Coffee with Mimi: The price we pay for information

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, April 15, 2021

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Maybe technology is a wonderful thing.

Very early in my career, I grabbed on to “word processing.”  Before long, I could scarcely write without the aid of our handy, but clunky computer. We had a dedicated work area set up in the kitchen which required a substantial piece of furniture for all the equipment. Computer furniture was undoubtedly the ugliest stuff ever manufactured.

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But, oh, we were so thrilled with that first computer. We had a printer which was quite a temptation for the kids. Please, please do not print off every version of your history paper when you just changed one word from the last time I proofed it. We burned through a lot of trees back then.

Today, I toss my complete unit in a tote bag, or just carry it with my work binder. A printer is minimally necessary. Attach a document to an email and you are done with it.

I promised myself I wouldn’t become impatient with the speed with which my laptop executes my commands. The same is true of my cell phone which I lovingly refer to as my Google machine.

I mean, after all, if it takes a few seconds to find a recipe for shower cleaner, that certainly is more efficient than driving to the store where it will be necessary to stand in the aisle and read the labels of 13 bottles of shower spray to evaluate the directions, ingredients, and price of each product.

Before I pull out of my driveway, I could have accessed three or four recipes and scrolled through feedback from multiple individuals who have experimented with those possibilities and a zillion more and are willing to share their insights.

A body can find out just about anything on the Internet and in a nanosecond.

Right now, I am in my office in Danville. I am checking the score of the Reds game in Cincy every few minutes using just a few key strokes in the search line of my cell phone. (We are winning, bottom of the 7th.) After just a few inquiries, the Google machine fills me in on the game status with just a word or two provided to give a hint of my intentions.

The world managed for many, many years without such an invention as the computer. Yet, today, it is hard to imagine life without the devices.

In the past year, I have ordered groceries, shoes, specialty light bulbs, books, and fancied buying a house in Italy for the equivalent of a couple dollars, all on my cell phone. Paid for it all, too.  Well, not the house in Italy.

You can even buy a new car on-line, have the thing delivered, and your old one carted off without touching anything more than a few computer keys.

Now, that’s going a bit too far for me. I can’t imagine not taking a prospective mode of transportation out for a spin, inhaling that brand new car smell, fiddling with all the knobs and levers.

Thomas Jefferson owned more than 30 horses for personal riding and carriage pulling. I’m sure he never bought one site unseen and unridden.

Every purchase surely involved a full day, or two. It was an event. There was time spent ascertaining the quality and merits of the lineage of the prospective purchase, a test run about the grounds and acreage, a gentlemanly discussion over the price and options such as included tack, and sealing the deal with a handshake and an appropriate beverage.

Not too much different than the last four-wheeled vehicle I bought. The process is part of the thrill. It’s hard to bond with an on-line purchase though some tedious and legal issues are definitely sped along with technology. Then sealed with a handshake.

When it comes to technology, I want all the things I want, but I don’t want to admit it and I don’t want to be dependent. The problem is to get what I want, the whole thing has to exist.

If I research ideas for flowering plants, I will be stuck with multiple ads for plant material and the like for a period of time. That period of time is determined by some algorithm which, based on the number of times I indiscriminately click on any ad, remembers my every keystroke and eventually gives up on me or continues the assault. I guess it could be worse, I could be inundated with products much less aesthetically pleasing than tulip bulbs.

I imagine if I bought a car online, the internet brain would leap with joy at the prospect of informing me of all things car, figuring if I would go so far as to make that significant purchase without the benefit of so much as a tire kick, I would buy anything remotely. I would be fair game.

I want to browse my options virtually. I don’t want to keep hearing about it in my news feed for days. But, that’s the cost of the internet at my beck and call.

The Reds won.