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Jewish World Review July 30, 2002 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5762

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports

Six days on the
modem and I'm gonna . . . | ATWOOD, Colo. Here's why our computer screens are going to be the end of us.

It has nothing to do with hackers or cyberterrorism.

It has to do with . . .

Well, as you will recall, when the worldwide computer network first became available to us, the promises were extravagant:

The knowledge of the universe, at our fingertips. Culture from many lands, free to the masses. Great university libraries, delivered to tiny towns.

Has it quite worked out that way?

On this trip, there has been a song I cannot get out of my head. It is "Six Days on the Road," a country/trucker song that was a hit for Dave Dudley in 1963.

Don't ask why this song has invited its way along with me. It happens just about every trip -- different song, from out of nowhere. This trip, the voice is Dave Dudley's:

Well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh, rollin' down that Eastern seaboard,

I got my diesel wound up and she's runnin' like never before. . . .

Not that I have actually heard the song on this trip; no radio station has played it. But it's in my head.

There's a speed zone ahead on the right, but I don't see a cop in sight,

Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.

So I get to my hotel room, and I remember that on one of those computer sites that tries to sell you books and movies and CDs, you can hear 30 seconds of some songs for free. To hook you into purchasing.

I attach my computer -- all right, the Tribune's computer -- to the phone, and I log on, and I go to that site. I put "Six Days on the Road" into the site's search engine.

Close to 200 versions of "Six Days on the Road" come up. Some are by Dave Dudley, some are by the Flying Burrito Brothers, some are by Sawyer Brown . . . you've got to do a lot of additional clicks to find out if that particular song is one of the 30-seconds-free songs on that particular album.

This is taking me some time -- and time is the most precious of life's commodities. But I need to hear Dave Dudley -- preferably, for free.

In my head, there is a verse:

ICC is a-checkin' on down the line,

I'm a little overweight and my logbook's way behind. . . .

I finally find an album where "Six Days on the Road" appears to be one of the 30-second freebies. I click on it, it takes a while to load, and then there's Dave Dudley's voice -- tinny, made thin and kazoo-y by some chip inside the computer:

It seems like a month since I kissed my baby goodbye,

I could have a lot of women but I'm not like some other guys. . . .

This sounds to me like a remake -- a recording that Dudley may have done for business and licensing reasons many years after the 1963 hit. Why should this matter to me? I do not know.

But I've been transfixed. I must keep seeking free Dudley -- free "Six Days on the Road" Dudley.

I find something:

I got ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive,

I'm takin' little white pills and my eyes are open wide. . . .

Not good enough. I am consumed. I need more, in 30-second bursts. Here! Here's one:

My rig's a little old but that don't mean she's slow,

There's a flame from her stack and the smoke's blowin' black as coal. . . .

I look at the clock in my room. This has gotten out of hand. I reluctantly turn the computer off. It tells me that I have been online for 1 hour and 28 minutes.

One hour and 28 minutes -- looking for 30 free seconds of Dave Dudley. One hour and 28 minutes, in the only life I will ever lead.

In an hour and 28 minutes, I could write a song.

The computer has changed our world, all right -- it has become the greatest single time-waster in the history of mankind. It chews time up and swallows it whole.

No one's fault but our own.

Six days on the road, 2002 -- let Dave Dudley sing about that. Talk about a pitiful tune.

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JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. His latest book is Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

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