Field trips for grown-ups: Google

Alternate title: Pregnant woman waddling

(The second in a currently two-part series.)

My brother works at Google, and he invited me and my mom for lunch today. What we first noticed was that Google has basically taken over the entire Mountain View area by Shoreline Amphitheatre. Even in the couple of years my brother has worked there, it's grown by blocks and blocks (and we're talking office park blocks, which are huge). Today I noticed something my mom says they have everywhere in Texas: expectant mother parking. Now that I know how damned hard it is to walk when you're late into your pregnancy, I appreciated this little amenity greatly.

When you walk into a Google office, the first thing you may notice is that above the reception desks they have a monitor displaying a list of (what seem like) live searches in all different languages. It's really cool, though occasionally I think about this display when I'm doing searches I'd rather not have displayed for any random Google visitor or employeee. I know it's displayed anonymously, but it's still on my mind that maybe, just maybe someone will see that someone out there is searching for, I don't know, "pregnancy waddle" or something like that.

Google also has a very interesting bathroom setup. All the toilets are equipped with Toto Washlets. The seats are heated and there are no flushes--you just have to exit the stall and...trust. I think it would be extremely cool to have one of these at home, but I still think it's kinda weird that they have them all over the place at this huge company. I'd say it's definitely in the "not evil" category, though.

But what I love most about Google, and this is my third visit to the main campus, are the cafeterias. When I worked at MTV, I used to think their corporate commissary, the Lodge, was cool--they had occasional concerts there, and everything was discounted to a very reasonable price. But Google's cafes seriously blow away the Lodge. Everything is free, for one thing. The drink selection is incredible--today I had a choice of Yoohoo, Penafiel soda, Tazo tea drinks, Naked juices, and a bunch of other bottled beverages that were so exotic I can't even remember the brands. (This, naturally, is in addition to your average soda fountain.) And the food itself, besides being freshly prepared seemingly from scratch every day--I saw guys rolling pizza dough behind the counter--is available in bountiful quantities, with a menu that changes daily. (I mean, MTV kinda has to get on the stick here; recently I visited a friend there, and I think the Lodge still had several of the same basic items on the menu...TEN YEARS LATER. Though at MTV you get to see Iggy Pop in the elevator and stuff like that, so maybe the cafeteria is not their main focus.)

Being a pregnant woman at a Google cafeteria is a truly decadent experience. You have almost no reason to restrict yourself to anything. Want the mac-n-cheese and the pepperoni pizza? Go for it. Craving the homemade pecan vanilla frozen yogurt and a special Google It's It? Hey, you're eating for 1.25! The decorum I might usually exhibit when presented with a dizzying array of flagrantly free stuff just goes out the window. Plus, the chefs are so nice and refreshingly unsurly, relative to the usual food service employees. They seem genuinely excited to share their latest gourmet creations (my favorite menu item today: lettuce cups with a cilantro-shrimp filling... yummmmmmm!) I know the thrill probably wears off after a few months on the job, but these cafeterias make the usual "let's have lunch" promise much more compelling. I even woke up extra early once so I could meet my brother at Google for breakfast, just to see the massive spread on offer. (It was completely worth it.)

On previous visits to Google, I've seen the actual offices where people do their real work, but these don't exactly stand out in my memory. In fact, today my mom and I didn't even ask to see my brother's new desk. We were way more interested in hitting the new grandmother-themed comfort food cafe. But I think that's fair. I am a pregnant woman, after all, and I can't just be waddling around to every cubicle in Google-land.

Unrelated note: I may not be pregnant for that much longer. I have a funny feeling this baby may be here pretty soon! Sure, I've been wrong every other time I felt that. But at a certain point, come on, something's gotta give here...


Forever pregnant

I know my life's about to change dramatically any minute now (literally), but right now it does seem like it's possible to be pregnant forever. It's so weird how my body can just remain in stasis even though clearly there's this gigantic baby inside kicking and contorting. Nick and I are joking that the baby might just be as nervous as we are...he's not looking forward to jettisoning himself into the world of sleepless nights, unfamiliar routines, and ridiculous politics either. I mean, we are actually ready for him now; it's amazing what one week of being at home without having to work did for my mental and physical preparation. But it's still a daunting transition, and I get the feeling Nick and I aren't the only ones with a mild amount of ambivalence about getting on with things. I had this major hunch that today was the day when I would have the baby, but so far, he's continuing to seem quite comfortable where he is.

By the way, I feel a little guilty admitting that I still harbor that shred of ambivalence about parenthood even at this incredibly late stage. I asked my brother if he felt any of that at the similar moment in his life, and he sounded darned honest in saying that he was completely ready and excited. Also, it seems like all other pregnant women I've met recently reach this point of being "done" and simply wanting it to end no matter what quality-of-life discomforts lie ahead. I certainly understand that feeling. It's quite miserable being so big and swollen with no end in sight except one that involves the long process of pain and suffering known as labor and delivery. And I am excited to meet this little creature I've been nurturing for nine months and dreaming about, on some level, all my life.

