“This sure beats delivering pizzas,” Amir thought to himself as he made another smooth left-hand turn through a well-endowed subdivision in metropolitan Phoenix.
Each house of the block replicated the other with an attached two-car garage, stucco roofing, and a well-spaced interior that must have situated a comfortable three bedrooms and two bathrooms, he thought while steering the car. The American dream was here. He was just documenting it for his newest employer through the car top mounted high-definition camera. Every few seconds, with regulatory, a minor click could be heard from his position in the driver’s seat, signaling all was well.
A few weeks earlier Amir had been working various delivery jobs, helping to support his immigrant parent’s and two younger siblings who were still in grade school. His parent’s has always pressured him to go to college, to pursuit any form of higher education and end up with a nice paying, comfortable, and high-end professional job: doctor, lawyer, data scientist. Anything to justify his parent’s struggle over the years of relocating their family from a struggling life in Mumbai to a different type of struggling life in Arizona. Unfortunately, by the time Amir was out of high school, just a few months earlier, he adamantly developed a semblance of American libertarianism and became largely rebellious to his parent’s wishes.
“Turn left on Cherry Blossom Lane,” his Google-linked phone instructed him in a pleasant female-sounding robotic voice. The clicks continued and he followed the directions without concern. “Any of these houses could have fit at least three of the apartments he leave in with his family,” he rambled as he gawked along the neighborhood route.
College wasn’t on Amir’s mind. It wasn’t ever really and now that he was an adult, although still living under his parents’ roof, he desired adventure and glamor, and wanted to find himself an independent identity beyond just being an Indian-American. There wasn’t any doubt in his mind that he loved and respected his parents – in fact they were great mentors to him that he’d always look up to – it was just that Amir didn’t want to fit that typical stereotype. He was his own person and only recently began accepting this as an option. The inevitable, as he’d come to find quickly as an eighteen year old, was that Amir could only really find intermittent work delivering pizzas, picking up taxis and ride-sharing shifts as best as he could with the one family vehicle, and, if lucky enough, couriering medical supplies around town.
“This sucks,” he’d often grumbled after being short-tipped on the majority of his pizza runs, disappointed in the placidness his life has become after high school graduation.
One night his parents lectured him on their expectations, which wasn’t especially unusual to him, and they reprimanded him for seemingly throwing his life away after all they’d been through; highlighting their disappointment they felt as parents and the conscience guilt induced through his deceased grandparents who never had the opportunities Amir had.
“We risked everything for you, our oldest son, so you could have the successes in life we did not,” they scolded him in their thick accents and guilt-ridden ways, nearing to tears mid-conversation.
That night Amir stayed up late, outlasting his parents and his siblings that had all fallen asleep in their two bedroom apartment, and upon an active mind, set out to apply for new jobs. Only, as he’d half expected anyways, there would be a limited amount of openings for him being with only a high school diploma for education and a mere few months of driving experience.
There were hundreds of jobs in the Phoenix area for him to apply for, the same things he loathed to continue doing, all the same types of positions his Dad would pooh-pooh. Jobs that represented the same level of monotony and dullness, and all jobs that his parents would throw quite the ado if he talked them about; Amir’s Dad had been a successful business man back in India, or so he referenced in conversation. After searching the internet for a solid hour, his eyes tiring from scrolling through dozens of pages into the late night hours, Amir came across a slightly different job that perked his attention.
Driver: Google Street View. Help shape the future of your community through piloting a Google vehicle. Positions need now in your community! Clean driving record needed. Long hours. Ability to follow instructions. Apply now!
“Why not,” he gestured quietly in his shared room, keeping quiet to not wait his two younger siblings. Amir adored them snoozing through the night, dreaming those youth-filled dreams that once – and not too long ago - he felt the same way about. He knew they looked up to him as their older brother; Amir’s action resounded through them. In a few furious clicks on his mouse and soft, but expediate, typing on his keyboard, Amir submitted his application.
By two in the morning, feeling contently exhausted and needing at least some sleep before driving his father to the hospital the next morning for his dialysis treatments, Amir fell into a deep slumber
“Segment two complete. Good work! Turn right on Firebird Freeway.” A gold star popped-up across Amir’s phone’s screen before returning to its navigation mode. Amir felt proudly giddy as he listened to the rooftop camera whir around, click a few photographs, and then, systematically programmed by some genius at Google, returning to its formative resting position.
His brand new Google Pixel work phone rang in loud up-tempo sequences, catching his attention, which he answered using the hands-free mode. It was nice, like exceptionally generous, of his new employer to let him use the Subaru Impreza that he drove around as part of his job. When working in the Google Street View car Amir didn’t feel like he lived in a cramped apartment with his family, scraping by on those faded immigrant ambitions of his parents.
“Yes, this is Amir,” he proudly answered, chuckling as two kids passed him on the left and mooned him sparing no modestly along the way. People were always goofing off around him, trying to get photographed for Google Street View, hoping to make it onto the internet in the most silly ways imaginable; this had been the best attempt so far throughout his first week on the job. Being in the obvious camera mounted car with the even more noticeable neon Google logo apparent on the exterior gave him a celebrity-like status throughout his ten hour shifts.
“Amir. This is Barry. You’re supervisor. Hey pal, so… you’re doing a wicked great job this week. You know that? Well now you do, ok? Great,” Barry spoke fast and in a thick, and notably misplaced, Bostonian accent. “Anyways, how’s ya driving going? Tell me somethin’ good, ok Amir?”
“Yes Mr. Goldwater. Things are going very well,” he replied, professionally like his father always barked at him to act, and nervous that he’d done something in error to warrant the call.
