Google reminds us just how lame our lives have become

David Heitz

(Mitchell Luo: Unsplash)

Google knows everything. It is spooky.

I received an email from Google today that made me laugh. It proclaimed, “Here is your 2020 Timeline update.”

“David, you went four places this year,” the email continued.

Wow. Four places.

The point of Google Timeline is to keep a record of places you travel. Trouble is, in a COVID world nobody is going anywhere.

The reason I laughed at the email is because it is true. I really did only go four places this year. Actually I traveled to five destinations in 2020, but I must not have taken my phone with me when I went downtown Denver.

The other four places I frequented all are a short walk from my apartment building. I rode public transportation once to go downtown Denver.

No doubt, millions of Americans have received their 2020 Google Timelines by now. I wonder how many other people were taken aback by how much they stay at home.

Here are my top four destinations of 2020:

1. 7-Eleven. I live next to the fanciest 7-Eleven I ever have seen. It even has a kombucha bar. I mostly buy Honey Buns, sour gummi worms, Wild Cherry Pepsi, sugar, and laundry detergent.

Just as Google tracks everywhere we go, store apps now track everything we buy.

2. The cannabis dispensary. I am a legal medical cannabis cardholder who consumes marijuana under a doctor’s care. My qualifying condition is chronic-complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

I usually visit the dispensary every payday. I buy enough cannabis to last me until the next payday.

The state declared cannabis shops “essential businesses” during COVID, so they never had to close.

3. Walmart. I love going to Walmart. My favorite items are steak fajita meat, sharp cheddar cheese, onion, cilantro, Jolly Ranchers, and scented candles.

4. Martin Luther King Park. This park is laid out in a circle and boasts many mature pines. There are baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a playground, community center and more.

I walk laps around the park almost every day. It is one of my favorite places, especially at sundown. I enjoy watching the sun slip behind the mountains.

Google provided a disclaimer with the timelines they created this year. It reads: “COVID-19 changed the world’s travels in 2020, and how many places people were able to visit. If you were able to travel this year, you can see some of the places you have been with the help of this automated Timeline email.”

Google location tracks you everywhere you go

Turning on “Google location” allows the app to do things like make suggestions for a faster morning commute. It can even make restaurant recommendations based on places you regularly travel.

The best thing about the building I live in is the location. I can walk to dozens of stores and restaurants. A high-quality cannabis dispensary is just a few blocks away, on the other side of Martin Luther King Park.

And the park is gorgeous.

I live in a hotel that used to be part of Denver Stapleton Airport. Today, most of the property has been redeveloped as a shopping center called Quebec Square. Denver International Airport replaced Stapleton many years ago as Denver’s primary airfield.

Receiving an email telling me I only traveled four places this year did cause me to stop and think. Earlier tonight, someone in the building commented that I work all the time.

It’s not healthy, he said.

Sticking to myself because I think it’s smart

“You know, it’s not good for a person not to have any human connection,” my neighbor quipped.

That is true. I have written about it. And I cannot tell a lie: I live an isolated life.

I live in housing for formerly homeless people. There is something to be said for keeping your head down in a place like this. Many people struggle with substance abuse issues and mental illness.

One of the reasons I try to get out and walk at the park each day is because I spend so much time in my room. By no means is my writing addiction “normal.” Most people do not sit at their computer and write all day every day.

But for now, it keeps me busy and out of trouble. Trouble is not hard to find when you live in housing for formerly homeless people.

I do get lonely. But when I walk at the park, I make a point to say hello to everyone. That always makes me feel more connected.

Destinations for 2021: A New Year’s resolution

I am not a person who believes in New Year’s resolutions. You should resolve the be your best every day. Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

But I must face reality. I seriously need to get out more.

In 2021, I resolve to do just that. I want to write more about Denver attractions. That means going to visit places I never have been before.

For example, I always have wanted to tour the U.S. Mint downtown Denver. I also am interested in seeing the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder.

And I desperately want to take a trip up into the mountains. The best way to do it would be to rent a car. But I don’t have a driver’s license.

I’ll have to work on how I’m going to get up there.

A homebody is the opposite of what I used to be

It is easy to forget that COVID has created a new normal. When faced with the reality that I only visited four places this year – all businesses within walking distance of my home – I realized we are living in strange times.

For years I was known as the guy who always was on the go. In my 20s I didn’t skip a beat. I had to see and be seen. I was living in Los Angeles, after all.

Today life for sure is much different. But there is something to be said for the peace and quiet of solitude.

Let’s hope that in 2021 we won’t face additional quarantines and lockdowns. I have places to go and people to see.

And I expect to have more than four places on my Google Timeline this year.


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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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