I've been listening to Craig Ferguson's autobiography on audiobook. Himself is the reader, and it's great to hear it in his accent.
In the chapter about his first experience in America when he was about 15 years old, in passing, he mentioned that the visit pre-dated the internet, so the world was much bigger and he felt like he might as well have been going to the moon. America was a truly exotic place.
I have a stack of travel books. Brazil, Spain, Ireland... Why do I buy them? Maybe it's something tangible to hold on to - like I get to touch a place I've never been and may never go. Why do I buy these books at all? I can spend time on the internet and learn all I want to know about these places. And now, instead of schlepping them with me on my journeys, I could buy an e-reader and load them into it - from the internet. Still, instead of watching videos and reading endless travelogues from Random Q. Public's blog, wouldn't it be better if I picked up some tips from a book and went and experienced the place for myself?
Last night, I thought in passing, "I wonder if the house that Craig grew up in is on Google Streetview?" He told us the exact address in the gloomy Glasgow satellite town of Cumbernauld, and even described it: third-last row-house on the street.
There it was, the address clearly marked next to the front door. It really didn't look all that bad, but Streetview did have the good sense to visit on a sunny day.
Looking at that home (that looked like scores and scores of others in the town), I felt slightly creepy, like a weird decades-off voyeur. I felt like I shouldn't be able to look at it so casually. I found myself thinking about the family of six who lived there in the 1960s and 70s. He told us about playing in the attic with his siblings, so I found my gaze drifting to the roof of the house. I pictured the scene that went on when he was dropped off by the local police chief after he was found bloodied and bruised in a ditch having blacked out after his first drinking experience. He told us about the screaming match his mother had with the mother of the other boy with whom he had gotten drunk, much to the entertainment of the neighbourhood, and there it was! I could see the neighbourhood!
It made the autobiography less of a story and much more non-fiction, which, of course, it already was.
When I was a girl, if I had a crush on a boy, I would look up his phone number in the directory. That's all I really could do. I couldn't "friend" him on FB, or Google him*, or stalk him via Streetview. What did I do with my time? I read and drew and teased my sister.
I've been thinking about the internet lately, and my dependence on it. I've emailed passwords and PIN codes to myself. I don't write down phone numbers and addresses anymore, because Google has them for me. I take whole university courses via the internet, and do all my banking on-line. I kinda don't like it, but what choice do I have? I can sure cut down on my time on-line. I think what I'll try to institute is a "no screens before bed" goal, where I'll read in bed like I used to.
Well, this post went off the rails a little... Here: I'll bring it back.
*Although really, what kind of web presence is an 12-year old going to have? Did he study SEO?