a blanket over it, gather it up, and release it outside the house. This worked like a charm the first time we tried it.
Another time, I found an old recipe, possibly written by my grandmother, but originally intended for someone other than me. The recipe described a simple method for making wine from grapes, but it included a word that I assumed was Czech, a language spoken by my grandparents. While I could guess the meaning of the word based on context, I wanted to verify it. However, it was late in the evening, and I didn’t want to bother my then 97-year-old grandmother with the question. Of course, one of my kids said, “Mom, just google it.”
The word on the recipe paper was spelled “qvasit” or “quast,” neither of which produced a reasonable meaning in translating programs. Realizing based on family history that the recipe’s writer probably spoke Czech, but never had to write it, I tried varying the spelling, but still couldn’t find the word. Finally, I took the word I guessed for the English translation and asked Google to translate it to Czech. This worked. The word “ferment” in English is “kvasit” in Czech. Since it ended up taking a lot longer to find an online answer, it probably would have been easier to ask a speaker of Czech. Maybe I didn’t remember to check the internet since my brain had already identified a quicker or easier route. Or maybe I didn’t think of it because I don’t routinely translate words online.
How about you? Are there things you forget you can look up online?
N.M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).