Thursday, August 08, 2002

I celebrated my birthday in traditional Silicon Valley fashion: by working a ten-hour day with no breaks (except a couple of birthday phone calls from Lisa and my mother). The work ethic here is disguised by the flaky, casual approach to workplace dress and manners, the lack of hierarchy, the toys on every desk. It’s powerful nonetheless, and not, so far as I can tell, driven by any deep guilt or even ambition in any of the usual senses. Techies work because they love ideas, because they can’t tell the difference between work and play, because they can’t think of anything else they would rather do. When they’re done at work, they go home and play on their computers. Very similar in some ways to artists and writers, except that good techies have a much better chance to get rich.

As for play at work. . . . well, I spent some time talking with my boss yesterday, while playing with the anagrams on her little conference table. The other day when I came in they spelled out “sodomy,” among other words. (We haven’t had our “workplace diversity” training yet, in which we’ll learn not to use naughty words lest we offend anyone.) I put together “taut,” “Mafia,” and “smut.” She also has Legos, little plastic aliens, and various other workplace toys. There are several whiteboards around the company used solely as graffiti boards and places to write jokes and smart-alec remarks. I myself have a large whiteboard where I keep lists and magnetic Simpsons figures for people to play with. Also magnetic poetry — my boss came by and wrote a risqué poem on my board.

Besides being playful, my co-workers are young. A few days ago some of us were discussing age and birthdays. One of the boys here is 23 — 23! I could easily be his mother. But then most of my co-workers are in their 20s or early 30s. I'm the oldest woman in the company and one of the oldest people. I think there's one guy who's a bit older than I am. That's because in Silicon Valley, everybody my age is retired — all millionaires.

After I was finished with work, I went home for the birthday celebrations. Sonja and Michele had decorated the house and cooked a wonderful dinner. Then I opened presents: mostly toys, including a vast set of colored pencils (which I brought in to work as a desk toy), beautiful embroidery silks, some beading supplies (including a beading board — yes!), and an IOU for the new edition of the Vertigo Tarot. The big present was an HP scanner — high-resolution, color, OCR software, you name it. Now I can scan in all those family pictures, plus the years and years of typed journals and typed manuscripts. I stayed up late installing and testing it.

Altogether a good birthday, but I’m looking forward to a very quiet weekend. I'm wiped out from too much caffeine and work, too little rest and solitude, and that bug I had last weekend. All I want now is sleep and a chance to finish getting my office together. The only obligation I have coming up is tomorrow night, when we’re having another communal household to dinner. I’ve met some of them, but not all. We have a lot of interests in common, and I do want to spend time with them, but I also need about a month of total solitude.

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