Thursday, March 08, 2007

the power of the interwebs

My Dad discovered Google last night.

Well, to be fair, he discovered the concept of Googling oneself last night. He was aware of the existence of Google before, but, lovable Luddite that he is, still insists on using Altavista and Ask Jeeves when he needs to search for something. And he also uses an abacus in restaurants to calculate tips. Okay, not that last one. But you get my point.

This magical discovery came about because my long-lost cousin emailed him out of the blue last week. To be more specific, the community theater group my family used to work with emailed him to say that someone had emailed them wondering if the name on their webpage happened to be his Uncle Steve and how one might get in touch with him today.

There's a whole other story to be told about this family member and that whole side of the family and that's why someday I'm going to sit down and write the whole damn thing because it's a Southern Gothic novel meets the Vietnam War and really, it needs to be committed to paper.

Family historical drama aside, my dad couldn't believe that the cousin had tracked him down. "I don't get it," he told me. "Our last two Christmas cards to them have come back return-to-sender. And how on Earth did he find me through the theater?"

"Well," I replied, "if he knew your name, and he knew you lived in Ann Arbor for a long time, that page probably came up when he Googled you. That's how I would try to find someone."

Sure enough, as we tried it over the phone, there it was: my father, playing a 1920s reporter in a community theater production of The Front Page was the first hit when you Googled his name and hometown. There was his full name and several pictures. Long-lost relatives found in five seconds.

"This is neat!" my dad exclaimed over the phone. "Tee-hee!" (Yes, my father says "tee-hee." It is so cute). "Look at that!"

"Dad, haven't you ever Googled yourself before?"

"Can I do that?"

"Sure! It's not like the Internet Police are going to show up and arrest you for being a curious narcissist. Everybody Googles themselves."

"Okay, so how do I do this?"

"Just type your name in the search engine. Oh, and use quotation marks around it."

"... Well, look at that! I'm an Australian rugby player! I'm a British dentist! I scored 34 points in a Finnish professional basketball game!"

"See, it's fun! I'm a photographer and write really awesome comic-strip art and work at Whaddaya Know?"

"... It's kind of sad when people who have our names lead more interesting lives than we do."

Oh, innocent father of mine. It's just one of the many ways the Internet disappoints us. I'll never tell him about my experiences in Match.comland.