The Internet can give the answers to many questions. When I let Google come up on my screen I can type in a few words and get thousands of places to get my answers. Sometimes I can narrow down the query to get fewer responses, hoping that the one I want is somewhere in there. In the process, information I wasn't seeking will appear and catch my interest. Often I will forget what my original purpose was and become immersed in some new idea.
The saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" pops into my mind when I am on one of these searches. Perhaps I am looking for something specific, such as a date, or a word in a song. What I get are hundreds of related thoughts to the key words, but the exact information still eludes me.
I know I don't use the Internet in the most efficient way. I am mildly proud that I can do as much as I actually do. But I wonder if the increasing dependence on being able to get answers, seemingly through the air, has diminished our ability to think, or to discipline our memory.
Last weekend my sister and I had occasion to drive north on Highway 71. We were constantly commenting on changes we noticed along the way. We had often traveled that road together in our youth, usually going to Kansas City to meet some family member who was coming in by a train other than the Katy. If there was a car rental service back then, none of us knew about it. We always assumed someone would go meet any visitors.
On this recent trip we kept noticing a small sign on some bridges on the highway. These signs said, "Safe and Sound." There was also a design. We began looking for the signs on other bridge since they did not show up on every bridge. We wondered if it was just bridges over a river or creek, but realized that some signs appeared on an overpass that was not even over water. We soon tired of trying to figure out the meaning of the signs, but off and on since then I have started thinking about it.
I decided to call MoDot to see if I could get the answer. I was expecting to get a bunch of questions about what I wanted and told to punch certain numbers for certain things. To my surprise my call was answered by a real person, a very friendly and pleasant woman, who asked if she could be of assistance to me. I told her about our curiosity about the signs, and in my excitement of talking to a real person I had a memory lapse and couldn't come up with the words that were on the sign. It didn't matter. She said, "Oh, you are wondering about our Safe and Sound signs". She then continued by telling me that these were bridges or overpasses that were marked for upgrade in the near future.
She even thanked me for calling and asked if I would mind answering a short survey. The three questions on the survey were about the treatment I had received when I called. Of course I could give the lady very high marks. I was pleased that MoDot wanted to give good service to callers.
The whole episode made me feel very warm and fuzzy. I thought how nice it was to talk to a real person and how proud I was of myself for getting the answer without going to the Internet. Then the survey ended by saying, "To get further information about our highways, use our web page, www.MoDot.org!