Coffee in California


After all my hotel silliness last night, I woke up at 5:30 this morning, a rank injustice after taking so long to get a bed. I could have at least got more than five hours" sleep, watched over by the Beatles.

Today was my first day on the Facebook campus and my first experience of a big US technology campus. There’s something that the human mind struggle to correlate after all that travel; senses assaulted by free food, bicycles, sunshine and a series of fantastical buildings, I couldn’t quite believe I was still installed in reality.

There are a lot of buildings, given quaint names like "Building 10" and "Building 17" (who could claim Californians don’t have poetry in their hearts?) and the word "HACK" written in letters on the plaza big enough to be seen from space. (If you’re a spy satellite; I’m not sure if an astronaut could read it with an unaided eye.)

There’s also so much food. I thought there was a lot in Singapore, but it’s dwarfed by the sheer range and volume of the mothership. Perhaps I imagined it, or maybe I really did have Irish stew for lunch. Was that culturally inappropriate for California, or a homage to the Facebook Ireland team in Dublin?

Not that lunch is the problem. But putting endless potato crisps, chocolate, soda and biscuits in range of me is a disaster in the making. I may fail to get back on the plane in August because I’ll be carrying too much excess baggage around my midriff. Stupid lack of self control!

In Chaos Monkeys, Garcia Martinez writes about engineers at Facebook not stopping coding while on toilet breaks. I wasn’t privileged enough to witness this, but when I went into one toilet stall I found a paper coffee cup, resting atop the toilet paper holder. I returned a few hours later and found it was still there, and on inspection was half full of coffee. (Or, strictly speaking, I observed coffee cups in the toilet on two occasions, but if these were different cups of coffee then that’s a bigger problem. Occam’s Razor be damned.)

I carried the cup out and threw it in the trash. Perhaps it had stayed there because people were worried somebody might see them bringing it out of the toilets and assume they were the secret coffee drinker. My concerns about hygiene and tidiness had finally trumped worries about what people might think of me, but I needn’t have worried. There were no witnesses.

I wonder about what drives a need for caffeine consumption in the toilet. Is it just a practical implementation of the old "this coffee tastes like s–t" joke? Does somebody require the extra assistance that caffeine can provide to the digestive process? Wouldn’t it be better just to eat more fibre? Why am I beset by such scatological reports? Why couldn’t they have purchased the coffee from Starbucks and had the barista write their name on the cup so I could track them down? How long had that coffee been there? Was it even coffee? (It must have been, surely. What kind of monster would drink tea in the toilet?)

So many questions. I predict a fitful night’s sleep, turning these queries over in my mind.


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