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Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
Life at Internet speed leaves little time for an old-fashioned Christmas
Dec. 24, 2006
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard
Christmas takes place on Internet time at our house. It's almost over before it begins.
Maybe you have to be more than thirty-something to understand why this makes me both happy and sad. If you grew into adolescence with e-mail and spent your homework time IM'ing your friends, you're already savvy. The rest of us are learning the hard way about the ups and downs of life at Internet speed.
Some changes are pure bliss. Shopping no longer requires patience and endurance, for example. You don't have to pull your boots on and drive down to the mall. Standing in line is a thing of the past.
And all because of Amazon. And a thousand others, maybe a hundred thousand others, all trying to imitate Amazon's secret recipe for online shopping: Make your site easy to navigate, have a huge selection, remember your customers by name, keep track of their purchases each time they come back and figure out a way to let them buy with almost no fuss. And give them free shipping whenever you can.
If you've shopped at Amazon, you know there's another ingredient in this recipe: Deliver promptly. Or more than promptly, whenever that's possible. It's not unusual to order an item from Amazon in the middle of one morning and have it in your hands the next afternoon. My "personal best" occurred one day when I watched the UPS driver strolling down my driveway, carrying a package I had ordered online the previous afternoon.
But some changes make me wish for a time when everything had a different pace.
When I was very young, my grandfather made every snowy Christmas morning special for all the kids in the family. Just as Santa would have done, he pulled up to our house in a curved-dash sleigh.
Santa's would have been hitched to nine tiny reindeer, but my grandfather's sleigh was no less noble pulled by a single horse. It was the last one he owned on what used to be the old family farm.
Grandfather's horse wore bells that jingled with every step. Years later, on a long Christmas Eve drive back to an Army base, I listened to "Jingle Bells" on my car radio and realized for the first time -- as if I had finally awakened -- what the bells on grandfather's horse meant.
They were jingle bells. They were Christmas bells.
They weren't just bells.
Life at Internet speed leaves little time for an old-fashioned Christmas. Epiphanies don't have to represent cures for cancer or the secrets of world peace. They can be simple and honest realizations. Little things.
All they take is the passage of time and enough free space in your mind for memories to coalesce.
But Internet time passes too quickly. Ideas don't simmer; they flame. Thoughts don't slosh from one bank of the stream to the other, picking up sediment and gaining weight; they run headlong toward the rapids.
We test our dreams on Google and quickly let them go.
On Internet time, if that child of my past had lived in an era of easy searches, bells on a sleigh would have been just another example of information overload.
Google would know just what to show this child of the old time.
"Sleigh Bells. We have what you are looking for up to 75% cheaper. Compare now! www.Best-Price.com."
It's just not the same.