Friday, July 20, 2012


A few days ago I had a thought that comes into my noggin every once in a while (and more frequently now that I’m approaching retirement): Some day before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I’d like to own a Mercedes Benz – used, of course. I did not commit this thought to writing in any way, but the very next time I sat down at this keyboard, the good folks at Google provided a banner ad atop my screen: “Pre-owned Mercedes…” They’re reading my mind! I thought. My friend Mike came to a different conclusion: By reading my keystrokes for the last few years (with a soulless keystroke reader), “they” know that I’m a sixty-five year old boomer male approaching retirement who certainly doesn’t make enough to buy a new Mercedes, that my reading and correspondence skew my interests ever so slightly toward a German rather than a Japanese luxury-mobile, and that a demographically placed ad for a pre-owned Mercedes might present just the “it’s now or never” opportunity that I might act on. Pathetic.

As a matter of principle, I didn’t click on the ad (the principle being a protest against our society’s easy acquiescence in the giving up of our privacy), but I have to confess a grudging admiration for the technology. I do not, however, admire the philosophy of the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, who disingenuously claim that these targeted ads are a favor they are providing for the consumer. My advertising friend tells me to get used to it and get over it – that it’s just an extension of a 1950s Madison Avenue ad for Crest toothpaste.  But it seems that the other privacy shoe is yet to drop – that the Zuckerbergian "privacy-is-so-twentieth-century" approach will, too late, be seen to be a favor only for the tyrannical and the amoral, and all of us who carelessly click that we “like” Kraft Mayonnaise will increasingly resemble hapless characters out of 1984 or Brave New World.

What’s both interesting and scary is that the targeted ad technology seems to be getting sharper and sharper. But sometimes they humorously miss the mark. A while back I wrote a piece on marriage.  Almost immediately I received a Google Mail sidebar ad offering me “Russian Brides--See Pics.”  As a matter of principle, I didn’t click on the ad, the principle being that Caryl was coming into the room and I wasn’t sure what these Russian Brides would look like!


Becky Hanson said...

Does it apply to mail, as well? Why have I been getting offers for pre-paid cremations? Extremely disconcerting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for a nice Sunday afternoon read, Richard.

Maybe we can throw them off by searching for peculiar items regularly. I did a thorough search for particularly strange church lightbulbs a while back. They must have thought I had a fetish with bulbs or something judging by the ads sent my way for 6 months. Funny. Yes, the tracking is worrisome and invasive.

Hmm, I had a love for old German vehicles, too, but very early on. After seminary in 1971 I saw a classified ad for a 1959 black Mercedes 220S--- the last model with the big wavy (sexy) fenders. It was only $215 and offered by a Harvard graduating in anthropology. He must have been a bit poorer than I (anthropology then as now not exactly preparing a person for a hot career) because I had a CALL. So I got it, as long as he filled the tanks first--- yes, two tanks. He did. So off I went to my call with a classy black Mercedes with a wooden dashboard and window frames. With my striped bellbottoms and beard I must have been quite a sight to my parishioners! No one even mentioned all this, bless them. So go ahead, get yourself a used Mercedes. You earned it!

Bill Gable

Anonymous said...

1. One of my high school friends who spent his career in the State Department retired and came home with a 29 year old Russian MD who was easy on the eyes...and smart...and can take care of him.

2. My neighbor across the street "acted out" and now owns a two year old Mercedes convertable.

3. Proving once and for all that there is a God and that, indeed, all things are possible.

:-) John Harden

Richard Jorgensen said...

Bill: We had similar beginnings. No Mercedes for me, but a Karman Ghia convertible, and my internship supervisor received a complaint about my long hair and ragged blue jeans... Dick

Richard Jorgensen said...

John: Your neighbor's experience gives me hope -- for the Mercedes, I mean.