I Used to Use My Brain; Now I Use Google.

The other day, I googled a location in downtown Los Angeles, made mental note of the ease of its relationship to the freeway, and hopped in my car, confident in my Google Maps app.

(I must admit, it is a place I don’t visit unless required to by an errand, appointment, or event. I went to the Staples Center for a concert. I’ve met friends for events, even did a 5K. I like downtown. Yet, with traffic and one way streets, my lack of knowledge of the area, and my fear of the crime that still infiltrates the lovely old and new buildings of downtown, I don’t find myself exploring too often, and especially not by myself at night. And yes, I know, to some extent this is silly. My friend metro’s down there all the time, by herself, at night!)

In any case, my Google Map app suggested a plan different than I was familiar with. But I took it to avoid the traffic that GM claimed was blocking my rather straighter path. I felt confident in my Google app abilities. It once saved me thirty minutes from a blocked freeway due to an accident in San Juan Capistrano by announcing forcibly and loudly, “exit here.” And I did. I took to unfamiliar streets and roadways, and found myself at the right place even ahead of schedule. This had endeared me, allowed me to trust the app that I’d never relied on alone before.

Previously, when GM suggested I take the 605 instead of whatever I was on, I clicked the dismiss button because I know nothing about the 605; and even if the 5 or the 405 or whatever was cramped or sauntering, limping along, I knew those freeways. I could get off, get on, get to the other, find a gas station, a starbucks.

But emboldened by my Google Maps’ saving grace at the unfamiliar beach town, I allowed GM to tell me to take the 210, transfer to whatever, and then turn here or there.

But then – my phone shut down.

I was in the middle of nowhere – well, I was somewhere, obviously, but I didn’t know where. I didn’t know what turn was next, and then what after that? And what if it got dark as I was attempting to find my way? And why did my phone turn off? Do I want to be lost downtown without my phone at night?

Uhm, no.

Wait, wait. I am of another generation. I am of the generation that grew up without Google Maps or even electronic, satellite connected, mapping devices. I’ve been stuck in other downtowns, at night, I’ve gotten lost in every major city of every country I’ve ever been to. I always found my way home. Or found my way somewhere.

Today, tired, not feeling well, not motivated to spend the hour in traffic to go downtown anyway, I pulled off the freeway and sat in an empty lot staring at my dead phone. What did I do?

In the past I’ve made mental notes, or even physical notes, of the freeways, the exits, etc. Previously, I might have printed out the directions, just in case. Today, however, I’d done no such thing. I’d barely looked at the route. I let Google take over.

I sat there deciding. Did I continue on, hoping signs would tell me what to do, where to go? Did I ask directions? In the old days, the gas stations had maps on their walls, map books behind the counter. Now they had advertisements on the walls, vapes behind the counters.

The attendant looked at me strangely. “I’m not from this area.”

The other employee said something to the effect, “take the 210 to the 5, and then….”

A customer pulled out his phone, “Where?” he asked. “Take the 210, to the 2, get off at ….”

And it was all lost to me. I didn’t trust these strangers. I’d trusted Google. I’d trusted Samsung.

How much we trust our electronics instruments these days. How lost we are, literally, and metaphorically, without them.

Google finishes our sentences for us. Google saves our searches. Google offers us suggestions in random order controlled by those who clicked before us. Google helps us with our every day lives and allows us the luxury of not having to think, to plan, to do much of anything. Press a button, watch a movie, press a button listen to the summary of a book, press a button……

But – not really – Google doesn’t do these things.

We allow Google to do these things for us. To us. And we became just a little bit more comfortable in our dependence.

Had I taken a moment to even look at the route. Had I made the decision to take the route I was familiar with. Had I done a little more planning and work, everything would have gone a little more smoothly.

Google, I do appreciate you. But I really need to count on myself a little bit more.

About Noreen Lace

Originally from the Midwest, Noreen Lace received an MFA from California State University where she now teaches. She believes in the beauty of language to express the darkness in life. She is the author of two novellas, West End and Life of Clouds, as well as a book of short stories. Here in the Silence. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in national as well as international journals, including The Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal, The Oleander Review, Vine Leaves Press (Australia), Silver Stream Journal (Ireland), Pilcrow and Dagger, Fishfood, and others. "Memorial Day Death Watch," a memoir of her father's passing, placed as a finalist in Writer Advice, while her poem, "All at Once," was published as a finalist in Medusa's Laugh Contest issue. More work is always in progress.
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