Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yesterday was a beautiful day, a bit chilly, with dark clouds moving in for the days of rain to come but the sun still shining through the city as it set. By five o’clock or so sky was gray but the buildings were bathed in that pink-and-orange glow.

I had no meetings but plenty of work. I ate my lunch the way I always do: at my desk, watching old car races on YouTube. Eating an unwieldy burrito quickly, like an animal. Shamefully. Not really tasting it, not really thinking about it, but thinking about not thinking, of course. Self-consciously unconscious.

Apparently at Google they have, what do you call it, mindful eating lunches. Where everyone gathers in the cafeteria and eats together slowly, savoring every forkful. Eyes closed. Humming through their noses as they chew. Grasping at their neighbors’ hands and falling off their chairs, enrapt. Rubbing butter and ketchup on each other’s faces and breasts, pulling off shirts, bras; unbuckling belts; kicking off shoes. Finally coupling and uncoupling, men and women, men together, women together. After half an hour of this a bell is chimed and lunch is over; time to get back to work; there are user experiences to optimize; there’s data to mine and analyze. This is what I suppose happens, anyway. Mindful eating in the Google cafeteria.

I thought about the woman who came in to freelance on Friday and Monday. Her peculiar quiet manner, as though she didn’t quite understand me, or were struggling with the English language. She was maddeningly inept—she didn’t know how to navigate her computer, didn’t seem to grasp the steps to do her job. She took notes in loopy script on the back of a big printout I was showing her and had not intended to give her, and that doesn’t matter; but she was drawing arrows and lines all over it to keep track of where she was and I could see besides she was writing some things wrong. She didn’t seem young, she didn’t seem old. She drifted in and out of the office without a word to anyone. We had no work for her, really, so we couldn’t tell if she was any good. I doubt we’ll ask her back. She gave us no reason to. But the episode made me feel bad somehow. Who was this blurry person? What did she want, or need?