Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Life is a Smartphone Ad (Sometimes)


We have a family dinner on December 30th every year at my sister-in-law’s house, and my wife’s uncle and aunt are always there. Two of my favorite people. She was a stew for many years on Northwest Airlines, and has tales galore about life on the transcontinental routes as well as the milk runs to Montana; he’s a realtor, and found us the home where we live. (He’s also living proof that there are people up here who talk like the characters in “Fargo.” Oh jeez.) They have two bright kids who were callow teens a few days ago but now, through some bizarre alchemy, are grown-up, married, with tots.

So Uncle is describing last year’s dinner, when he beat my French brother-in-law at ping-pong downstairs. This leads to a recollection of his Army days at Fort Hood in ’67, when there was a guy who ruled the ping-pong tables at the rec hall. Big handsome brute, incredible card player too. And he was in some singing group too, because he was a great singer.

Last name: CHAMPAGNE. Intrigued by the idea of some large slab of American soldier with a huge cheroot striding through life crooning a tune with swooning debs in his wake, pausing from his card game to slam around a pure white ping-pong ball until it was time to ship out for ‘Nam, I got out my phone and surreptitiously searched. The Google, it did not disappoint. Got a hit on the 45 RPM single the Champagne Brothers released; hit play, and while Uncle Gary was talking about life on the base I brought up the phone and said:

“Here he is.”

For my daughter’s demographic, this is commonplace. For my Uncle-in-law, it’s not sci-fi voodoo, because he’s on the computer all the time what with the business and all, but it’s still amazing. He never thought to google the Army buddy who was good at ping-pong. For me, it’s ordinary magic. I am used to this, but it never loses its power to amaze.

It’s an iPhone/Android tear-jerking commercial moment, but it happens all the time. Have you a similar tale?

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  1. John Davey Member
    John Davey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Showed my 84 year old father in law a Google Map satellite and street view of the home they left in Eagen MN in 1974. When they left the house it was surrounded by corn fields. Now, not so much. Also his Uncle Fred’s farm in Minnesota which is surprisingly sill largely intact. A shared sense of nostalgia in a passing moment.

    • #1
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:18 PM PST
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have recently been entertaining my young nephews who are at the age of endless curiosity. They ask. Google answers, and Bing has pictures. We learned the composition of coinage today. We saw jugglers. We saw sword sparklers (fireworks) in action.

    Excuse me while I charge my phone.

    • #2
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:58 PM PST
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  3. Painter Jean Member

    This was a PC, not an iPhone or Android, moment, but the “ordinary magic” you speak of was the same…

    My Dad was a young officer in the Navy in WW2, and served on the maiden (“shakedown”) cruise of the USS Toledo, a heavy cruiser. He was back here in frozen Minnesota for the week of Christmas, and twice had dinner with us and my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law having just watched the film “Unbroken”, the conversation naturally turned to WW2. My Dad went on at some length about the Toledo and his duties on her, and while they were talking I went to the computer and googled the ship. Not only did we find lots of photos, which my Dad thoroughly enjoyed, pointing out the various parts of the ship that he was stationed at, but I found the USS Toledo Association website. On it we found photos of crewmembers, and my Dad picked out the photos of two fellow ensigns that he recognized. This led to me writing to the site owner, who was very interested in hearing my Dad’s stories about his adventures on that shakedown cruise for use in the association’s newsletter. He told me that they are losing crew members at the rate of three a month! They hold reunions every two years, and we’re determined that my Dad will attend. I’m delighted my Dad’s stories will be preserved.

    That was a powerful demonstration of the magic of the Internet!

    • #3
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:14 PM PST
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  4. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    No heartwarming stories, but I have a sib who still uses a phone that looks like a clam, I keep telling him that my phone is like something out of Star Trek (which he didn’t watch either), it has all the information in the world in your pocket and up to the second. On the other end of the spectrum I have a picture of my 2 year old granddaughter swiping her finger to get to the next picture, a behavior obviously picked up purely by observation. What will HER grandchildren be using? I picture something like that helmet Bones wore in ‘Spock’s Brain’ .

    • #4
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:26 PM PST
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  5. Fritz Member

    Not too heart-warming, but I did on a whim Google up an old flame from my long, long ago late teens, and learned . . . that she and an adult child had been busted on weapons and drug charges, and further, that another of her adult children is serving life without parole for murder.

    Google cured my silly nostalgia faster than you can say “Can’t go back again, you can only go forward.”

    • #5
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:25 PM PST
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  6. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I have, living in my house, an honest to goodness World War II veteran. We brought up Google earth on my wife’s iPad and started digging around the pacific islands, looking at the various islands he had been to during the war. I’m not 100% sure he had all the islands right, but it prompted some stories.

