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When Small Town USA Meets Silicon Valley

August 2, 2015 by Diane

Guy scared by UFO

Let’s take a guy, say his name is Kurt, a good solid name for a good solid guy, a guy who gets his hands in the dirt, a farmer let’s say, who knows corn and cows and tractors and the feel of American soil in his palms, let’s take this Kurt, who lives in Small Town USA, beam him up from his corn field, whisk him to California, and set him down in the heart of Silicon Valley, in a city called Mountain View.

What would it look like through his eyes?

First, Kurt may notice the people. The men wearing designer jeans and untucked button-down shirts, or T-shirts and shorts and sneakers. The women in designer slacks or skirts and button-down blouses, or tank tops and yoga pants. He’ll see that everyone is carrying a Smartphone, or laptop, or electronic tablet, and they’re all texting as they walk. They’re texting as they wait in line at Starbucks and Peets and Philz. They’re texting as they drive.

But wait, isn’t that illegal?

Well, see that spinning doohickey on top of the car, Kurt? It’s a self-driving car. It even says so on the side: self-driving car. ‘Ol Kurt has seen similar signs on cars: student driver. But self-driving car? That’s a new one.

And that woman standing in line, what’s that thingaby that lines up with her right eyeball in front of her glasses? That, dear boy, is known as Google Glass. She’s scanning the internet as she orders her triple shot mocha with extra whip.

Maybe Kurt takes a stroll down Shoreline Boulevard. He wants to check out the park, built on a dump site. But wait…what’s ahead? What’s that circular contraption motoring down the road? Eight people pedaling a round bicycle. They’re all chatting with each other. Why, it’s a team from Google having a meeting as they bike to the park.

Kurt isn’t so small town that he hasn’t heard of Google. And maybe, by some miracle, he’s allowed onto the campus, which is a short jog off Shoreline, and he’s escorted through one of the buildings. He’ll see more people on Smartphones and laptops and electronic tablets. He’ll see the shelves of free snack foods, and the secretive conversations going on which he won’t be privy to, because those engaged will cease all communication the minute he’s within earshot. He’ll see Google umbrellas (although it never rains over the land of Google), and Google bicycles and Google lounge chairs around a Google lake, and if he uses the restroom he can’t fail to notice the heated toilet seat, which will probably make him jump up and look back with some sort of exclamation, like, “what the…?”

Let’s say that Kurt hops onto a Google bicycle with the assumption that it’s available for a visiting farmer to borrow, and pedals up the peninsula to Palo Alto because he’s fit, this manual laborer, he doesn’t slouch in front of a computer ten hours a day. Outside of Max’s Smoke Shop he ditches the two-wheeler, and strolls up and down University Avenue, past the space-age Apple store with its glass ceiling, past the restaurants that seat people on the sidewalk and serve them teensy-weensy hamburgers that would fit nicely at a child’s tea party. He stops to study a map that he pulls from his back pocket, and hears a voice say, “hello.”

Up he looks, to find he’s standing next to a TV screen mounted on two metal poles on wheels, and on that screen, a friendly face, a young man, smiling. Thinking it’s some sort of recorded program, Kurt says the first thing that pops into his startled brain: “You’re weird.” Then holds his breath, blinking, watching the face to see if it will respond.

And it does!

“That’s not nice,” it scolds. “I’m human, after all.”

And the thing starts rolling toward Kurt, the thing with the talking face, and the two others next to it, so that Kurt is surrounded by robots. And one of those other faces is female, who clucks her tongue. “Don’t be mean to Matt.” And Kurt glances at the third face, another female, who is looking down. Texting, most likely.

Has Kurt landed in the future?


It’s just a typical day in the valley of silicon.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this.

And this.

And this.

And oh yeah, this.


  1. J M Levinton (@JMLevinton) says:

    The “heated toilet seat” made me snort my soda!

  2. Sue says:

    Maybe it’s just my limited focus, but I see more guys in t-shirts than button-down shirts. Polo shirts, too.
    Also, Google Glass is a full pair of glasses; the surface facing the eyeballs is reflective, so the user can read the texts without looking down.

    • Diane says:

      True. But ‘ol Kurt only notices the button-down shirts and the thingaby over the glasses. However, due to your astute observations and editorial comments, I’ve increased Kurt’s range of vision on the men’s attire and the Google Glass, and also directed him away from the yoga pants on the women.

  3. Charli Mills says:

    Oh, no! The Google bike actually looks harder to steer than an old John Deere. Having lived in Minnesota for 14 years, I grew fond of heated seats in vehicles and would warm up to the toilet seat idea. Fun post!

  4. Bun Karyudo says:

    It’s Google World! I can’t make up my mind if it’s the future or some kind of bizarre alternative reality.

  5. Jay says:

    Do you know, I hardly know a single farmer who doesn’t leave him without his smartphone, and know more than one who isn’t caught in a tractor without an ipad to divert him. The fields are lonely places and you find tech in the oddest, most incongruous places these days.

    • Diane says:

      Oh, say it isn’t so! How naive of me to hope that there was a magic place in the heart of this United States (and has it been that long since I’ve been in rural America? ye gads), where people went about their business without a computer or tablet or cell phone in hand to divert them. Are we so bored with walking, or plowing, or being in the moment that we need diversion? Sigh. I suppose so. Diversion from loneliness, even.

      A lonely farmer with an iPad. Now there’s a story.

      Wait…is there Wi-Fi in those fields? Oh, say it isn’t so!

  6. Joan says:

    I remember that robot guy! And how he inspired you!!! BTW how’s the new car working out? Great piece!!

    • Diane says:

      I’ve bonded with the car. It’s now part of the family. I call him “Hi Ho Silver.” Yes, I named the car. I swore I would never name a car, but I’ve named it.

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