The everyday miracle of search

The other day my mom tried to call an old friend in San Francisco, whom she planned to visit in a couple of months. But the number was disconnected. It was pretty clear what must have happened to this elderly gent with advancing emphysema, who had always lived alone in his little house on the slope of Twin Peaks. But there was no immediate family to contact, and from 3000 miles away my mom had no idea how to get in touch with the neighbors.

In last week's column I mentioned Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, a history of telegraphy which suggests that 19th-century folks would be less amazed by our modern Internet than we might guess.

In terms of instantaneous transmission of messages, that might be true. But I think Victorians would be amazed by search. It still even amazes me on a regular basis.

In this case I searched for the street address and found a realtor, Pota Perimenis, who had listed a property on that street. She put my mom in touch with a neighbor, from whom we learned that our friend had died at home, in his sleep, peacefully. Thanks for your help, Pota. It meant a lot to my mom. And thanks, Google, for finding Pota.

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