In the first three days of our romantic Jamaican holiday, my poor decision making skills nearly killed my wife and me. I blundered into buying a deep tissue massage, and we would certainly have died if I’d had enough money for the two hour session, or if our masseuses had been a bit more muscular.

Yet we survived. In celebration, we summoned the will to drag our body parts to the beach the next morning, which was the first really sunny day of our trip. Back home I’d purchased some great spray-on sun block, so we needn’t smear our entire body surfaces with goop as if we were birthday cakes. The stuff came out of the spray can shockingly cold, but we coated each other with diligence, except for our faces of course. We slathered regular, semi-gelatinous sun block on our faces.

We took it easy on the beach. We relaxed for half an hour, swam in the ocean for half an hour, relaxed another fifteen minutes, and went inside to take stock. We saw the beginnings of a nice tan. On our faces. Everywhere else our skin had achieved the color of the surface of Mars. When we returned to our room, the temperature inside went up ten degrees.

It became clear that if we wanted to get home alive I must not make any more decisions of any kind.

The next day was Valentine’s Day, which called for romantic hi-jinks, since this was a romantic vacation. My wife was empowered to select romantic hi-jinks for us. She chose zip lining. As far as I knew, zip lining was how guys with guns dropped out of black helicopters to shoot other guys who didn’t happen to be looking up. My wife informed me that was a narrow view of the term. You can also dangle from a wire stretched between two trees and let gravity hurl you across the gap, with no opportunities to shoot anyone on the other side. That too is called zip lining. Since this was Valentine’s Day, and this sounded so damned romantic, and I wasn’t allowed to make any decisions anyway, I said, “Sure.”

Our romantic zip lining rendezvous would happen in a lovely canopy jungle, which sounded pretty good. But we were at the beach, where canopy jungles were conspicuously missing. The jungle we needed lay rather closer to the middle of Jamaica. We spent two hours on a cute bus driven by a charming fellow named Chris, and I learned three things on the ride. First, it does not pay to be timid when driving in Jamaica. Second, I would refuse to be a pedestrian in Jamaica. I’d sit in a room and starve before I stepped onto the street. Third, I’ve spent about six hours on Jamaican roads, and I have had the honor of passing through the only stop light on the island, twice, and never slowing down either time.

At Zip Lining Base Camp the guides organized us, distributed equipment, and gave a detailed lecture on technique and safety procedures. We all signed a waiver, which none of us really read. I did catch some phrases like, “able to walk for 30 minutes,” “not responsible for spine injuries,” “coronary event,” and, “nausea and vomiting.” Well, I figured the lawyers probably just made them put that stuff in there. As I walked by a table one of the guides asked whether I wanted to take such a nice camera with me. I said sure, I wanted to take pictures. He warned me it would be wet, but I said I’d be okay. He persisted, saying it might rain, but I just waved and kept going.

Three guides led us ten hapless dopes to the first zip line, and a few things became apparent right away. The guides were funny, funny guys. The guide who’d warned me about my camera had a better camera than mine hanging from his neck. Since I’d brought my massive Canon along anyway, the guides named me “Paparazzi.” And when we hit the first zip line the guides just hooked us up and told us to grab on and go. It was like that lecture on technique and safety had been some sort of dream.

The zip lining itself was a hoot, especially the longer, faster lines. The guides kept us from dying, and more importantly entertained us while they did it. But I’ll tell you a secret about zip lines. The end you start on has to be higher than the end you finish on. That means to get to the next line you have to walk uphill. Actually you have to walk up rough rock steps. Steep ones. And lots of them. After a while, some of us had our heads down, gasping like an ox in Death Valley. The disclaimers about coronary events and vomiting flashed through my mind.

Despite that, we zipped down seven lines in all and had a great time. I took some pictures that didn’t suck. As our bus hurtled back toward our resort, dodging larger vehicles and intimidating anything smaller than itself, I reflected that my wife had made a good decision.

