“Get the pink one” he says, and he’s off.
I mount the diminutive bike and start rolling after him, a little awkward at first. The handlebars jerk right and left as I not-so-smoothly negotiate my center of mass. On your horses, to Building 43!
“Careful,” he yells at me, half-turned on his fairy cycle, “the brakes are tricky on these!”
“What?” I holler back, his words only now making sense as I almost cause an accident to happen rolling into the intersection on red. The drivers stop indulgently, unfazed, and wait for me to wheel along open-mouthed, passively holding the brakeless handlebars. A blonde on a pink minibike.
I pedal furiously to catch up.
“How do you stop?” I ask breathlessly, now traveling by his side.
“You pedal backwards,” and he promptly demonstrates, coming to a full stop as I almost run into a tree.
Building 43. Through the clear doors people are coming and going, and the reception area beyond the doors seems busy enough too. People of all kinds - Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Africans, Yankees and maybe even Eastern-European oddments like myself. I try not to stare, but it’s pretty cool - this is what the streets of Toronto look like. Everyone is going somewhere. As for me, I’m not sure where I am going, but I’m guessing there’s got to be food at the destination.
We park the Google bikes and before we’ve even walked away a couple of dudes hop on and they’re off with them.
“You can leave them anywhere on campus and someone will pick them up,” he responds to my questioning look. I gaze after the dudes squeaking and creaking away with software engineer nonchalance.
“Maybe I should have told them about the brakes?”
But folks here seem to know everything. It’s something in their eyes when they pass you in the hallway, like they are teeming with a secret they’ve only just discovered, like Marie Curie jubilating with the radium in her pocket - um, only less radioactive and less creepy. There is something like sparks everywhere. Even outside, the air is heavy with the vapors of brainstorming, which is probably happening everywhere. After all, we know that Building 43 is where Sergey, Larry and Marissa work their magic.
After I’ve found out about the Google campus bikes, the Google shuttle that collects employees and deposits them at their houses, like royalty, and the 25 cafes in the Googleplex, I will confess that I am a little pissed. I’ve set my mind on finding something crappy about Google. Decidedly crappy.
Our next stop is at the bathroom, where I find a warm toilet seat and reading materials on the back of the door. I spend more time than is normal here, and I tear myself away from the reading material only because I don’t want to make him worry. The autoflush toilet refuses to autoflush, so I am now desperately looking for the flush button, which is nowhere to be found. Instead, there are myriad other buttons. I could get a front spray, a back spray, a quick dry, a long dry, maybe there’s even a candy dispenser right in this wall. Seriously, Google? How about some flushing.
A-ha! It dawns on me. What a clever intelligence test they’ve devised. Only those who can figure out how to flush the toilet deserve to work here. So now I am frantically pushing on pipes and fittings and finally, finally, one of them turns out to be the incognito flush button. Ha! I would have passed that test with flying colors. In only 3.67 minutes.
Over Indian food, I find out more annoying things about Google. It turns out that right here in the Googleplex there is also a smoothie bar (which we later visit, and I have a finger-licking rabbit-style concoction), a massage parlor, a gym and a rec room. A rec room? We later play two hours of Ping-Pong, where I get dangerously competitive, and get intoxicated on Kit-Kats. Kit-Kats too? Jesus, Google!
Outside, the bikes that will take us to the edge of the campus are right outside the door, left by some other weary travelers. How convenient. Riding through campus, in the chilly air of California in winter, I feel my lungs fill with serenity. The squeaking of the bike is like a song, and I sing along, pedaling faster and faster. Outside one of the buildings, we can see large, looming silhouettes of the seven flavors of Android: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich. On a closer look, a sign says picture-taking is encouraged, but please don’t climb on the sculptures. I’ve half a mind to climb the eclair just to see what they’ll do to me. I bet they’ll give me a cupcake, pat me on the head and send me home. I can’t imagine anybody getting angry here.
No luck. I couldn’t find anything crappy at Google today. Maybe tomorrow.