“Lost in Silicon Valley” or “Learning the Way to San Jose”
As with most visits from the East Coast to the West, one leaves early in the morning, stops briefly in Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, and arrives just in time for a fashionably late lunch. In my case I invested the afternoon in a combination of conference calls and a brief visit to downtown San Jose.
I won’t bore you with a recap of my conference calls, though they were quite exciting as far as conference calls go.
Being in San Jose presented me with an opportunity to test out all kinds of apps. You see, as a North Carolinian, I’m somewhat of a late bloomer to apps. The best by far was the sometimes controversial car service app, Uber.
With two taps on my phone, Taruq and his like-new Camry pulled up in front of me. He was ready to take me anywhere my heart desired with no exchange of cash — I’d preloaded my credit card information. Taruq was shocked that this was my first Uber ride, saying he hadn’t had a first timer in his car in years. He also told me he loved the money he earned from Uber and then offered an assortment of snacks and drinks to make the ride downtown a bit more pleasant. It easily beat virtually every other cab ride I’ve ever taken.
I’d always heard that practically everyone out in Silicon Valley eventually tries to start a business of their own or builds an app. This proved true. After I’d finished dinner, I was held back by the waiter who seemed reluctant to turn the table. He wore carefully ripped jeans, colorful sneakers, and a T-Shirt with a picture of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the front and the Pope on the back. A well-trimmed beard with a waxed handlebar mustache tied the whole thing together.
Rather than letting me leave, he insisted on talking to me about his “bossman’s” great new app, which I needed to download forthwith.
I asked him what it did.
“Oh yeah. That’d be helpful, wouldn’t it? Lahl.”
It took me a second to figure that one out. The guy used txt in casual, everyday conversation. “Lahl” to him were the letters “LOL” to you and me. As in Laugh Out Loud, which, by the way, he did not actually do when saying “Lahl.” Offering it, instead, with an air of condescension.
Regardless, what followed was a lengthy and possibly thorough (I can’t be sure) string of words, some of which I’d never before heard. I wish I could tell you about the app or the conversation, but I can’t. I had literally no idea what he was saying. There was something about an API, something else about reducing bandwidth, and one last bit about dealing with large volumes of data.
“Imagine collating news sources based on location-based data through the Twitter API in a way that allows users to crowdsource funding for solutions to commonplace developmental challenges. We can do it!”
He went on for another several minutes. And nothing I did phased him. Even through my yawns, stretched with the fervor of a guy who’d just flown in from the East Coast, he kept pitching.
By the way, he didn’t tell me the name of the app — only that I should download it. In fairness, I never asked.
The waiter’s unusual garb really wasn’t that unusual. It was I who was out of place in my business casual attire. The dress code is universal and can best be described as “Hobo Chic.” It’s properly executed when punctuated by tattoos, beards, heavy-looking piercings, skinny jeans, and other evidence of general hipstering. I did however see one gentleman downtown wearing a proper East Coast suit. Although, admittedly, he had accessorized with a legitimate pair of blue blockers. I didn’t know you could still get those?!
The Silicon Valley dress code makes me wonder whether it’s really self expression if everyone does it.
Anyway, my meeting began the next day. The meeting was not with Google, but it was on their campus. I was among the oldest (and lowest paid) people within a twenty mile radius. The Google culture was hard to miss. Young techies ride brightly colored bicycles everywhere (in fact one member of our group was nearly run over by one). There were even four-wheeled cycles, which could be ridden (and powered) by five or six people for mobile meetings. Regrettably, I was locked in an internal conference room.
We took a walk at lunch during which my colleagues debated about a particular tree, wondering whether it was a Redwood or some other kind of fir. I said, “Hold on. I’ll Google it”
I then stopped a happy, young Google employee and asked. I, of course, thought this was hilarious. Neither the employee nor my colleagues seemed amused.
It was a Redwood.
Silicon Valley is a high tech gem. Check it out if you get the chance.