27 Sep 2011, 11:03am


The curse of Street View

Eifel Tower from Street View

Picture of the Eifel Tower from my latest "trip" to Paris

Lots of people have their Internet compulsions and addictions: Facebook, Farmville, YouTube, eBay, video games, and so on.  My wife is a recovering Pinterest addict.

My web vice is Google Maps Street View.

I’ve always been a spatial kind of guy.  I instinctively know which way is North.  I was telling my mom how to get home from the airport when I was four.  My degree is in Geography.  I have no need for a GPS.

And I love to travel.  Mostly, I’m a it’s-not-the-destination-but-the-journey kind of guy.  I love watching the scenery go by, seeing new places in fast-forward.  Of course, that comes from being a transportation-enthusiast.  Getting from Point A to Point B is often my favorite part of vacations.

So now that I can essentially do that from my desk for a huge chunk of the world using Street View, it can quickly consume a significant quantity of my time.  For instance, the other day I was reading an article in the San Antonio Express-News about the suburban slums around Monterrey, Mexico.  I of course had to find the neighborhood to which they were referring on the map.  Using the description of the location in the article, I had it located on Google Maps in a couple of minutes.  Hmm, I wonder if they have Street View for Mexico?  Well, not for this neighborhood, but hey, there are those blue lines nearby!  I’ll just take a quick look around downtown Monterrey…

Two hours later, I had explored many of the main avenues and expressways of Monterrey as well as the toll road from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo.  Having visited Nuevo Laredo several times before the drug wars rendered that inadvisable, I had always wondered what the main shopping street looked like further down than the half-dozen or so blocks I had usually plied.  No problem, it’s on Street View.  Uh oh, now I’m on the old two-lane federal highway going back to Monterrey.  Gotta check that out.  It didn’t help that I had the iTunes cranked-up.  I could have kept going all the way to Mexico City if not for a gnawing hunger in my belly and a full bladder.

Similar recent “trips” have taken me to Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, much of southeastern England, and Tokyo, not to mention a plethora of US cities.

I tried Googling “Street View support groups.”  Nada.  I couldn’t even find anything for “Street View addiction.”  Guess I’m the only one willing to admit I have this affliction.  Here goes…

My name is Brian and I’m a Street View addict.

Don’t judge me– it’s gotta be in the genes.  My three-year old is already showing the signs of having the malady: he loves being in the car, he knows when we missed the turn to go home or to grandma’s, and he can point the direction to my office from nearby streets that he’s never been on.  I don’t dare introduce him to Street View.  Bye-bye Elmo.

Well, gotta go.  Another world city is waiting to be explored during my lunch hour.



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