I was sitting in my bath (yes, I am English, I much prefer baths to showers, and the “a” in “bath” is pronounced like the “ar” in “larking”) when I suddenly remembered a quote from maybe 50 years ago. It was by Peter Ustinov; he said that he liked his belly button because he ate celery in his bath, and it was a very convenient place to keep the salt.
I was so proud of this sudden flash of memory that I wanted to confirm that it was indeed Peter Ustinov who said it, and so I looked it up in Google, but I could not find the remark attributed to him. Now either that means Peter Ustinov did not say it, or that no-one had added that comment to the long Wikipedia article on Ustinov, accomplished writer and actor that he was. It reminded me of the time, quite a few years ago, that I looked up my own name on Google and could not find it. (Come on, you can admit that you have “Googled” yourself.) By myself, I did not exist on Google. So traumatized was I, that I wrote my Headmaster’s Thoughts that month on the experience. I am going to reproduce those thoughts below, because they were so long ago you surely could not have read them, and because they are quaint and represented a time when we were all not on Google (which was not so bad in hindsight). Anyway, here they are:
Headmaster’s Thoughts – February 2005
I was encouraged recently to “Google” myself. Go ahead, I was confidently told, you will be amazed by what the search engine tells about you. I was. It turned up nothing.
Somewhat crestfallen by this experience, I wondered if I might show up in some other context. Maybe I was not searching correctly. After all, Jayme and I had founded York Prep in 1969, and York Prep is a fabulous school, with a great reputation and a wonderful web site. I looked my name up in the English Google as well (I graduated from Oxford in England with three degrees.) The result… Zip! Blank! I am not a Google person. I do not exist.
What made it worse was how many people do exist. There were Ronald Stewarts from all over the world listed—some of whom were still in high school, most of whom played bluegrass guitar, some of whom seemed to do nothing except get listed. I wondered: if I linked my name with the Kray case—arguably the longest and most significant trial in England since the Second World War—would my name be mentioned? In 1968, I was the junior defense counsel (barrister) for Charlie Kray, and we got him off the most serious charges of murder. I did an advanced Google search; tons of stuff on the Krays, but not a mention of yours truly. I looked up my cousin, Frank Henderson Stewart. He’s right up there, having written two books on Arab cultures published by Chicago Press. His name heads the list of Frank Henderson Stewarts from around the world. My wife, of course, is also well chronicled since she wrote the book “How to Get into the College of Your Choice: And How to Finance It,” published by the Quill Division of William Morrow Publishing. She got many mentions. This was getting sad.
I think we all hope that we contribute something to the world around us, and starting a school, one might think, is a valuable creation of a community-minded person. Well, not to Google. Something was missing. So I had a brainwave. Since Jayme is the “Mom” of York Prep and I (hopefully) am the “Pop,” how about linking our names together? Eureka! It works! I am there as founder with Jayme amid the whole York Prep website. Jayme and I together have several mentions.
So this is who I am—nothing without my wife. Google is a billion dollar company. Let’s face it: they are more likely to be right than anyone else. I am just half of a team, unproductive, a person who gives nothing to the community unless he is with his wife. And then I seem to do fine.
“Is there anything you want, honey? Can I get you something?”
Ronald P. Stewart