Snacks at companies

Ever since I read “I was paid to eat snacks”, my secret love of free food (especially snacks) has come out. Full frontal. Unashamed.

Because who doesn’t love snacks? Especially when they’re free?

Unlike the rest of America, I grew up starved of afternoon snacks. I come home after school after a long squawky-voice-of-neighbors-mother-who-is-helicopter-parent-carpool ride and snacks are not present. After all, that is the Chinese way. You eat when it is dinner.

Occasionally, my mom would offer up fruit or something unsatisfying food. Although granted, I was used to it and never thought to have snacks…until college. Suddenly with a small salary from my IT job, I could afford ridiculous amount of snacks. Candy, pretzels, juice. You name it. But the fact that I had to pay for it often took away from the joy.

As in: I JUST ATE $3 IN TWO MINUTES. Because as you know, every cent counts as a college student.

That continued for another 6 years through graduate school. Then boom, it was over. Real world. Real salaries. Real offices. (Sort of, my first job was in the VP of Engineering’s apartment.)

Then suddenly as I entered the world of real jobs. That is, real office jobs, I discovered FREE SNACKS. I had this habit of getting up every 30 minutes to get snacks. Sometimes I would feign going to the restroom (which was of course in an apartment, awkwardly placed between everything) then I would do this crazy sidestep to the snack counter. Jackpot.

Then later, I got a real office job. In a design agencies no less. No there, people cared about quality. Although I still gorged on the Red Vines. Then at my next company—the smallest one yet, my voice finally found its purpose. Because now I had say. And now I could say NO YUCKY CHEEZ STIX, LETS HAVE DRIED FRUIT. (You see I had become all organic and wholesome, by this point). One time, the head of the company sent me to Trader Joe’s where I went on a shopping spree of dried fruit, high-end trail mix, and lightly crisped chips paired with gently mixed guacamole. This is also the period in my life where I baked. Cookies and muffins magically appeared on our snack table. I had discovered the best way to get rid of my unwanted snacks.

Then I entered the world of being in-house. That is, in tech. You see, by this point, I had visited Google and Twitter, loving the fact that they had free food. But snacks? Well, I loved the magical arrays of beverages—not just soda mind you. Expensive teas, Odwalla juices, coconut water. Then the candies. Cheese wheels! Did I just walk into a snack room?

But I remember when an executive once mentioned as the company was struggling, “We can’t take away the snacks. That will send a message.”

Today, I attended an industry event held at a large office. While everyone chattered, I grabbed a bag of sour watermelon and a bottle of sweet tea. It was so tasty.

When I play games with people I don’t know…

At first, embarrassment overcomes me as pinkness oozes into my cheeks. Yet the urge to compete and win is so overwhelming.

I don’t like to show a stranger my anxiety, my insanity, my irrationality. So I try my best to blend in. But in every single game, I find it easy to play as the clueless player. Because most of the time, I truly really don’t have an idea what I am doing. In board games and video games.

The colorful board pieces, the detailed instructions, the buttons that need mashing…I almost tune out. And I don’t want to be the one that says, “Now I hear that you just gave out instructions. But in case that I didn’t understand, can you repeat it?”

Yup, that’s me. In the midst of groans.

So the games when a select few play undercover, I immediately retreat to playing for what just entertains me. For what causes the most chaos. For what seems the most entertaining and disruptive. Or just cluelessly destroying anything in my path as I plow through the board. Or being that one character on the screen, jumping up and down punching in the air in the corner because I didn’t know that I was supposed to be fighting the crazy looking red monster. Of course, I didn’t know!

Yup, that’s me.

The saga of candy crush

“Candy crush saga almost ruined my company,” a friend once declared, describing his co-founder’s obsession.

Hearing that, I was intrigued. Throughout my life, various casual games have passed through my hands. Chibo Robo, Animal Crossing and Fat Princess were the rare ones that stayed with my hands…for awhile. Yet, they too drifted away. But they never did occupy my time at night.

At my first real job, a coworker was trying to understand nighttime rituals for a new product experience. And I simply described my post-college evening ritual. After returning from work (or an evening out), I automatically spent an hour or two on my computer—chatting with friends, socializing, browsing. Then as sleep fell upon me, I brushed my teeth then retire to bed. Instead of a book that once occupied my mind right before sleeping…for many years, back then, I would start playing games on the Nintendo DS (note this is before the era of iPhones). I told him, “It’s to get myself really tired.”

