Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Left My Harp in Sam Clam's Disco #2: Wherein the Author Ruminates on the Fragility of Life and Small Consumer Electronics

So, it's been about a week since I started working for [Company Name Redacted] on the [Name Redacted] Project, and things are going just peachily. Of course, 80% of that week was orientation, where the general focus was less on work and more on receiving free [Company Name Redacted]-branded swag and learning about the various ways [Company Name Redacted] is trying to retain its highly trained employees.

Other, lesser [Industry Name Redacted]-focused companies would focus on giving its employees things like money, good health plans, money, 401(k) plans, money, more vacation time, money, maternity leave, money, company picnics, money, and money to keep them satisfied. But [Company Name Redacted] doesn't believe in that sort of thing. Money, after all, is a crude and base way to motivate employees. Awesomeness, on the other hand, speaks to the little kid in every employee, and there's nobody who [Company Name Redacted] would prefer to negotiate with than a bunch of little kids.

You've probably read about the perks that [Company Name Redacted] employees get at [Company Name Redacted] headquarters. I am here to tell you that there are a lot of myths and rumors flying around. To see whether or not you have successfully pulled the correct ones out, here's a little quiz:

Which of the following [Company Name Redacted] perks and attractions are real?

A) Free computers
B) Trees and bushes made of actual candy
C) In-house psychic consultation
D) In-office rocket ship
E) Paid lunch breaks for hourly employees
F) Cirque du Soleil performances at the weekly company meetings
G) Shuttles running to downtown, suburbs, and the Seattle-Vancouver-Juno Metropolitan Area
H) Complimentary EarPods for all staff
I) Life-size replica of the Enterprise bridge (classic, not Next Generation /Enterprise/2009 movie version)
J) bikes that can be taken and returned freely anywhere on campus

The answer, of course, is E: [Company Name Redacted] does not pay its hourly employees during the lunch hour.

The bikes maintain a particularly interesting effect on campus culture. They are scattered everywhere, usually in front of buildings, always unlocked. Anyone who needs to get from point A to point B is free to take a bike from point A and ride it to point B and leave it parked there. He or she might be able to take the same bike back, but odds are someone who needs to take the bike from point B to point A will take it before then.

This sort of ad hoc circumstance has lead many outside observers to deduce that a truly pacifistic and generous culture can develop because of a socialist-inspired system where each takes according to their needs (getting from point A to point B) and gives according to their ability (parking the bike and leaving it for the next person). However, like the misguided Monopoly player who came up with the "Free Parking" rule, or Barack Obama, they are mistaken: the only kind of culture that can arise from such an open and free system is one of ruthlessness and Hobbesian distrust, where crowds topple statues and trade Levi's denim on the black market as if the jeans were made of gold.

I was at first, foolish enough to believe that such a system of shared bikes might work, in the same way that I once believed that we would have true world communism by 1985, and that you could play Grand Theft Auto as a law-abiding citizen. I was, in fact, appalled when I saw interns jostling and pushing each other around, racing to grab the last bike from the racks, and taking 80 bikes away from the common area and dumping them in the building we had to go to (about a quarter-mile away).

My indignation lasted until the next day, when I found myself riding a company bike that was clearly inadequate, in that the seat was about four inches too high, making my riding it an exercise in cirque du soleil-type contortion. With a deepening sense of dread, I realized that I would have to take at least thirty seconds to get off the bike, find the clasp underneath, adjust the seat height to my liking, get back on, check to see if it was the right height, and if it wasn't, I would have to get off and do it AGAIN.

Then my eyes fell upon a cloud of other bikes.

With a guilty ease, I hopped off my bike and went to the nearest one, gettting on and finding the seat too low. Having crossed the threshold, I suddenly found myself hopping from one to another like a sorority pledge at her first progressive, unable to find the satisfaction I craved. Finally, with my teeth bared in rage at my predicament, I saw an unsuspecting engineer* riding away with a bike that I knew in my heart to have a seat at the right height.

Years of playing the GTA series taught me the correct way to 'jack a vehicle:

1) Step out into the street, directly into the oncoming path of the vehicle

2) When the vehicle stops, go up to the driver's seat

3) Wrap your left arm around the head in a headlock, use the right arm to grab the victim's waist, and pull directly upwards (bending at the knees)

4) The victim may be armed. Rest assured, unless you are 'jacking a cop car or are playing the GTA: Mos Eisley expansion pack, the victim will not be able to shoot you for more than three or four hearts before you gun him down mercilessly.

5) Get on/in vehicle. Run over victim's body as humiliating coup de grace (note: this is the ultimate manly way to show dominance; teabagging is for 12-year-olds who play Halo)

I executed all five of these steps flawlessly, and rode away with a bike whose seat was at the proper elevation. Five hundred feet later, I carefully parked the bike at the door of the [Name Redacted] Building and left it there for the next employee to use.

In addition to these institutional perks, [Company Name Redacted] also has a bizarre and freewheeling culture that encourages such things as the riding of Segways and teams going out to movies during the workday. I thought that was weird, and then I found out that another team had rented several kegs and a steamroller, and was busy using said steamroller to crush various objects into Dali-esque smudges on the parking lot asphalt: Tupperware, old bottles, watches, computers, jailbroken iPhones, heartbroken Roombas, housebroken interns, etc.

After seeing that display, I thought nothing could surprise me. I had entered my own personal Mike Tyson Zone, where no story, no perk, no program could possibly surprise me. In fact, as I was going to the cafeteria, I turned to my fellow intern, [Name Redacted], a sprightly young gentleman from [Name Redacted] College, and said, "At this point, there is nothing that could possibly sur-why is there a live mariachi band in the cafeteria?"

Three gallant gentlemen in black costumes, enormous hats, and comically oversized moustaches were busy moving from table to table, serenading bemused diners.

I turn back to my friend. "I'm going to go eat a tree."

*How to tell if your target is an engineer: he wears a bike helmet, has long hair, usually in a thick ponytail, facial hair, glasses, a t-shirt with either some obscure math/science joke or the logo of an '80s metal band with flames or dragons, cargo shorts with pockets filled with irregular (and possibly deadly) shapes, and practical high-top sneakers with knee-length socks. Or, if you're at [Company Name Redacted], he's every second person.

1 comment:

Minh Nguyễn said...

I answered “(K) Soft serve ice cream machines”.