Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Vague Sense of Certainty

There's entirely too much information coming my way. Instead of reading one newspaper - actual "news" printed on actual "paper" - i now peruse three or four online, and am bombarded with links to additional articles my friends feel i must read. i have access to 3,754 critics' opinions of the latest movie releases. i can check the price and availability of any product for sale anywhere in the world. But somehow - and i don't mean to sound ungrateful - somehow, none of this information has led to greater sense of satisfaction with life.

Here's a prime example: A few years ago, my local library converted its card catalog to a computer database. There are now little computer stations all over the library where i can look up any book in publication. Of course, since ours is quite a minor branch library, only a very small percentage of those books is actually housed in the building. Others are available by transfer from other branches within the system; still others on special loan from university libraries in the area. All this is quite wonderful. When i look up a book i'd like to borrow - say, the latest Falco mystery by Lindsey Davis - the record indicates, among other things, how many copies are available within the system and within my own branch, the number of times each copy has been checked out, and the current availability of each copy. However, it often happens that when i meander down the aisle to retrieve the book, it is not to be found in its appointed place. Now, in the old days (notice i stop short of saying "good old days"), i would simply have assumed that the book had been checked out, and would either try again later or put in a reserve request. But the computer just told me that one copy is available in my library! So where is it? Instead of resigning myself to waiting until it was returned by whatever lucky reader got to it first, i am left to battle a rising sense of outrage at either A) the inaccuracy of the system, or B) the incompetence of the employee who must have shelved it improperly, or C) the inconsideration of the slob who took it to read within the library and then left it laying on a table somewhere, unaccounted for.

In this case, what i do know can hurt me.

Same goes for all the other information streaming toward me at the speed of cable modem. Sure, i can check out the symptoms of any disease by visiting WebMD - but i also get daily e-mails from well-meaning people, warning me of the latest horrible consequences of my antiperspirant choice, my diet, and the fact that i actually choose to inhale the pollution in my local airspace. So the vehicle i'm thinking of buying is available in Nebraska for $5000 less; that information only contributes to my sense that the cost of living is unreasonably high where i live.

One of my mother's little etiquette lessons that has stuck with me involved whether or not you should tell a friend that she has a run in her stocking. Mom always said, if you're somewhere where she can do something about it, then by all means, tell her. But if you're out in public with no remedy available, why burden her with knowledge that will only cause her discomfort?


Blogger ParisLondres said...

Thanks for the post darling D - just a quick hug to your Mom (the last para) - my Mother has taught me the same.
Hope you are well.


8:37 AM  
Blogger Bela said...

I feel exactly the same. A few weeks ago I complained on our board of "information overload"; I was dreaming of a desert island. I too feel "bombarded" on all sides. We are not alone: lots of people agreed and talked about being burned out. I can't see a solution. :-(

5:04 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

hmmm...desert island...i can picture it. you & N are invited :>)

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

I love the title of this post, D. This is my first real visit to your blog--wasn't sure it was you, at first. Your 'voice' is a little different from the one I thought I knew. So interesting to read friends' blogs and see them becoming more three dimensional.
I will be back regularly. *cues up
'Getting to Know You* ;D
Many xoxo,

5:53 AM  
Blogger red-queen said...

hi laura! yes, it's me. i'm afraid this blog will be a bit random (both in content and in posting frequency), but i'm glad you're checking in :>)

may i post a link to your own wonderful universe?


6:19 AM  
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh I feel weird now. Whenever I wear pantyhose or stockings I always carry a little bottle of clear polish just in case of runs. So I would be so much happier if someone told me right away, so I could catch the run before it... uh, ran away.

7:24 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

oh, katie, you're one of THOSE...organized women with all bases covered! i might have guessed :>)

6:52 AM  
Blogger Jonniker said...

Ahh, choice-paralysis. It's not quite what you outlined, here (which I totally relate to), but I've found that we've become obsessed with choices and demanding information to our own detriment.

Great post! xo

8:47 PM  

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