    It’s quite amazing the way smart devices have changed our lives.

    • #6
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:49 PM PST
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  7. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Laptop again, but it’s nice to be able to pull up Dad’s page in the World War II Memorial registry, submitted by my sister, Trink. It’s a great resource.

    • #7
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:57 PM PST
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  8. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    It’s so fantastic that gov’t built us this Internet thing, which, per our sleek ocean overlords, er, Barry, is something we could not do by ourselves. Only gov’t could provide us with this amazing tool with which we reconnect to our past and stare at cat videos.

    Interesting to note that the National WWII Memorial link has pictures of the places Barry shut down so veterans and their families could not see the memorials to their service, honor their fallen comrades, and generally reap some small direct benefit of the taxes they’ve paid all their lives.

    • #8
    • January 1, 2015, at 6:40 AM PST
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  9. Tim H. Member

    Two weeks ago, our dryer’s tumbler stopped tumbling, and the Mrs. looked at the piles of wet laundry waiting and turned glum, figuring it would require a couple of days of waiting for the Maytag repairman, and who knows how much money.

    I suggested we try to fix it ourselves, and she Googled to find a likely solution. It turned out to require one trip to Sears for an $18 belt, and maybe half an hour of work. I’ve collected so many appliance repair guides and manuals online, and I’ve fixed so many of them myself, that I wonder how my parents did this when I was growing up. If you didn’t already have a repair guide, you’d have to get on the phone to the manufacturer, order one or ask them for instructions, and maybe wait days for something to come…or give up and call a repairman. Now I expect to find instructions within minutes.

    • #9
    • January 1, 2015, at 11:43 AM PST
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  10. MarciN Member

    Not a touching story, but pretty funny:

    A month ago, my fifteen-year-old electric stove finally wore itself out, and the bottom element in the oven started to burn one night when I turned it on. The flame would not go out.

    So what did we do? Call 9-1-1? Of course not.

    We used the smartphone to Google “how to put out an electrical fire.” :)

    • #10
    • January 1, 2015, at 9:00 PM PST
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  11. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    On October 31, 1985, while I was in college, my best friend and I attended a Grateful Dead concert. I was indifferent to the band, and he was a casual fan at best, but it seemed like something worth doing just so we could say we had done it. (I imagine any Dead concert was something of an experience; this one was on Halloween, which only made it more so.)

    I guess the Dead tended to dig pretty deep for their concert playlists; neither my friend nor I recognized more than a couple of the songs they played that night. But there was one song in particular that both of us really enjoyed; it seemed to be called “Looks Like Rain,” but neither of us had heard it before.

    Later, I determined that it was a track from one of Bob Weir’s solo albums. But this was long before iTunes, so there was no easy way to obtain a recording of the song. (I wasn’t inclined to special-order an album I’d never heard just to get a single song.) I let it go.

    Two decades later, in 2005, something made me think about that experience. I did a quick Google search and discovered that there were vast numbers of Grateful Dead live recordings available online (the Dead always encouraged recordings of their concerts, so this was a logical development). Within a few minutes, I’d located a recording not only of the song “Looks Like Rain,” but in fact a recording of the actual performance my friend and I had been present for. A moment from my life, three minutes from October of 1985, conjured from the Internet as if by magic.

    It was amazing, and it convinced me that pretty much any technological miracle can be ours if we are only patient enough to wait for it.

    • #11
    • January 1, 2015, at 11:03 PM PST
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  12. MeandurΦ Member
    MeandurΦ Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Through the internet I found my half-sister when I was googling for my birth father. Amazingly enough, she lives in the same town as me (our father was from Wyoming, so Colorado is not *too* far afield).

    We met twice and I haven’t heard from her since September 2013.

    So it was not as heart warming as I thought it was going to be.

    • #12
    • January 2, 2015, at 11:57 AM PST
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  13. profdlp Inactive

    Fritz:Not too heart-warming, but I did on a whim Google up an old flame from my long, long ago late teens, and learned . . . that she and an adult child had been busted on weapons and drug charges, and further, that another of her adult children is serving life without parole for murder…

    I am probably a horrible person, but I have a few old flames I might be secretly pleased to hear that about. (Sorta)

    Forgive me, everyone.

    • #13
    • January 2, 2015, at 9:08 PM PST
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  14. Johnny Dubya Inactive

    Interred my parents’ ashes at Arlington a year ago. It takes months for the marble grave marker to be completed. I had forgotten about it until last month, when I fired up the Arlington app (yes, there is one, and it’s excellent) and within seconds was viewing a photo of their gravestone. Later, on the Facebook app, I saw a photo of my Boy Scout nephews laying a Christmas wreath on the grave.

    • #14
    • January 5, 2015, at 9:12 AM PST
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