So there I am in Venice, standing outside my little rented apartment, seeing something you see almost daily here: lost people. Two of them. English. One, the woman, getting a bit cross. The man staring at a smart phone, angrily prodding his finger on the screen.
I always try to help lost people here if I can. We’ve all lost our way in this city. It still happens to me after fifteen years or so of coming here. It’s part of the fun usually. You never know what you’ll find.
So I say, ‘Can I help?’
They want a vaporetto. Any vaporetto it seems. Which is a bit odd but there you go. And as I would on some occasions point out central Venice is actually quite small and very walkable. It’s often quicker to get somewhere on foot than stand on a packed number one boat as it stops everywhere along the way.
Anyway they’re a short way away from San Toma, not the easiest of stops to find unless you find the right way in (and yes the signs can be confusing). So I start to offer some directions.
And then the man taps at his phone angrily and snaps, ‘I’ve got satnav, thank you.’
There’s a brief pause, then an argument along the lines of ‘the man’s trying to help’.
I offer one more time. He taps again on his phone and doesn’t take any notice. It’s technology, you see. Much more reliable than a stranger in the street.
And then I leave them to the delights of Apple Maps or Google or Nokia or whatever. For the record… Google is actually very good in Venice, though you may eat up your data allowance using it. Apple Maps will probably land you in the canal. The Nokia maps you get with Windows Phone 8 are excellent and on my phone can be downloaded so you don’t need data to use them.
But honestly… if you’ve got a human being offering to show you the way… I’d suggest that’s the best bet of all.
I couldn’t stop myself looking back as I left. They were still there, him tapping at his phone. She had her hands on her hips. Then they moved off. The wrong way.