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Holly Lake Effect

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Did I hear you say you wish you had some friends...?

Once there were computers. They added, subtracted, wrote letters –and with a little human assistance—told us obscure facts about obscure subjects and then signed off and went to sleep. They left us with the purity of a blank screen and the certainty that we could start all over again when we wanted to. There were no little squares way up in the far right corner warning us that our computer was in jeopardy and if we didn't do something quick it would fly into a dozen or more little bitty pieces. There were no bombastic messages that flowed onto our screens from nowhere like big gaseous balloons telling us that we must do this and that to save our valuable information. What value could there be in a copy of what I owe my dentist and a note to the county agent asking him to identify a plant with long green leaves and no blooms. The point of all this is that things have changed and quicker than you could say "Mariah Murdock" (if you were so inclined)—your computer has become a mass of spooky invitations, threats, complex instructions and miscellaneous facts about things you never asked for, in fact, never knew existed. I now, for instance, know that the Queen of France in 1869 was Queen Mariah Murdock (that's where that name came from!—mystery solved) Possibly I entered the wrong information in my query (that's the thing you type into the computer followed by lots of @@@s and "plus" signs and carefully spelled names about which you are seeking information). Now computers give you everything—bargains in boot jeans with stretch waist bands, cameras that not only take pictures but time your roast (in the oven), helpful hints on how to get rust stains out of your bath tub.

But most of all computers give you friends. Now I never thought I would see a friend slowly evanesce onto a perfectly blank screen but recently as I logged onto something called Netlog (or was it Facebook?) I began to see things that looked like pages out of my old college yearbook. "Fanny Partridge wants to be your friend" the screen triumphs. So do Harry Smith and Harriet Jones and a dozen other people I only faintly remember. There's a picture of old Harry, fingernail size, his hair thinned to little white wisps. I wouldn't recognize him if I was at the checkout counter at WalMart and he was right beside me. But here he is bigger than life, and the thought that I have to have conversation with him is frightening. What should I say. "Hi Harry—good to hear your voice!"? ( Or should it be "good to see your message?") Because there it is slowly crawling across the screen. "I remember you from the tenth grade," Old Harry says and I can just see him smiling in that slurpy way of his. Like he had you under a microscope and wasn't about to let you get away. "We should make plans to have lunch. I live only 125 miles north of you and it's nothing to pop into my SUV and hit the road. We could have a good time catching up and I can find out whether you really did look at my test paper in history class so you could get an A." Dear old Harry. Or was it Henry? Time fogs up one's mental lenses. Besides I'm closing my eyes and grinding my teeth. Now comes Facebook and I see smiling Alicia (Nerd) Saunders. I always called her "Miss Brat" (or wurst) because she was one. And now she wants to be my friend. Early this morning I had no friends—now I have two. I feel like I've downed two ice cream sodas non-stop with a pack of Fritos on the side. Alicia doesn't look quite as nerdy as she used to in the tenth grade. The computer has softened her a bit but then she's probably messaged the original photograph. Or maybe that was taken of her good side. I figure it's time to shut down Facebook and all it contains but sure enough the computer won't let me shut down—it keeps asking me questions like "what's your mother's maiden name" and "what's your favorite color" The more I hang around on this page the more friends I keep acquiring and soon the screen is so crowded it looks like a wasp nest in August. I've got to get out. I've got to find sanity.

But alas, sanity is temporarily out of town. I have these wonderful new friends I'll be happy to share with you. What did your say your email address was?


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