If I die this summer, it will be on a staircase.*
So recently, my life became a giant sausagefest. For the past nine years, I’ve been surrounded by women, men who are mostly in touch with their feelings, and people who don’t subscribe to the gender binary. This is a direct consequence of attending performing arts high school followed by Vassar followed by working at a dance store and living and breathing dance and theatre. I was only exposed to large groups of men when they were visiting all-male a cappella groups sleeping on my living room floor (hey, Haverford Humtones!) or… nope. That’s actually the only significant large group of men I’ve been in close proximity with in the past nine years. (See? I TOLD you I didn’t fund my Vassar education by working as a high-class hooker!)
Anyway, I recently started working at a Silicon Valley tech company. Guys, let me tell you something: that whole thing about how the tech industry is overrun by dudes is not a joke. It is actually overrun by dudes. Kind, smart, well-mannered dudes, but dudes all the same. I started by first day with some twenty other interns. I was the ONLY lady. (I am also an English major and the only non-tech intern, so it was kind of like being an anthropomorphic enchilada at a pizza parlor.) I got over that in about five minutes and am now thoroughly enjoying my burgeoning friendships with all my new male computer genius buddies.
But here is a fact about dudes in the Silicon Valley: DUDES ARE IN A HURRY. Dudes do not walk. Dudes RUN, and they run everywhere. I turn corners with trepidation because three times out of ten (not nine. We have like half of Palo Alto’s real estate; there are not enough employees to cover all those corners), there is a dude RUNNING around the corner, off to input some groundbreaking code or play some really important rounds of Halo or grab the last size XL T-shirt. Sometimes I wonder if I should wear my bike helmet around the office, lest I lose my brain cells in a tragic accident with one of the many Davids or Matts.
The most dangerous time is mealtimes. My company is one of those awesome tech companies that feeds its employees three meals a day. And unlike certain dining halls in certain liberal arts colleges where I’ve spent time in recent years, that food is not just edible but REALLY, REALLY good. But particularly at lunchtime, there is a MAD DASH to the kitchen… especially the kitchen in my building, because we have the best chef.
Let me bring this back to stairs: I have to go up a staircase to get to the kitchen, as well as the bathroom. (This is a good thing, because I’m trying really hard not to gain the freshman fifteen again… difficult when you could actually eat your body weight in Cheez-Its at any hour of the day. For free.) When I walk up the stairs to get my lunch, I am invariably met by a dude or a platoon of dudes SPRINTING down the stairs, often with lunch in hand. I have seen lettuce abandoned on the staircase after it flew off a Sprinting Dude’s plate. It is NO JOKE. It’s like taking a leisurely stroll directly into the last mile of the Boston Marathon, if the Boston Marathon were full of people who hadn’t been running for 25.2 miles and tended to subsist on Mountain Dew and cupcakes. And also if only two to three people ran the Boston Marathon at a time. Regardless, it’s dangerous. More dangerous than the malfunctioning remote-control helicopter the man in sequined pants was testing in the atrium last Fancy Pants Thursday.
Contrast this with the general snail’s pace of men at Vassar. Vassar boys (I can’t believe I used the word “men” first. There are no men at Vassar, except for the hale and hearty James H. Merrell, chief manitou in charge of American history and fellow 7 A.M. gym-goer) are, comparatively, slugs. They are too busy pondering the meaning of life and working out new guitar chords and trying to think of new ways to seduce girls into their rooms besides “Hey, wanna watch this sweet foreign black-and-white postmodern epic set in a postapocalyptic Sweden with no subtitles?” Compounding this constant state of self-improvement is the fact that half of them are high all the damn time. Clearly, it is too much to ask that one wrest philosophical meaning from the vagaries of life while maintaining a steady footfall.
This brings me to my more meaningful point: how vastly the attitude of Silicon Valley tech dudes differs from that of Vassar boys. I’m generalizing here, but for the most part, Vassar boys think slowly and speak slowly. I often feel that the reason that Vassar girls trip all over themselves in class to make their opinions heard as fast as possible as that we’re trying to show that we’re as smart as the “wise” boys. I could go on at length here about the “valley girl” stereotype and the way female speech patterns have evolved, but that’s another topic for another time. I resent that we are inherently perceived to be dumb or flighty or “valley girls” because we speak quickly and trip on our words. Here in the Silicon Valley, men do the same! They, too, are in a hurry to make their thoughts known! And in a similar and less metaphorical hurry to get back to their office with their crab cakes before they get cold!
I just like that the dudes here are is as much of a rush to get their words and work out as I am. They code like I write: fast and furious and with a lot of angst and strife but also a lot of what one might dare call “skillz.” And if this manifests itself in the overwhelming urge to sprint down stairs and around corners all the damn time, so be it. I might just pull a Hermione Granger and start looking around corners with a mirror like there’s a fast-moving software developer basilisk on the loose.
*I rode my bike for two blocks in the wrong direction on a one-way street today, so take this with a grain of salt.