“Ahh, don’t give me that, Amir. Com’ on now! Tell me the truth,” Barry took an informal dig at Amir, speaking lightheartedly. Amir recognized that Barry was messing with him a bit as he was still fresh on the job.
“Well…” Amir recognized how proper he sounded, and how stereotypical his Indian accent must have broadcast his naivety. He shrugged off the social modesties instilled on him from his father over the years. “I am loving this job!” he declared triumphantly. “Mr. Gold… Barry, I am having such a fantastic time driving for Google.” Amir couldn’t help but smile as he slowed to a stop at a red light and all the cars around him had people staring in amazement as the rooftop camera adjusted, clicked and took photos, and returned to its resting position.
“Good stuff, Amir. Just wanted to check in with ya,” Barry responded seeming pleased. “You just keep on driving and there’ll be quite the future for ya here. I’ll talk to ya later, ok? Oh, and lighten up a bit, Amir. You’re doing great.”
“Yes… Barry. Thank you, sir. Thank you,” Amir gratefully replied as the call ended.
A small boy in the boy seat of a van waved at him as he followed the phone’s navigation, turning right on Camelback Road. Off to a new part of Phoenix as a Google Street View professional driver
Amir returned with his father from the dialysis center, helping him into his easy chair, and then brewed him a cup of chai. This routine was far from new by now. Amir’s mother had brought the kids to school that day and she was off at work. Once Amir’s father dozed off to sleep he crept into his bedroom to check his email and, surprised by whatever good graces bestowed him that day, he found a message in his inbox from Google.
Dear Amir Khan. We’ve reviewed your application for being a team driver with Google Street View with the Phoenix Metropolitan Team (PMT) and would like to set up a screening call with you as soon as feasible. Are you available this afternoon for thirty minutes? Looking forward to hearing from you. – Mr. Barry Goldwater, Southwest Google Street View Road Supervisor
Without wasting a second Amir replied to the email, refreshing his browser every thirty seconds, until Mr. Barry Goldwater replied with a confirmation of his phone screening. All the while he listened to his father snoring in the adjacent living room.
Looking forward to talking with you, Amir. I will call you at 2:00pm. -Barry
Amir paced the small apartment with eager feet until his father awoke in the afternoon.
“Amir. What are you doing? You are driving me crazy right now. If you have so much energy why don’t you go work or something?” Amir’s father scolded him from his chair. “Actually, I have an idea. Why don’t you go get some fennel and garlic from the grocery store for your mother? She asked me to do it, but I don’t feel well enough.”
“Of course,” he eagerly replied and bolted out the apartment. After acquiring the few items on the grocery list, Amir waited outside the apartment for his interview, continuing his pacing, ready for the call. At two o’clock sharp his phone rang.
“Yes, this is Amir,” he answered breathlessly.
Amir’s ten hour driving shift was nearing an end. The oversized camera went into hibernation mode, buzzing itself to a standstill, and his Google Pixel flashed “route complete” in bold, green letters. His navigation app switched to a route back towards the car drop-off point, where he’d punch out, and then would walk the one mile through downtown Phoenix to a bus stop, take the blue-route for few more miles, and then make the last few blocks back to his family’s apartment.
His first week as a Google Street View driver Amir had navigated all throughout the greater Phoenix metropolitan, saw that obscure blue Frank Lloyd Wright spire in Scottsdale for the first time, meandered through the stark desert outskirts and mountain parks his parents told him were too dangerous to visit, and saw all sorts of neighborhoods he never knew existed until seeing them in person. For all his eighteen years Amir had been told to work hard, stay near to home and family, and all would fall into place with years of commitment and devotion. Now, as he hopped off the bus and began walking the remaining blocks home, Amir had just finished his first forty hour week of work. His boss even expressed how well done his week went. It was a novel feeling that glowed on his face and he wanted to impress his parents with that evening.
As Amir walked up the stairs to the apartment he smelled his mother’s cooking wafting into the hallway, knowing he’d be entering the apartment with everyone sitting and prepared for dinner. He hadn’t told anyone he’d been working as a Google Street View driver yet; they all thought he was working take-out orders or some other nondescript delivery gig his parent’s frowned on. With a still radiating smile Amir opened the apartment front door to meet his family awaiting his arrival.
“Amir. Where have you been all day?” his father scolded him. “Was delivery food so important that you must show up late to dinner? We are still a family, you know. We didn’t immigrant from our ancestral home so you could deliver pizza.”
Amir took a far-away breath, imagining himself back in the driver’s seat, allowing his father’s remorse to filter past him. He knew he’d succeeded in finding a worthwhile job, and that it might be impossible for his father to change, at least in one evening, to understand.
“I’m sorry, father. Of course… you are right,” he answered courteously, taking a seat between his little siblings at the dinner table.
“Good. Glad to know you still have respect for me,” he chortled triumphantly over his household. “Now, my family, let’s eat dinner. Your mother is a saint for working all day and still being home to cook us this wonderful meal.”
Quietly the family of five began their meal. Amir couldn’t stop thinking about driving the Google Street View car, the reactions and pleasantries he’d received while on the road from all the strangers and from Barry. He couldn’t begin to explain to his family the job he’d started working, nor the feeling of satisfaction he’d been seeking and had recently found; a career he could grow into.
“Amir. Are you thinking about going to school now? You must be tiring of driving around all day,” his father questioned as his mother dished more lentils onto his plate.
“Actually, father, I think I’m going to keep driving for now,” Amir answered with such satisfaction that his father scoffed in return. Everyone went right on back to eating except for his father who eyed him from across the table for a few seconds, then went back on to eating.