Thursday, August 03, 2006

Looking @ Google

I'm sitting in a plaza between the four striking modern buildings that make up the Google campus. B is spending one or two days a week here, for a six-week mini-sabbatical in the Bay area. I've had lunch and a tour, and I have to echo the question I heard from another visitor: "Does anyone ever voluntarily quit here?

Yellow electric scooters are parked in several spots, available to anyone who wants a quick jaunt across the yard. They seem more popular than the Segways, which I haven’t seen in action yet. There’s something incongruously solemn about the scooters, something about the way the rider glides along so upright and still, but at the same time goofy. (Dude, you’re, like, flying!)

The list of employee benefits goes on.

- Valet parking and on-site oil changes while you work.
- A hair salon in a motorhome, which seems to be parked on campus one or two days a week. The side of the camper reads, " – Get in. Get out. Get on with life.”
- Boxes for dropping off dry cleaning.
- Lots of giant bean bag chairs, grouped for conferences or working alone.
- A adjustable-current swimming pool, complete with lifeguard. (That's got to be a boring job - watching a single person swimming in a single lane, never going anywhere.)
- Ellliptical machines and recumbent-bicycles strategically placed near plate-glass windows, scattered throughout the buildings instead of isolated in a health club.
- Very complicated massage chairs.
- Restrooms with Toto toilets. I won't go into detail about what makes these fixtures luxurious. Follow the link if you're curious. I'll just say that this is the first time I'd encountered one in real life, and I am ready to renovate my bathroom.
- More food than you can imagine. There seems to be generous kitchen areas on every floor, all stocked with goodies. The common element is a wall of plastic snack dispensers, the kind of display you see in the bulk-goods aisles of grocery stores. Have a protein bar? A chocolate-covered fig? A bowl of a certain "magically delicious" sugar-coated cereal?

One kitchen had three types of coffee-delivery devices: a regular old drip machine, a traditional espresso machine, and a super-automated machine that offered a variety of brews. B sniffed at my choice, French vanilla, claiming that it “didn’t smell like coffee.” I was testing the massage chair, which was doing some funky shiatsu that made my entire torso jiggle in an unflattering manner, so I didn’t respond to this jibe.

The main cafeteria had at least 8 different stations, all self-serve. It took me several minutes to read the menu posted at the entrance and figure out which goodies I’d most like to try. I ended up with black-bean cakes topped with avocado chunks and drizzled with fluorescent carrot-habonero pepper sauce; from the salad bar, marinated ahi tuna with more avocados (hey, I’m in California), a sorrel salad; smoky black beans, a large piebald type of bean I’d never seen before; a mango smoothie; and a demitasse of extremely rich chocolate mousse with a fresh raspberry on top.

You can tell this place is populated mostly by 20-somethings. I could not work somewhere that provides unlimited It’s-It ice cream treats. I would gain 50 pounds. Even with the swimming pool.

I had to take an It’s-It for the road. The original is the best: two chewy oatmeal cookies, good vanilla ice cream in the center, and dark chocolate over all. I find it fiendishly addictive.

Later I found out that this treat was Google's very own It's-It, and it's healthy, too! Well, healthier than it could be. Check it out on the Google blog.

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