Oak Park and Forest Park residents may have noticed a woman walking around the two villages in recent week with an exceptionally large smile on her face – more noteworthy, perhaps, is the 40 pounds of electronic equipment strapped to her back.

“What is that thing?” people are constantly asking Austin resident Erin Bender as she walks around with a Google Trekker Street View backpack, capturing public spaces for the tech company.

“A lot of people ask you what it is, but a lot of people already know,” she said in a recent interview. 

She makes $17.50 an hour walking around the city and its suburbs; she usually does about five miles a day, she said.

“It’s not bad. I walk all over Chicago,” she said. “I’ve been in Forest Park and Evanston. It just depends.”

Bender has been with Google for about two months now. She found the job on the temp staffing website Adecco.

She is equipped with the trekker backpack and given a digital map to follow. The company gives her options for where she wants to walk on any given day, she said.

She noted that the backpack is equipped with cameras that give a 360-degree view of the area and one that points to the sky.

“They have cars, too …” she said, but added that she likes the pay for walking with the trekker and added, “I’m getting exercise.”

Prior to her gig with Google, Bender was working in the meat department at a Jewel-Osco, she said.

A search of Adecco’s job-search website (www.adeccousa.com) revealed that the company is still searching for trekkers. 

“Operators are given the task of going to public and private areas specified by the client or partner, specifically targeting paths, attractions and other points of interest in the given area,” the job description notes.

Trekkers must be able to carry 40 pounds of camera equipment on their back and be on their feet for most of the day, according to the job posting.

Among other requirements, employees “must be able to deal with the public in a calm and rational manner.” 

That doesn’t appear to be a problem for Bender.