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O Fim duma Viagem

Mondial Kaffee Revisited

JAPAN | Sunday, 28 February 2016 | Views [237]

It was once again a warm but rainy Saturday, and Mondial Kaffee was already on my mind. So I decided to head out.

As before, I didn’t have any difficulties getting on a train that brought me directly to the nearest train station. And from there, with frequent consultations of my phone, I could make it back to the cafe.

One of the ways that I knew I’d found my home in Paris was that I stopped needing to think about where I was going. I’d be walking, and suddenly one part of my mind would go “Take a left!” and the rest of my mind would be going “what? OK, fine.” And I wouldn’t understand why until I was standing in front of one of my favorite bookstores. The paths that I’d taken dozens of times had worked their way into my mind until following them was automatic. And I’d only been to Mondial Kaffee one time, but I wanted it to feel that natural.

Give it time, I guess.

This time, I ordered a Matcha Latte. As I was paying, the cashier pointed at a sign while explaining something in Japanese. Between the two, I understood that, on rainy days, the cafe offered people a 100 yen discount to sit outside (it was covered) or take it to go. I also understood that, although he had to ask, he knew that I was not going to agree to that. He was right. So I took the same (inside) seat I had last time.

The matcha latte was not as sweet as I’d been expecting it to be. Matcha powder is rather bitter, so typically when it’s used in anything other than a ceremonial tea, it will be sweetened. This one wasn’t, so even though it certainly didn’t taste bad, it was different from the expectations for it I hadn’t realized I’d had. (Maybe if I were to combine that with an oreo muffin, the two would compensate for pure deliciousness… hmmm.)

I finished up and left, and quickly learned that wishing something will not make it so. No matter how much I wanted to be able to automatically find my way back to my apartment, I was nowhere near familiar enough with the area. Even certain ideas like “I think I came from this direction” turned out to be wrong, and I got very lost on my way back.

The area wasn’t even that confusing. I just kept turning the wrong direction. This was aggravated by the fact that Google Maps has no idea what direction anything is in Japan.

This should not come as a surprise. I’ve noticed it earlier this trip, for one. And the last time I was in Japan, I was very familiar with that fact. Walking directions from Point A to Point B were, more often than not, “Walk from A to B.” And then it would have an option to send these directions, like it honestly believed it was being helpful.

But that was nearly four years ago. In the intervening years, I’ve seen Google Maps get much better. Especially offline. You no longer need a data connection to be able to use Google Maps as a map. You can even zoom in and out a little, as long as you don’t get too ambitious. You can’t do searches offline, but if you’ve saved the point you care about and can read a map, you can figure out how to get there. If you feel it’s necessary, you even have a GPS to tell you where you are.

That’s all I expect Google to be able to tell me. In part because Japan doesn’t have street names, and I recognize that makes things difficult. (It’s walking directions to school: Head northwest. Turn left; turn right; turn left; turn right; turn left; turn right; turn right; turn left; turn left. You’re there!) All I want is for it to give me a map and tell me where I am. It doesn’t even need to tell me which way I’m heading, it just needs to tell me after I walk a block. Is that so much to ask for?

You can say I’m spoiled by modern technology, because that would not have been a reasonable expectation 20 years ago. Certainly, it would not have been a reasonable expectation for a device that allows me to communicate with my family and friends, play music, play games, write documents, and take very good pictures. And that fits in my pocket. So yes, I am spoiled by modern technology. But such is modern life.

Last semester, I was walking to find an apartment with one of the Brown students. We knew we were on the right street, but weren’t sure which direction to head for the specific address we were looking for. Nevertheless, we chose a direction and started walking, checking to see if it was the right way. I was looking at the address numbers to see if they were going up or down. She was checking the direction her phone told her she was going.

Ah, kids these days? At the end of the semester, I was on a self-guided walking tour with my parents. We were halfway down a street when we finished learning about a building, and needed to continue on. The directions told us to walk to the end of the street and take a left onto a different street. Rather than choose a direction and possibly double back if it had the wrong name, my parents pulled out their phones to see which way we should head.

Point of this rant: I want Google maps to work, and that’s not an unreasonable wish. There is absolutely no reason that my GPS should be that messed up in Japan’s second-most major city. But it is, and, to make a long story short, I wandered around in the rain for a while before finally getting back to the right street and onto a train. At least that part went smoothly, with me having to make a transfer, but making it successfully. My shoes and socks were still soaked, but my jeans were dry enough, so I’m labelling it an improvement over the week before.

Tags: coffee, google maps, gps, lost, trains

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