9.21.2006

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...

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Perhaps I should encourage The Husband to apply for positions with Google when we return to California...just so I can go visit him at lunch time.

I hope your baby (Vigilus Starchild?) comes soon!