I lay in bed at night wondering if someone might be interested in writing about the life of a Google, Street View Driver. Hell, I even ask myself if I could write well enough to write it on my own. Rolling over to my most likely to fall asleep quickly position, I register one last thought. Why not take some notes for the next few weeks and then review all of the stuff that I will most likely forget? That's how it began, the notes, this group of words that I have recorded, refined, reorganized and laughed about for six weeks now, so read on!
Being a Google street view driver, is an easy, sometimes boring, and likeable part time job! But only if you like driving and independence, and only if you are responsible enough to clean up what you screw up, as all they really want is clean clear data, images, as assigned.
Going to work is like going to a car rental lot, you find the car number assigned to you, you check it out and then you are on your own. You will have an assigned area and a GPS and off you go. The camera is mounted atop the car and so you are very recognizable.
This makes for friendly waves, strange comments and sometimes even whistles. Enter this very dedicated organized group that stalks you! This is no exaggeration, they are cyber connected so if one sees you, they all see you and they plan city blocks ahead of you, they plan for contingencies like left or right turns, their plans are insane but I guess it feeds their needs. The needs of those who somehow expect to reach fame by doing ridiculous, unpleasant, illegal and sometimes immoral things for the camera. I call them Attention Whores!
Driving along watching traffic and the GPS to make sure I’m on track for the assigned location, filming neighborhoods, that’s pretty much the job. Block after block when suddenly, there in an apartment close to the street, is a baby being hung out the window by its ankles with a sign tied to its tiny wrists that reads, “If you think I’m cute, you will love my Mom!” Yep there it was, a ruined frame or more likely a few frames. How did they know I was coming? Everyone knows where everyone is in this day of the smartphone but this group has made it a science and it serves their purposes. Sometimes I can go all week without a screw up that needs to be cleaned up, that’s when I love this job. Those screw ups aren’t my fault but the clean up is my responsibility.
The cleanup usually requires going around the block or a series of blocks to get back on course, retake the footage and get some clear images. If the set up was just a little funny or not too imaginative, by the time I appear the second time the place looks normal but sometimes the second time around is wilder than the first, then I take a lunch break or a music break before making an attempted third pass.
Case in point, two weeks ago on a Friday, it was late afternoon and I thought I had squeaked by with another no cleanup week. As I came up to a cul du sac, I was judging the radius of the curving pavement and the camera angle and there in the driveway of the center most house was a muscular guy with his naked girlfriend standing on his shoulders! Well scrap those frames, I looked again to insure I hadn’t imagined it, nope she was naked alright, the Attention Whores had struck again! Ok, back to the GPS to find my route to go around the block to capture clean frames. Another screw up, another cleanup! So much for finishing early on a Friday!
Friday afternoon traffic, by now my attitude was in the toilet and I couldn’t even honk at rude drivers and pedestrians, against company policy to draw attention to the company. So around the blocks I went, finally the cul du sac was in sight. Again I was watching the curving pavement and the camera angle when the doors of the houses burst open, tons of folks poured out onto the street, balloons, confetti, music, a real festival or concert mentality. I shut down the camera, found a parking place in the outer area at the mall and began reviewing the images. They had shot me down twice. Delete Delete Delete…..record beginning place for Monday and then return this vehicle to the official lot.
I kept asking myself, What do they get out of this? What is the big thing? The reward? Is it attention or the need to disrupt? Is it a form of rebellion? Or civil disobedience? They never make it onto any screen but mine and I crush them with the DELETE button.
And so another week begins and I am optimistic that the last display from the Attention Whores may have sated their hunger for notoriety! I always feel relatively good at the beginning of the week as the Group needs time to plan their displays. So I was totally surprised and taken aback when I turned onto a common residential street and there before me was a gun fight in the works. I have no way to know if it is real or staged! The guns sound real, folks are falling, there are screams and moaning, and blood is everywhere, as I pass, recording it all! I keep going down the next block and the next, camera rolling. Soon I will need to go around the block and refilm that section.
I’m listening for sirens of ambulances and squads so I can choose a street back to refilm that section that won’t compromise the crime scene. We have been instructed not to interfere in any way to anything we may see. We are not the police or social or medical personnel , we are just doing the job of filming neighborhoods for Google street view mapping. Don’t interfere! Yikes, I saw blood! Maybe I could have done something, tourniquets or pressure on the wound, or I guess I could have been shot myself!
Plotting my return route has taken me long enough that I was sure I would encounter yellow crime scene tape and street closing barricades very soon. I creep on, time to reactivate the camera, recording again I go forward. Only a block away, now the bloody block and there are no bodies, no police, no people at all just red stains on the sidewalk. I keep a steady pace trying to adjust the camera not to acquire the sidewalk but more sky. Again WHY? What is this for?
I go back into the company’s lot early, so I can view today’s film and edit accordingly, splice the good to the good after deleting the bad. Tomorrow will be another day! Often days go by just as planned and I think they, the Attention Whores, have gotten tired of the effort with no results but I forget that I have no idea what results they are trying for. They are a thorn under my seat cushion and that’s about it.
I could go on with this story, there are other ridiculous things, some just really bad taste but some genuinely funny. The larger sized old lady who mooned the camera. The toddler in a stroller who flipped us the bird. People of all sizes, shapes and colors with signs...the messages? Well some clever, some rude, some obscene!
It’s not a bad job, it pays well for part time work! Most people don’t work at it for long, not sure why! But tonight I can tell you, I’d rather drive this job forever if I had to choose between it and writing a story about it. Writing is not for everyone!