There used to be a time when it wouldn’t have seemed
unreasonable to have to wait a few minutes to find out, say, how many people
died in the battle of Gettysburg. There would probably be a reference book in
the bookcase, or you could call the librarian, or you could actually go to the
library. It would have seemed petulant to bang on your desk because a page was
taking a couple seconds to load. And it would have been. But patience isn’t a
virtue we’ve lost. It’s a virtue we used to have only because we had no choice.

We’re going way back here. I was still a fresh-faced
forty-three, with eyebrows and periods and the whole works. And when I turned
on my first computer, I could hear it cogitating away, and then I’d dial up the
internet—it was like setting sail for the new world in a creaky old boat.
Wheeeee whirrrrr bong bong clickety clickety… you don’t stay there and wait.
Lawsy! You’ve got time to go out and hitch up old Dobbin to the buckboard and
birth a baby or two, and when you come back, why, you’re on line, and ready to
roar. You fetch up your mail, dash into a favorite website—we used to visit for the fart of the day—all the important stuff. You keep a stack of
dollar bills at your side and peel one off to feed the internet every few
minutes, and then you jump off again.

It was years before I realized there was never any
reason to wonder about anything ever again. That the answer to all of your
questions was right there inside the screen. No need go to the trouble of
trying to knit up a string of neurons in your brain in the right sequence to
pull out a memory—no need even to spell anything right. You can just type in
“getysb” and right underneath will pop up “did
you mean
gettysburg battle of how the hell many people died there anyway” and bingo,
you can click on that.

I grew up being conditioned to the instant response, though.
Daddy was a regular search engine, and as long as he remained alive I really
didn’t have to hone my research skills, or, frankly, remember anything. He was reliable, too. Can you explain the theory of relativity, Daddy?
Yes he could. How do yellow jackets find a picnic? Why is electricity? What is
this bug and, ew, what is it doing with that long hangy thing? He knew it all.
Well, son, back when I was coming up…

I came to recognize that he had some weak spots in his
knowledge. For instance, he drew bizarre connections between homosexuality and the
decline of the Roman Empire. Otherwise, he was solid.

But even he was no Google.
Anyway, Daddy’s gone and I’ve moved on. And like most adults,
I’ve come to realize my father was not the perfect fount of knowledge anyway.
He had gaps. That lady who used to play
the lady married to the curmudgeon on that old TV show, the one with the horse,
you know the one that’s married in real life to the dude who used to sit in the
top left square of Hollywood Squares? Her mother. Is she still alive?

Google can totally handle that.