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Sandy's Say: It’s Spy In The Sky

So what was Sandy James's first thought when she saw the Google Mapping spyman.

“Oh my gosh, we didn’t mow the lawn this weekend and all the garbage bins are on the pavement today because it is collection day.”

Then she had to laugh at herself.

I was filling up with petrol when I saw a strange apparition coming towards me. It was basically a small white sedan but what made it unusual was the huge mast which was attached to it, so thick and tall that it threatened to topple the vehicle over. On top of this mast was what looked like a giant face of E.T. but on closer inspection it turned out to be two large, bulbous cameras.

The driver was in a spot of bother because his contraption was too tall for him to pull up next to the bowsers which were under an overhang. My curiosity got the better of me and I craned my neck to see what was written on the side of the car. “Google Maps” it read and suddenly I understood. This was the person who drove up and down the local roads taking the photos which make up the street views on Google Earth. Nice work if you can get it.

“Oh my gosh,” I suddenly thought to myself, “we didn’t mow the lawn this weekend and all the garbage bins are on the pavement today because it is collection day.” Then I had to laugh at myself. Since when had I become so image conscious? Is it not a sure sign of modern times when you not only have to concern yourself with impressing the neighbours but also anyone who might be zooming in on you via the satellites in outer space? Anyway, was it not preposterous and a slightly arrogant to presume that anyone at all would be interested in finding little old me?

Actually, with websites such as Facebook and Twitter, the world has seemingly contracted and, for those of us who allow it, become much more of a transparent fish bowl. If nothing else, it has reinforced what we already know, that most of us lead mediocre lives full of repetitive chores and trivial matters.

This electronic generation will never know what it is to wait anxiously for weeks for a handwritten letter from someone special, the anticipation building each time the postman goes past. Nor will they experience frantically tearing open the letter and pouring over it as it shakes in their hands. They won’t be able to stash it away and pull it out secretively and pour over every word again and again whenever they desire to be reminded of someone’s love for them. Clicking on email doesn’t quite have the same feel to it although it is mercifully quicker. The relatively flippant nature of email chat and the delete button means that the era of holding on to the eloquent and carefully thought out love or loving letter is a thing of the past.

There was a time too when one was at the sporadic mercy of friends and family, passing on snippets of news in conversation for finding out what had become of old school friends and past boyfriends or girlfriends. These days, if you are so inclined, you simply Google their name and an airbrushed, studio photo will probably pop up along with a sanitised history of what they have been up to. Gossip used to be so much more delicious and revealing.

When I think about it, I do know where my image consciousness has come from. I confess, it is our own fault. You see, we sent our son to a posh school and it is he who has contaminated me. He is always acutely aware of appearances and cringes if I don’t make an effort to scrub up before appearing in front of his friends, especially at Saturday sport and Speech Day. I even have a necklace and a lipstick for such grand occasions. It was he who pointed out that I drive an “embarrassing” car and that my Toyota stands out for its jalopiness amongst all the shiny 4 wheel drives, BMWs, Mercedes and Maseratis at the school gate. We recently moved house and I was delighted to see that both sets of neighbours had Toyotas just like mine, in their driveways. “See, he’s wrong,” I thought to myself, “We’re not so out of place after all.” Then the cleaners came out, on both sides simultaneously, with their mops and buckets, climbed into their Camrys and drove away!

Despite our “poverty” we do have one family of extremely wealthy friends from that superior class called, ‘How the other half live.’ This is a misleading term don’t you think because the obscenely rich probably only make up, and I’m guessing here, perhaps 0.001% of the population? Anyway, they drove up from the rarefied atmosphere of their harbour foreshore mansion one day in their bright red Ferrari Modena to visit us. As they pulled up and parked the throbbing piece of splendiferous engineering in our driveway my son exclaimed, “Cool! I really, really hope that the Google Earth satellite camera is going over our house right now.”

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To read more of Sandy's columns please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/sandys_say/

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