Posted on May 25, 2006
Seattle rush hour traffic sux. But, it is rather a tidy city, so once you’re well clear, things start moving again. Which is nice, except when you’re moving towards The Belly of the Beast!
That’s right – first stop, the “M-word” company – shudder – which actually looked a rather pleasant place, everyone young and nerdy-attractive in a “we are the world” kind of a way. Not to mention the parks and grassy walkways and clean, pleasantly lit office buildings – no one can tell you exactly how many there are, and we kept tripping over them 20 minutes after having fought our way clear of the main fortifications – themselves looking much more like the dormitories of a comfortably endowed private university than the reality, which is of course that it’s all a facade built to hide the beating, diabolical heart of tech darkness that is the snug Redmond fastness of He-who-will-not-be-named. Fortunately, I was forewarned by one of my brave Gungan spies to keep tinfoil wrapped tautly about my noggin, for to keep the nano-bots out.
Which it served admirably to do, even if it did give the receptionist something of a start. We few, we happy few, we twenty-odd grad students broke the karma of her workaday routine by checking in at her desk with no clear idea who it was we were supposed to see, where to go, or how it was, exactly, that we had come to be there. That knowledge being safely ensconced within the crania of our brilliant and talented professors, clever lads that they were, and themselves hideously late, having taken a wrong turn sommers along the way. Which there is a point in there about theory vs reality in academia, cross-pollenized withoxymoronic military efficiency. This point flickers tantalizingly at the margins of my imagination, but does not entirely coalesce, which is kind of a pity, but anyway:
Startled Microsoft receptionist (disbelievingly): Are you… Microsoft employees?
Your humble narrator (with warm charm and encouraging bonhomie): Oh, no, ha-ha! We’re from the IRS!
But she was exceptionally well trained, because this sally did not throw her off stride for a moment. Instead, while keeping a professional smile on her face she deftly hit the floor switch by her foot, opening up the trap doors at our feet – seen, alas, too late! – sending your humble scribe and all of his cohort sliding down a long and darkened laundry chute-type affair into the dungeons carved by wage slaves into the living rock several miles below the campus. There Micro-demons struck us all about the face and shoulders with empty Microsoft NT Server boxes until the hot blood mingled with our unashamèd tears.
Which didn’t actually happen, but prolly would have, given a moment or two’s more delay, except just then our professors showed up, trailing a deceptively affable drone of the collective employee of the company, a former naval officer and graduate of Canoe U., and you couldn’t even see the scars where they must’ve implanted the mind-control electrodes, the poor, shattered thing.
He gave us a deceptively frank pitch on working for the hive-mind, complete with a SWOT analysis and some warm, personal stories of the good times had by all, once they’d surrendered their own wills for glory of the Greater Wholeness. He didn’t phrase it in quite that way of course, but his meaning was clear to all as who had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and tinfoil wrapped snugly up against their skulls. I keep mine under a ball cap.
He even treated us all to a cuppa, complete with the Microsoft logo ascendant above the supine Starbucks label on the paper cup, just to show that when it came to corporate monoliths, there can only be one. Afterwards we were treated to catered Chinese, right there in the conference room. I would have only pretended to eat mine, pushing it around the plate and feeding it to the dog, like, but I was actually pretty hungry and noticing that none of my classmates immediately fell thrashing to the ground, foam sudsing at their mouths while their eyes went suddenly a ghostly, zombie-like white, I tuckered in like I meant business and was grateful for it after.
Having won our way clear, shaking our heads clear of the soothing, siren song/corporate lie about “creating value for the customer,” and having also received the promised delivery of a really cool math app coming out this summer, we decamped for the Red Hook brewery. There, for the price of a dollar in the bucket, a witty young man will show you how Red Hook beer is made, all the while plying you with many several product samples. It’s a lovely area actually, all pastoral/idyllic-like, and if I had the scratch or means to make it I’d move us all up there, and take that tour several times a day. Just for the subtleties that are in it.
Speaking of scratch, my dining expenses of the evening past are well and truly covered, and I thank you for your double generosity, Kevin, as well as you, Anonymous Stranger. For the rest of you, if you were on the very cusp of throwing a fin in the tip jar but hesitating, unsure, you can just stop worrying your collective pretty head about that, gentle reader and instead savor the fruits of my labors at the customary rates. Unless of course you want to chip in, in which case have at it, because after all, who am I to stand in the way of your self-actualization?
A sign against the wall at the brewery caught my eye – about writing it was, and it appealed to me for reasons I cannot lay my finger upon:
The writer’s gift is partly natural and partly trained. It is composed of several qualities, most of which, in normal people, are signs of either immaturity or incivility: wit (a tendency to make irreverent connections); obstinacy and a tendency towards churlishness (a refusal to believe what all sensible people know is true); childishness (an apparent lack of mental focus) and serious life purpose; a fondness for daydreaming and telling pointless lies; a lack of proper respect, mischievousness, an unseemly propensity for crying over nothing; a marked tendency towards oral and anal fixation, or both (the oral being manifested by excessive eating, drinking, smoking and chattering; the anal by nervous cleanliness and neatness coupled with a weird fascination with dirty jokes); remarkable powers of eidetic recall, or visual memory (a usual feature of early adolescence and mental retardation); a strange admixture of shameless playfulness and embarrassing earnestness, the latter often heightened by an irrationally intense feeling for or against religion; patience like a cat’s; a criminal streak of cunning; psychological instability; an inexplicable and incurable addiction to stories, written or oral, good or bad.
I describe, you may think, a dangerous beast. The truth is that good writers are almost never dangerous.
Which, take that for what it’s worth.
A lovely afternoon in any case, and the samples set your narrator up for a brief but highly effective nap. Out! Out, rude beasts! she said, and so we did, seeking our pleasure out on the local economy, Italian food – a waitress who seemed genuinely concerned that we hadn’t eaten every last bit our garlic and olive garnish to the exquisite calamari julienne, and wouldn’t we have dessert? No? They had a lovely tiramisu, we were assured. But no, bravely, no: We must save room for Guinness.
And so we did, Fado’s being not far from where we dined in Pioneer Square, and Kells in a side alley off of Pike Place, neither of which would do you wrong in the admittedly unlikely event that you find yourself dry in Seattle. I fell in love at Fado’s briefly, before remembering myself. You’d have been hard pressed yourself, unless you were made of stone, the lady in question being a striking young lass who plied your humble scribe repeatedly with bright smiles and strong spirits. But, alas, it turned out – as it all too often does – that there was a tacit quid pro quo in effect, and I was expected to pay for these services. I did so graciously, being a gentleman, but secretly remorseful at the shine this had taken off her rose. Ah, well.
And now, my work here being done, I sit and blog at the Seattle-Tacoma International aerodrome, which is a lovely place as such things go, with wide, well-lit commons and fine dining opportunities, but which also manages the not-insignificant feat of having fewer AC power outlets per hundred acres than actual pots ‘o gold at the end of the rainbow. Nevertheless, after a brief but sharp struggle with an elderly Chinese gentleman in a Burberry driver’s cap, I am now plugged and receiving.
And you, gentle reader, are all caught up.