Friday and my fabulous friends
Friday is deals day. My mobile phone pings with the promise of a weekend of shows to see, books, music, cars and houses to buy, dogs to be groomed, eyes tested and, most wonderful of all, destinations to visit.
These emails and texts know precisely what I like and sometimes, eerily, plant the perfect idea in my head before I have thought of it. It’s all got to do with search engine algorithms, I hear.
Now we did algorithms at school years ago but I wasn’t fond of mathematics and, in the first significant mistake of my life, I didn’t try. I can see, though, how it (mostly) comes about — marrying data from past online purchases and searches to shape a profile and predict an outcome. In Amazon’s early days I was excited by the ready access to Hollywood classic movies I hadn’t seen since Bill Collins was a boy. Among my first purchases was a box set of Joan Crawford films. In the blink of an eye I received an email informing me that I might also like a few Bette Davis titles, these of Barbara Stanwyck, and how was I off for the double album of Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall? Some people bought all of these together, it was helpfully suggested. Do tell!
For the daydream believer, I like scrolling through my Friday feast of suggested getaways to London, Paris, Berlin, the Amalfi Coast, Barcelona. I have used accommodation booking websites for a few of these places, but (this is where the story gets sad) sometimes I just enter a date at a favourite hotel to see if a room is available, at what cost and to pore over the pictures. One day I might do something spontaneous and head off for a (very long) weekend. And then we’ll be in the age of teleporting.
Two faithful suggestions are my Friday delight. One is for Elbow Valley, a speck on the map 25km from Warwick in southeast Queensland. A few years ago I searched accommodation in Warwick and environs before a family reunion, so I understand how it makes my “likes”. The other proposal, regular as clockwork, is Wentworthville, in Sydney’s west, and this one stumps me. I’ve been there but, in this life at least, have never sought out accommodation. Maybe the algorithm has an odd bad day. Time to turn it off and on again.
A weekend at these two destinations is heralded with the same breathless urgency as the international capitals. Occasionally I am warned how few rooms are left and the number of people around the globe looking at snapping them up right now. I won’t be spooked into a hasty decision, but I want to go, or at least buy the T-shirts. “Elbow Valley, disarmingly beautiful” perhaps, or “Elbow Valley, what a joint!” Wentworthville is more of a problem — so many letters. I might have to settle for “I (heart) Wentworthville” in a snazzy typeface.
Now I know stopping these emails is only a ticked-box away, but I’d miss my Friday friends. How nice it is to know that someone or something out there, even if it is Algie Algorithm, is thinking of me, just me.
Susan Kurosawa is on assignment.