By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
My kids think it’s amazing that I was an ancient 18 years old the first time I got a computer and learned to use it. For kids who’ve been using technology before they were even potty-trained, it’s hard to imagine life before “point and click” existed. Their generation walks around with phone-sized computers in their pockets the way my generation walked around with sticks of gum in ours, like it’s no big deal at all.
I remember setting up that first computer on the desk in my college dorm room and putting in a disk that taught me how to use a mouse. I learned to “drag and drop” files on the screen, empty the desktop “trash” and navigate word processing software.
It’s incredible how much different our technological lives are now than they were 30 years ago. I know a guy who once learned how to fix his own dryer using a leaf blower, thanks to a YouTube video. And there are videos out there that can teach you how to survive a shark attack, frost a cake like a professional, or how to do CPR (which someone might need following a shark attack or way too many cakes.) The opportunities are nearly limitless.
Sometimes I think my kids are lucky to be growing up in this age where information is so easy to find. Last night I helped our 13-year-old daughter study for a quiz about pronouns. Even though I write for a living, I couldn’t remember what demonstrative, relative and indefinite pronouns are. So, we Googled it. And the Internet came to the rescue. We were even able to watch videos about pronouns on an educational website.
When I was in high school, I had to pay attention to the teacher to figure out demonstrative pronouns. If, for example, I spent the class period ignoring the grammar lesson because I was busy trying to think of something clever, witty and just a tad flirty to say to the boy sitting in front of me, I’d miss the teacher’s explanation, go home without any notes and then screw up the quiz the next day. Google wasn’t around back then to help me out of a jam, and I’m still a little bitter about it.
But these days, help is a few keystrokes away. And if you’re too lazy to type, you can simply ask Siri, Alexa, Google or the voice-activated robot of your choice. The Internet is chock full of answers.
Finding reliable answers, however, is not as simple as the search, which Tom and I have recently learned the hard way. Our shower door has developed hard water stains that look like raindrops have embedded themselves into the glass. (I’ll admit that when Tom told me years ago that we needed to use a squeegee to wipe the water off the door, I didn’t necessarily make that a regular part of my post-shower routine.)
But I assured him that Google could tell us how to get the filmy spots off the door. Research is my specialty, I said. And I did find all kinds of answers for our problem.
First, we tried different shower cleaning products. Still spotty.
Then we tried vinegar. Didn’t work.
Then we tried lemon juice. Bad results.
Then we tried vinegar plus baking soda. We tried a paste made of something called “Barkeeper’s Friend.” We tried an automotive fine-grit sandpaper that one blogger swore would make the door look new again. It did not.
We’ve tried more than half a dozen Internet-based solutions and we’re still seeing spots. At this point, I think we’re just making the door angry, and it’s breaking out into hives.
That’s the thing about the Internet. It’s wonderful in so many ways but it can’t solve everything. Like everything, it has its limits, and even a wealth of information doesn’t always mean it’s the right information. Sometimes we need real live teachers, plain old trial and error, or advice from a friend with experience.
(And if you have shower door solutions, we welcome your tips.)