Yesterday, bright and early, while still on my first cup of coffee, my daughter Julie forwarded me an article about sponges. “You Should Throw Away Your Germy Kitchen Sponge Immediately,” I read along with the cheery fact that “5.5 trillion microscopic bugs” are “crawling around on the thing you use to ‘clean’ your dishes.”
Running a sponge through the dishwasher does not disinfect it. In fact, the germs multiply.
All this before the caffeine kicked in.
Mostly I don’t mind learning these things, maybe a little later in the morning, but I like living at a time when everything you need to know is a mere click away. Take my hemlock trees. They have woody adelgid. How do I know? I Googled diseases of hemlock trees, saw a photo of a sick tree, and compared it with mine.
My stove top espresso coffee maker’s rubber seal disintegrated. I Googled coffee pot replacement rubber seal and found not only what I needed to keep this relic running, but also a YouTube video that showed me exactly how to replace it. Then there was the challenge of the oil stain. How do you get oil out of cotton? Make a thick paste of baking soda and water, rub it into the stain, let it sit 20 minutes, then wash. What does a tick bite look like? What is Kevin Spacey doing now? What’s the name of the movie made from the children’s book “Between Shades of Gray?”
One click and you can find the answer to all these things.
But then there’s the other side of the coin. It’s part of the buying process now to learn all we can before we decide on a lawn mower or a movie or someone to treat our sick trees. You can’t just go with the first guy who shows up at your door and says, “Yup. We can get rid of your woody adelgid.” You have to ask questions: How exactly do you plan to treat the disease? Is the solution environmentally friendly? You have to get estimates and references and credentials. And guarantees. And you have to do this at least three times, then compare answers, before you give someone the go-ahead. Or you’re not being responsible.
It’s the same with doctors and chiropractors and vacation packages and cars and couches and garage doors. How to choose? What to ask? It’s overwhelming because learning about everything is time consuming and confusing and circuitous, too. You’re researching one thing — checking out insecticides, for example — when you stumble upon something else, and before you know it you’re not reading about cedar oil vs. Talstar anymore; you’re learning that J. Paul Getty spoke many languages including Arabic but was so frugal he had a pay phone installed in his London mansion.
But I digress.
My hair dryer broke. Back in the day I would have driven to Walgreens and bought any old dryer. Not anymore. I Google hair dryers. What’s the difference between a healthy ionic hair dryer and a damage control hair dryer? Do I want the best value or the top-rated? Why does one cost $20 and another $195? I read the reviews. I compare prices. I find out who has free shipping and what’s the return policy.
I remember when there were salespeople who did this for you, who knew their products. Buy this, they would tell you. And you did. Salespeople who sold you shoes and hats and clothing that they would pick out and bring to you. And if it were the wrong size, they’d get you the right size.
I remember service stations where men pumped your gas and checked your oil and washed your windows. I remember when travel agents guided you through the maze of booking flights and hotel rooms, when you didn’t have to be an expert in travel to travel.
We have a cobbler in town. I love taking my boots to him. He makes what’s old new again. And I don’t have to do a thing. I could probably Google how to make old boots look new. But I don’t want to. Sometimes, all I’m really looking for is a little bit of yesterday, which I miss.Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.