USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘palo alto’
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The Joke of the Google Self-Driving Car

Background information:

Palo Alto in the Silicon Valley area is located in California and is beautiful in a myriad of different ways. It is close to nature, has beautiful architecture, and is an extremely environmentally conscious, friendly, and accepting location. I grew up in Palo Alto since I moved from Sweden to the United States when I was almost six years old and went to high school just around the time that Google started releasing their self-driving cars to test-drive around in the Palo Alto and Mountain View area, as Google’s headquarters is located right next to Palo Alto in Mountain View. The Google self-driving car projected was later named Waymo, but people always referred to these unique cars as the Google self-driving cars.

 

Main piece:

Because I was enrolled in high school around the time that Google released their self-driving cars out into the public traffic, I would often see them on my way to school and driving around my neighborhood. They truly began to gain popularity throughout my junior and senior year of high school (2015-2016), however, which was just around the time that everyone my age was receiving their driver’s license. Therefore, as more and more high school students started driving themselves to and from school, and Google started releasing more self-driving cars into the public, students my age would often run into them in the traffic to and from school everyday. The Google self-driving cars are amazing in their technologically advanced feats, but the one striking problem is that they drive very slowly. Therefore, because they are extremely slow cars, people would often get stuck behind them on the rush-hour getting to school and leaving school, so getting stuck behind the Google self-driving cars became a local joke in Palo Alto that people would always use if they were running late or to simply be funny.

 

Personal thoughts:

I am very grateful to have lived in the Palo Alto community because there are countless technological advancements around us everyday. Some of these advancements come with their host of disadvantages, however, as was seen with the Google self-driving cars. I remember being very frustrated when I was in a rush and ended up behind one of these cars because there were often very few ways to get around them and they often contributed to the traffic overall, so it is nice that there are no Google self-driving cars near USC.

Folk Beliefs

The Ghost of Spangenberg

This piece was told to me by my co-worker who went to high school in Palo Alto, CA. At the high school there was a large theater, called the Spangenberg theater, where the theater students would perform shows during the years. The rumor around the theater was that it was haunted by a ghost. My informant learned the rumor from an older theater student. She felt that the ghost story was both fun (to pass on to a new generation) but also slightly scary because of the small chance that it might be true.

“In our high school we used to have this rumor circling around the theater group that there’s a ghost in Spangenberg. So, we kind of ran with it. It wasn’t written anywhere, we just kind of passed it off as… generation to generation within the theater community at our school. Basically if anything went wrong we kind of just blamed it on the ghost. Supposedly there was a backstory to this ghost, about someone committing suicide in the building, I don’t know much about that, but things that happened were like: I was pretty sure I turned those lights off and I’d be the first one in the building the next morning and the lights were on and I know no one else was in there because the building was locked and I was the last one out the night before, so yeah… things would just come up and terrify you occasionally. There would be random noises, that was terrifying up in the rafters. I didn’t like going there by myself and we just kind of blamed it on the ghost, and because of that if I was ever there last, by myself at night I wouldn’t just be there, you know, taking my leisurely time making sure everything was locked up. No. I would be sprinting. I wanted out, immediately.”

Q: Do you remember who told you about the ghost of Spangenberg? How did they tell you about it?

“It was more of a reference, like, ‘Ooh, watch out the ghost of Spangenberg might mess it up for you” Or ‘don’t let him catch you’ or just kind of like, mocking. And I kind of feel like that’s how I passed it off, too.”

Q: Did you try to scare freshman with it?

Yeah, obviously. It’s what we do. No shame

Q: So, what would you say to them?

The first time I would ever mention it to them I would try not to scare them, actually, just like ‘Oh that’s super weird, it was working yesterday. It’s because of the ghost.’

 

It’s interesting that this ghost doesn’t have a name or any method of identification (even a gender) because generally this kind of “haunted building” folklore would come with some sort of a back story to add to the believability. However, it sounds like the story was believable enough even though the ghost didn’t have any special features.

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