The art of storytelling is taking a hit. I don’t mean the kind of story that you sit down at your desk and write. I mean the type of story that you make up as you are driving along the road to the cottage or roll out at the evening cottage bonfire, the tall tale that is spur of the moment, creative, brilliantly laid out, and really, nothing more than a bunch of hooey.
Today we are travelling up to the cottage; my wife and I, her parents and my youngest daughter, discussing and debating various intelligent subjects to pass the time. Who was it that starred in On Golden Pond? “I believe it was Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn,” I say – a Hepburn faux pas that my darling mother-in-law corrects with the help of Google. “How long do Snapping turtles live?” is asked by my daughter, after we run across one crossing the road. (I mean pass by one, not actually run over it!) “That one has probably been around since the time of the dinosaurs,” I quote from some scientific journal I had recently read.
“Actually,” says the Google expert from the back seat, “It says here that they can live for up to 100 years.”
“Yes, that’s what I meant, about as old as your grandparents, born in the time of the dinosaurs.”
“What kind of shrub is that?” asks my wife, at a picnic stop on the way.
“I believe it’s a hemlock,” says my father-in-law, the polished carpenter, tree and a wood expert – but obviously a complete blank when it comes to bushy shrubs.
“Hmmm,” says my sceptical mother-in-law. She plays around with her “smart” phone for a while and then proclaims haughtily – “No, actually it’s a young Russian ash.” She proceeds to rhyme off a full encyclopaedic description of why it’s an ash, why it is in Cottage Country and why my wife’s dad is a buffoon when it comes to leafy plant identification. She even passes around a photo that looks suspiciously like the bush in question.
“This Google guy doesn’t know everything!” My father-in-law pouts, trying to defend himself, probably wishing it was a poison hemlock plant, so he could put its seeds to good use.
We are getting close to the lake when we are afforded a quick glimpse of a funny little animal running up the embankment and disappearing into the thick forest. “What was that?” asks my youngest, most impressionable daughter.
“Why my dear – that was a Side-Hill Gouger,” I say, though, admittedly, I really hadn’t seen the mammal at all. “Their left legs are shorter than their right ones, so they can run very fast on a hillside.” It doesn’t matter that nobody in the car has heard of this exotic creature, they are elusive and shy. They are seldom seen by humans – like Big Foot, only much faster across a steep grade. “Trust me; it was definitely the mysterious Gouger.”
Then I hear my mother-in-law murmur from the back seat, “Let me ask Mr. Google.”
These devices have a way of making average people brilliant, and brilliant people average. Now, I’m not saying my mother-in-law is just average, something that implies that she is the norm – when she is, in truth, far from normal. Also, I’m not saying I was brilliant before Google, but I sure pretended that I was.
We have no connection at the cottage, so after I tell some far-fetched story at the bonfire, and my darling in-law challenges my facts, I say, “No, it’s true, google it!” (In my experience, I have found that by simply saying “No, it is true, Google It,” it instantly makes the statement gospel).
I am hopeful that she will forget about it by the time we depart the cottage and head back home … she never does! As we drive home from the cottage, at the very spot on the road that we are back “connected,” out comes her phone. Doh! She has the memory of an elephant.
Do elephants really have good memories? I’m not really sure. Perhaps I’d better google it.