Back at the resort and drunk on successful decision making, my wife chose an oriental restaurant for our big Valentine’s Day dinner. While the food was delicious, they served us an entire trough of sushi. My wife’s bowl contained enough noodles so that placed end to end they would reach the height of the Statue of Liberty. We’d been zip lining all day. We were hungry. We ate a lot.

In our room after dinner we lay on the bed and looked at each other. Valentine’s Day would seem like the right time for some romantic hanky panky, especially on vacation. Yet we lay on our backs like chubby otters, unable to do anything but roll a bit from side to side. My wife said, “It’s like a perfect storm. The deep tissue massage, then the sunburn, then zip-lining, and now we’re stuffed full of noodles. I don’t know if we can touch each other without screaming.”

We’re so in love. We’d better be.

The only Beach Boy who could surf was Dennis Wilson—and he drowned in 1983. This is the kind of valuable, compelling fact that I used to keep in my brain. How foolish I was, possibly because I’d stuffed my brain with a bunch of facts. But the world has transformed itself into a place that provides alternatives, and I needn’t clutter my thinking apparatus with facts anymore. I now let the internet and six terabytes of data storage in my study remember things for me.

You may doubt that I can function after transferring my organically-housed data to off-site storage. I get by fine, thank you. I have fewer headaches, I don’t tell people they’re wrong anymore, and I never waste time on bar bets or whether $2 is a good tip on a $25 check. By the way, my iPad says that is not a good tip, but I have to pay 99 cents at the App Store to get the full version that will calculate the right tip. In the meantime I just left a $20 bill and stole three forks.

To give you an example of my newly superior functioning, I’ll describe how I don’t need to carry any facts in my head in order to get a good deal on a car. I first go to Google and type in “car,” which produces 4,490,000,000 results. This is far better than my unassisted brain could do in 0.23 seconds. I do realize that I need to narrow the search a bit, and I type “how to buy a car.” That gives me 77,800,000 results in 0.25 seconds. Now I’m making progress. But I can do better. I try “how to buy a used car” (4,460,000), “how to buy a good used car” (391,000), and “how to buy a used car without getting screwed” (24,000). Although I’m excited by this success, I still find the prospect of scanning 24,000 sites a little harrowing, so I trust Google and pick the top one on the list.

I won’t tell you the name of this website in case I ever decide to sell cars. I don’t want you to have these secret inside facts to use against me. I will say that the site hosted 18 advertisements, not including two pop-up ads for discount insurance and payday loans. I scanned through the flashing and wiggling ads and found the pertinent facts on buying a car. The first item was, “Decide what kind of car you want.” That made me pause, because I wasn’t sure how to make that decision. I didn’t have any facts about what I needed in a car. Gas mileage? Trunk space? A great stereo, or maybe seat warmers for a toasty bottom in January? I tried “what kind of car do I need?” in Google, but I just got a bunch of questions asking me what I need in a car, and I’d already established that I didn’t know. Finally I just took the choice at the top of the list, which must always be the best, and selected a convertible. I experienced a moment of hesitation, feeling that I might need more detail than just “convertible,” so I narrowed it down to a blue convertible, seeing as I really like blue a lot.

Now the absence of facts in my brain became a powerful tool for good. The internet provided every fact I might need, such as vehicle history reports, list prices, feature packages, and the evils of extended warranties. This left my mighty, unencumbered frontal lobes free to concentrate on the negotiations and the sale. When the salesman whispered that he could give me the secret sport-rally ultra-burn package without his manager knowing, my brain recognized that it must be a valuable deal since I’d never heard of it. I snatched the offer in order to prevent it from going to that greedy couple from Abilene he told me about, who were coming back for it in the afternoon. The best part of all is that the car is colored “Porpoise Snout Blue.”

I’m lucky to live in today’s world, where my brain’s capabilities can be fully unleashed on society, and you’re lucky too. I’ll meet you for lunch at Starbucks, and we can have a disjointed sharing of vaguely connected sentences while we each search the internet to find out what we’re talking about. I may be late. I’m driving my new convertible, and I have to launch a browser on my phone so I can look up what that triangular red and white street sign means.

Porpoise Snout Blue brings out the color in my eyes. (photo courtesy of A Pink Princess)