The Google car was in Manteca on Friday.
You know the ones. They are the Subaru hatchbacks dressed in a splash of colors akin to the uniforms worn by Hot Dog on a Stick mall employees, but a bit less garish. On top is the geeky piece de resistance — a rotating camera atop a tripod mounted on the roof.
The first sighting of Larry Page’s gift to Gladys Kravitz of the TV series “Bewitched” fame — who I must assume is his favorite aunt given her inability to refrain from snooping on neighbors — was around 1:30 p.m. Thursday at North Street and Powers Avenue.
My first thought was, “crud, my yard looks like a mess.”
After all whatever they photograph cruising Manteca’s streets was going to pop up on screens around the globe whenever someone happens to type in the street name along with Manteca. It’s also how the world will judge you through Zillow, maybe even that loan officer in a bank bunker in South Dakota who has been charged with assessing your net worth for a re-fi loan. After all, first impressions are important.
I’ll admit that Google Maps is an invaluable tool if you need to kill time scrolling mindlessly through maps, street views, and aerial photographs. It’s right up there with cute cat videos. They’re popcorn you grab when you are in the mood for boredom snacking but you’re too lazy to put yourself out finding something that might actually be nutritious rather than just time filling.
My second thought was wondering who Google was going to trip up when it does its next update of Manteca on Google Maps with the footage they collected last week.
I say this because of where I used to live in Manteca in a time before there was Google anything, this guy used to park down from our house next to the alley every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 1p.m. like clockwork — or is that like Apple Watch nowadays?
At any rate he’d get out of the car and walk around the corner and disappear. Aside from the strange car in the neighborhood concern, when it became routine I ignored it. However, one of our neighbors didn’t. It seems the guy in question was married and was dropping by a house of someone who was also married about two blocks away. Given how homes on our block were situated and some of the landscaping he probably thought he’d go undetected.
I can only imagine what would have happened if Google Maps had been around back then and drove down roads mapping street views and photographed his parked vehicle during one of his visits. If a lawyer stumbled across that there was a time they could have earned enough for their effort on top of their usual fee in a divorce case to book a trip to Europe. Now such a discovery would make a judge yawn. However you still don’t know who might get caught in a snap shot of time being where they aren’t supposed to be — or where they said they weren’t — for the next five or so years on Google Maps and for eternity in bits of data clogging up the bowels of the Internet.
My next thought was wondering how much my place has changed since the last time my house was photographed by Google Maps.
Yes, when I got home I Googled my address. The footage was obviously taken about seven or so years ago in the early spring judging by the wild mop of leaves and branches on the dominate tree in my front yard, the fact the big walnut tree I cut down one Christmas Eve was gone, another tree that decided to fall down to block the entire street in the wee hours of a wintry night was still standing, and I hadn’t replaced the roses along the driveway with drought resistant bushes.
My Ford Escape was in my driveway and my former neighbor’s van was parked on their dead grass next to my house. The biggest surprise was scrolling up and down the block. I forgot there was a time when you could actually see three or less cars parked on the street.
And my final thought was reserved for the images of “1984” that Google et al evoke. They claim it’s the power of knowledge and insight. I’m sure that’s what Gladys Kravitz and George Orwell would’ve called it.
Let’s be brutally honest. It’s all about greed. Well, that might be a bit harsh. It’s about money.
Mapping the world with photographs was thought nutso by many who couldn’t see the point and how you’d offset the expense. But given how Google Maps is intertwined with a lot of advertising it’s not an altruistic endeavor.
That said its not exactly 1984 unless the fun folks at Mountain View are going to one day bring us 24-7 live shots of every public place on earth. For the most part Google Maps only offer what you can legally see yourself if you actually drive there instead of burying your nose in a device like an addict needing the next hit of a drug that only wears down your mind and body prompting you to spend more time and money with the “dealers” and “pushers” that enrich the internet cartel bosses operating out of Seattle, Menlo Park, San Francisco, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.