My daughter is going to Nice this summer on a school trip. When we got the address where she would be staying, I — of course — looked it up in Street View on Google Maps. There I am, nine thousand kilometers away, virtually walking along the street where she is going to be staying. It’s a block away from a palm-tree-lined promenade by the water. I can see the restaurants where she might eat and the stores she might shop at.
I’ve looked up the house in Wales where my mother lived, to see whether the new owners have done any major repainting or landscaping yet. It makes me feel like a stalker, but it is irresistible.
In a more benign vein: inspired by my reading of Northern European mysteries, I looked up some locations in Sweden, Norway, and Finland so that I could get a sense of what it was like to be there.
I’ve virtually travelled the world in recent months with Street View (and yes, that word “virtually” has taken on a new, specific shade of meaning).
When I perform one of these electronic acts that has only become available in recent years, I’m strangely affected by the experience. It is so unlikely, almost miraculous. Yes, I know in my head that the technology is available, but each time there is an impact beyond what I expected. Unlike many other things that get so described, this deserves to be called both weird and wonderful.