February 5, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
Hunched over the keyboard, fingertips curled in readiness over the keys, Neil stared intently at the screen where the Google page sat patiently waiting for his next move. He was absently aware that the world had grown lighter outside the window; a new day was dawning. In an abstract way, this gave him an unjustified sense of hope. At the back of his mind, in the dusty room reserved for rationalizations and as-yet-uncrushed dreams, he entertained the idea that this would a good day, the kind of day when anything could happen. Indeed, it would be the sort of day when you could almost believe that Joni Mitchell actually wrote “This Flight Tonight” just for Nazareth.
He’d lost count of how many days had passed, how many dawns he’d been only marginally aware of, since he’d began his quest. He hadn’t actually intended to begin a quest at all. He didn’t consider himself to be a questing kind of guy, although his friends would confess that he sometimes got a little bit obsessive over meaningless things. The irony, of course, is that his friends had inadvertently set him on his current course.
Days (weeks?) ago, Brian had mentioned an amusing pass time from the sophomore days of online search engines, a game called Google Roulette. Dave, Carl, and Nobby each said they’d remembered the game, but Neil had never heard of it. The game, explained Carl, was played by typing a two word phrase into Google and seeing what the result was. The object was to come up with a particular combination of two words that produced only a single result.
“Two words, one hit,” laughed Nobby. The others chuckled and raised their eyebrows suggestively at the quip, but the joke was lost on Neil.
“Let’s give it a try,” enthused Neil, moving the cards and poker chips out of the way to make room on the table for his laptop computer. Patiently waiting for the Google page to load, he thought briefly of which word combinations to search.
Smiling proudly at his cleverness, he typed “flying penguin” and hit the ENTER key. “But… but…” he sputtered in shock as Google announced 240,000 results, “penguins can’t fly.” The others laughed at his naiveté. He knew they meant no harm, but their laughter still stung.
“Back then,” commented Dave, “there was no such thing as Google Ads, either. Now an ad will pop up no matter what you search for. Just to make it fair for Neil, can we all agree that any result marked as an ad doesn’t count?”
They all agreed. This reassured Neil that they were on his side in this, and thus emboldened he typed in “calendar fist” and hit ENTER.
2,260 results. Neil was annoyed to find that many of them were actually due to people misspelling “first.”
Undaunted, he quickly searched “flame tickle” (787 results), “poison hug” (1,650 results), “Jello weapon” (53 results), “spiritual vulva” (62 results), and “skydiving horse” (2,430 results).
After that, his personal timeline became rather fuzzy. He wasn’t sure when his friends had left, whether they had left as a group or individually, but at one point he just became dimly aware that they were no longer there. It didn’t matter. He still had his mission.
At first he’d forced himself to take bathroom breaks every two hours. Then every four hours. At one point, the plan was to have a bathroom break every six hours, but eventually it didn’t matter any more and he just stopped taking them. By the next morning, the smell no longer bothered him.
And now, here he was, still unmoved, confident that this umpteenth new day would finally bring him the success he had sought for so long. He rubbed his hand on his chin, noting that his once-stubbly face had taken on the downy softness of a thick beard. Opening his mind, surrendering conscious control of his hands, he allowed his brain and his fingertip to connect directly and to type whatever may come.
Neil blinked and looked at the screen. Reading, “yodelling kidney” he shrugged and tapped the ENTER key.
1 result (0.34 seconds)
His heart soared, briefly lodging in his throat and causing him to choke. Recovering and finding his breath again, he stared in silent joy at the single, lonely result, a tear happily gliding down his cheek.
He had won.
He had fulfilled his quest and beaten this silly, pointless, made-up game.
Neil was actually on the verge of finding religion when he noticed the additional text italically displayed under the search result.
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 1 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
His scream of tortured anguish frightened his neighbours so horribly that they called 9-1-1. The police broke down his front door and the ambulance attendants had to forcibly drag him away from his computer.
He was never really the same again after that.
Try to be nice to each other.