Over the summer, I bought a bike at a shop I have gone to for over 25 years. Scottee’s is in an unimpressive plaza just down from the mini-golf–driving-range–bumper-boats park that provided hours of fun and a few tears while our kids were growing up. Generations of bikes hang from the rafters in our garage in the winter or have been passed along to friends whose children and grandchildren now use them.
When Scottee reached the end of his spiel about the bike I had just purchased, I said I could always find the owner's manual online if I had any problems. “I am your owner's manual,” replied Scottee without missing a beat. “Those manuals are for all bikes—not really the one you purchased. It’s like planting tomatoes and getting information on how to grow zucchini.” His offer of support was as genuine as anything I had heard from a salesperson.
With “the Google,” as my dad called it, so easy to access, we often forget about the people we should trust. Perhaps the privacy of our search helps us avoid the embarrassment of not knowing all of the answers or, for the introverts among us, the discomfort of talking to other people. I also suppose that the reputably male trait of never asking for directions can be perpetuated by not needing to admit that you looked it up. And yet we seek answers from online strangers who have paid to be the first ‘expert’ we find or who offer provocative commentary in order to attract attention.
I am not a Luddite, nor do I dismiss the value of the internet, but I want to ensure we don’t lose the fundamental human connection that asking for help or advice fosters. Vulnerability and curiosity work together as crucial traits to drive the relationships that communities need to thrive and sustain themselves. For Scottee, it was obvious that I should call him, and perhaps that is why his shop is still there when so many others have closed.