Today, we’re going to discuss the crazy Germans. You know the ones: they wear bizarre eyeglasses. They drive diesel hatchbacks. They use harsh, angry syllables, so you think they’re always plotting some brutally violent criminal activity, when actually they’re discussing train schedules.
I’ve written about the Germans before. About a year ago, I wrote this column about how German automotive reliability is a myth, and I still get angry letters from Germans telling me I’m wrong. Admittedly, I didn’t just call it a myth, but rather the greatest myth ever sold to American car buyers. And at some point I compared German automotive assembly to “chimpanzees with random car parts.” So, you know, I could see how maybe they’d be a little peeved.
But anyway: I get these angry letters about how really it’s the Americans’ fault that our cars are so unreliable because we don’t maintain them properly, and really if you replace the air suspension, and the transmission, and all the electricals, the car will run forever, or at least until you must replace all these things again in a few years. And then they sign the note with some harsh sendoff like “ZERDERWILERSTEIN,” which looks like it might mean “I WILL MURDER YOU” but actually it’s just “Sincerely.”
But today I risk angering the Germans once again, because I am going to talk about Google Street View.
For those of you who don’t know about Google Street View, allow me to explain. This is a service, provided by Google, wherein you zoom into an area that you want to explore, and you drop a little yellow electronic man on a street you want to check out, and you are immediately able to see a lot of sun glare.
Google Street View can be tremendously helpful in many ways. For example: let’s say you are going to a place, and you don’t know what the parking situation is like. Boom! Google Street View to the rescue. Or maybe you don’t know what side of the street it’s on. Or what the building looks like. Or maybe you’re a writer who sits around his house all day, and you decide that you want to see what Johannesburg looks like, and six hours later you could easily direct someone from Soweto to Midrand, but you haven’t actually put a single word on paper. Google Street View can help you with all of this stuff.
Unless, of course, you are German.
I say this because it turns out the Germans hate Google Street View. Apparently, Google Street View came to Germany, and they started to take pictures, and after a while the Germans said: “DER NEIN NEUF ZERSCHENSHALER HOEHNZER GERBERSTEIN DERWICHZ ZERGENBERGER!!!!!!!” which means “Can you please leave our beautiful lands, kind stranger?”
It turns out that the Germans think Google Street View is an invasion of privacy. What happened was, Google showed up with their cute little Street View car, and they started taking some public photos of public places, while driving through public, and the Germans became enraged that someone would attempt to photograph their country.
So Google mapped a few of Germany’s big cities, and then the PR got so bad, and the Germans became so hostile, that they packed their bags and left. And then Google mapped the entirety of Western Europe, and then Eastern Europe, and now they’re doing Lesotho. Yes, that’s right: you will soon be able to take a virtual automobile trip through rural Lesotho, but we still have no idea what the autobahn looks like between Hamburg and Berlin.
The result is that when you log on to Street View, there’s a giant, Germany-sized hole in the middle of Europe, like so:
Now, I admit that Germany had a few other issues with Google Street View beyond the fact that they were taking photographs. For instance: it turns out that as they were snapping photos, Google was simultaneously driving around and getting data from peoples’ unsecured wireless networks.
But isn’t this sort of what you have to expect, if you have an unsecured wireless network? These people are lucky they have their unsecured wireless network in Germany, where everyone follows the rules. If they had an unsecured wireless network in America, it wouldn’t be Google stealing their data. It would be the 14-year-old wannabe hacker next door who steals your credit card information and uses it to buy enough Magic: The Gathering cards to create an umbrella over the entire state of Rhode Island.
So, to the German people, I have a message: ZERGEN VEUBER RIZSCHAFTER RAHNZAFT ERG NEISCHENZUBER ERGARZHEIN DER NEIN ZELLER SHERFENZESTER!!!!! This means: “Please, kind people, allow Google Street View to return. And stop sending us unreliable cars.”
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.