At the same time, I've gotta be honest: I'll always cherish the memories of these last few weeks that I got to spend with my husband, my mom, my cats, my friends, and myself, when I didn't really have to worry about anyone's needs but my own, when I could sleep on my own schedule, when I could sneak away to shop for tree mulch, or grab a chai latte, or do the NY Times crossword puzzle, or write an introspective blog post, or take a silly cat photo, or read a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novel, or watch The Amazing Race, or play Rocket Slime on DS, or bake Irish Soda Bread from Julia Child's recipe, or count the baby lemons on my potted Meyer Lemon tree, or...you get the idea...without having to share my attention with anyone. I'm sure what's around the corner will be worth it, but I have to give one last shout-out to my child-free years. I'll miss them.

And no, in the course of writing this long post, I didn't feel anything remotely resembling the onset of labor. But here's a silly cat photo for good measure:

Oh ok fine, here's ONE more!


Still waiting!

I've been on leave officially for only a few days now, because I ended up going in to the office a fair bit last week out of sheer psychological attachment (and to give the guy who's subbing for me a few pointers). A couple people kept telling me to leave, but I don't think they understand what it's like to have your "purpose" taken away from you suddenly. The first few days of full-on leave have been really hard, but I don't think I'd have been able to go into the office in my current condition. I'm just way too huge and uncomfortable.

Some of the stuff that's been on my mind:

The Price Is Right: It only took one day for me to get right to the heart of daytime TV. That Bob Barker is still so smooth...don't believe what people say about him being senile! Also, the set is a historical relic. It looks so old! But I love it. I really think they need to stick with those retro trappings until things can no longer be replaced because the technology is obsolete. They could even have forensic technicians who only fix outdated Price is Right technology.

Cleaning: I've kind of oddly been fighting my natural urge to clean because I've been worried that it might be my nesting instinct kicking in, which everyone says signals imminent labor. (My mom, for example, keeps talking about how she wallpapered the nursery mere hours before she gave birth to my brother.) But this morning I must have crossed some threshold, because I gleefully scrubbed down the bathroom and didn't care what it signified.

The Imperfect Birthday: I was especially worried about having the baby on 9/11, though I'm not sure why this is, as it seems highly likely that with our society's short collective attention span, this kid's generation won't really have much of an awareness of that date. My mom, again, likens this to Pearl Harbor. She says that growing up none of her friends had anything more than a mild awareness of December 7 as a "dark" day in history.

My Cats: I think I'm going to need to get them their own little enclosed beds, because they so love the crib and bassinet!

Invincible: Even though I almost never go to the movie theater, today when my mom suggested going to a movie as a way to escape the heat (which makes me incredibly irritable), I figured, hey why not? Because once I have a baby I won't even have the option of going to the movie theater for some time. The movie was good--a perfect feel-good matinee to keep my mind off things. But wow, the Tuesday matinee crowd in Daly City is a bit of a weird one, that's all I'll say.

By the way...have I mentioned how huge I am?


Ode to EGM, or initial thoughts on my maternity leave

Today was my last full day at work, and it's safe to say I am freaking out. I'm not worried about things going smoothly while I'm gone--I really have no control over that, and I spent my last week or so putting as many systems into place as I could to enable my team to do their thing without my assistance. I'm freaking out because of how weird it is to be suddenly released from my work responsibilities. The only other time that happened was when my last magazine folded, and that was just totally different--most notably in that getting laid off happens for terrible reasons, while going on temporary maternity leave happens for (what I hear are) fabulous reasons.

It's an understatement to say that I'll miss seeing my co-workers every day. I work with a really fun crew in a lighthearted environment--no surprise, given that we make a magazine about videogames. Everybody there loves what they do, so even when things get stressful, the product keeps us from getting too terribly dour. I'd say my favorite moments are when a bunch of editors gather round one person's desk trying to come up with a funny caption for a screenshot, or when we finally see a laid-out page that took forever coming together but in the end looks really, really awesome. Magazines are true team efforts, and I'm lucky to be part of a great team. I think it's safe to say I'll feel left out of the next few issues that come together while I'm not there.

Of course, I'll also miss the job itself. I do get true satisfaction from writing a clever review or particularly creative article. I'll miss actually seeing game demos months before they come out. I'll miss doing my podcast and writing my work blog (though I hope to keep up the blog part at least a little bit during the next few months). I'll even miss some of the more mundane aspects of my job: running the staff meetings, keeping the team on schedule, doing budget stuff (seriously, deep down inside, I'm a bean counter at heart; I love a good spreadsheet), and simply making sure all the right things end up on the right pages.

Then there's the workaholic stuff that I'm actually scared of letting go of: checking my email on a Saturday afternoon, deadline dinners, sharing office in-jokes and silly forwarded email videos, eagerly opening and reading every last reader letter (even the hate mail, sometimes directed, personally, at me!), redesigning my latest spreadsheet creation, fretting over how many pages are left to be laid out, obsessively copy editing pages I know have already been copy edited... I can freely admit that some of these things do not merit the time I put into them, and many will say I'll be better off once I have that fabulous thing we call a baby because I won't be able to waste time and energy on certain trivial things at work. But right now I'm not ready to say goodbye, and I'm definitely freaking out.