There is a “Hey Google” machine in my dining room. It is about 3 inches across and looks like the top of an inedible gray mushroom. You simply face it, preface your question with “Hey Google” and the thing talks back to you. I think of it as a substitute for the children I could never afford to have.

My machine is an encyclopedia on speed. It told me that Kid Ory wrote “Muskrat Ramble” and that Edward Longshanks died in 1307. It resolves questions raised during dinner-table conversations. Want to know how long it takes to drive from St. George to Fort Kent and what to expect for weather when you get there? Just ask. Not a day goes by but what I try to imagine what third grade would have been like in 1943 with Google hidden in my desk.

You should know that I was not initially attracted to the toy. Like your child’s hairless Chinese dog, it has to grow on you. A year or two ago my wife’s buddy Donna Doo had one of these electronic machines that answered questions and I was invited to try it. “How tall was Paul Dirac?” stopped it dead in its tracks. I said I was not interested if it could not answer simple questions.

But management thought I should have one, and management prevailed. Now I can’t imagine a life without asking for a weather report before breakfast.

Our young German friends who drop in on occasion don’t like it. They say that when plugged in, Hey Google is always listening and that it remembers everything it hears. This doesn’t distress me because, as you well know, for the past 40 years I’ve made a habit of blabbing or publishing everything I’ve heard.

The other day it told me that Kirk Douglas is 102 years old. Intrigued, I pursued the topic and learned that the average American male lives 78.6 years. If he is 83, on average he will hang in there for another six to eight years. Wait – it gets better. An average 89-year-old man lives four years on top of that. There seems to be no end to it until you have lived for a statistical 113 years.

Because I have the finest kind of supplemental health insurance, there are cadres of medical people out there rooting for me to make it all the way. No matter my complaint, I walk in. And when I walk out a smiling secretary pushes a button that mails out half a pound of paper to countless faceless bureaucrats who populate the most expensive and inefficient health care system in the industrialized world.

I know my doctors as well as you know the boy at Starbucks who pours your morning coffee. My heart doctor has a degree from Harvard Medical School. His daughter is a talented artist who specializes in exotic birds. His hobby is raising oysters in partnership with the surgeon who removed an infected ant bite from my right calf. Because I come close to having the cholesterol level of a hunter-gatherer, I am one of his pet patients.

The M.D. who cut a hole near my leg and shoved two stents into that hole and up into my heart is a very personable young man. The bill for that one operation was $88,000. He flies his own airplane. He’s moving to Atlanta – probably because Atlanta has longer runways.

The procedures I enjoy the most are the ones that entail a happy pill. Because I don’t drink or use drugs, that pill or that shot that they stick into your arm can be the high point of my entire summer.

When you are flat on your back on an operating table, the anesthesiologist keeps you chatting until you pass out in mid-sentence. Halfway between the happy pill and nirvana, I was once asked if I knew why I was having the procedure. I said that the doctor wanted a new boat.

Not long ago I was at the hospital before breakfast for a thing called an MRI. 
If you don’t survive it, you might be MIA or DOA.

The man who ran the show ran in eating a fast-food box of eggs and a flat sausage patty. He said, “We have music you can listen to while you’re in the machine. Country and western?”

I said, “God deliver me.”

“Well, you will hear the noise from the machine. For 15 minutes you’re going to hear nothing but ‘gnrrah, grraah, graah.’ ”

“I can handle it. I’ve been married 28 years.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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