Years later, I find myself falling into similar behavior. My friends have grown up drifting away from the need for connection online. I have too, appreciating the solace and the silence offered by sitting at my computer. I love wrapping myself into a burrito while I drift into sleep. But suddenly, because of that initial intrigue, the casual game before sleep came back.

It’s dangerous.

When I first played the game, the colors reminded me of my one only vice. Sugar. Candy. With every match of the candies, I could feel a candy crunch satisfyingly in my mind. As the candies fell on the board, the ooze and the kick felt so real in my teeth. I could even feel the tingle at the tip of my gums. Lately, I have been on the levels with the chocolate growing like funghi. And today, I truly faltered and found myself at a Safeway, buying chocolate, unable to resist.

So today in a few moments after writing a bit more in my major project, I will retire to bed with candy crush saga helping me to drift away.

I suddenly heard the music over the lawn

Eight years ago standing near a large lawn near a college campus, a song blared with heavy drumbeats and catchy melody. In the distance, I spotted figures moving up and down. I started nodding my head with the beat. Looking at my friend, I said, “I want to dance!”

She frowned at the music.

I wish at that moment that I lost myself and danced. Danced like nobody was watching. But instead, I stood solemnly with her. Perhaps she saw noise. I saw joy, and then felt disappointment as I stood there.

Is it better to have wandered or focused?

My carpool mate suddenly asked, “How old are you?”

Just moments before, he talked about more than 15 years of moving from Norway back to Denmark then back to Norway then back to Denmark then to the United States. His struggles with relationships that made him make hard choices, often leading by emotions than logic. As so he claimed.

I shared how I went to college, then went to graduate school, then started working and climbed up levels, always wanting to move, but never quite moving. Changing jobs so frequently like all my peers in the Bay Area.

In his voice, I heard the sudden tinge of nervousness as he asked for my age. He looked for confirmation that my years of experience was equal to his years of experience. That seniority is equivalent to age. It was a common hint of anxiety I have heard from people older than me in the Bay Area. Especially where the youth is much more valued than the old.

As I started answering, I worried for a moment that his anxiety would rise. But how could I avoid the answer and shift seamlessly to another topic without awkwardness?

The first step is to admit that we are racist

There’s a joke that floats in the blogosphere that surfaces anytime a comment is made against someone’s character: That’s RAY-cess.

After the 100th time of seeing it, I have lost its initial meaning, usually interpreting as—hey that’s funny.

Yet as a liberal San Franciscan, I cringe at any hint of discrimination. I call it out when people think Turkey is dangerous “like all those Muslim countries”. I speak outwardly about gender bias in authority.

Yet, how can we forget the fact that no matter what we say, we all each still have a bias inside us? That we have lived in a culture where discrimination especially racism is almost taught. Intellectually, I believe everyone has a fair chance. Yet I wonder why my body tenses up in Oakland and why assumptions spread in my head about someone who has darker skin.

Yes, I can’t help that I don’t have a positive association. I want to have a positive association, but it doesn’t come naturally.

30 Signs You’re Almost 30

Buzzfeed caught my eye on this one. Because I am just over 30.

And it drives me crazy how much I used to be ok with in my twenties. And how now, I just don’t do loud noise, cramped concerts, and…how I have an increasing admiration of “role models” in their 30s.

I was so close, but I didn’t even know

Now older and jaded, I look back at my experiences and think, “Did I really do that?”

In the last year (due to the common topic in my FB and Twitter feed), I have read the sadness that comes with rape cases. Plus all the controversy generated by male politicians.

My sister always believes that the question What’s the craziest thing you have ever done says a lot about a person, because it’s a sign of their adventure, their risktaking sensibility, evidence of what is outside their comfort zone, their storytelling ability, etc. etc.

I have always told two stories. The time that I met someone from an accidental phone call in Berkeley, which ended up more awkward than dangerous. And the time that I got sidetracked into almost a dangerous alley with a middle-aged stranger while I was licking an ice cream cone.

As I tell those stories, I describe it with vivid detail. The way I felt. The adrenaline of discovering something new. And yet, I would never recommend it to anyone else. Because now, I almost think…I probably was close to something dangerous. But I always thought that I was rather powerful in my youth—that the news never happens to me (and it still hasn’t). But what if the guy changed his mind and pursued something malicious instead of me walking away thinking only well, that was awkward.

Is it because I refuse to be intoxicated? Is it because I don’t wear makeup? Is it because I never dress provocatively preferring comfortable clothes? Is it because I can have a shrill voice and can at will, assert an aggressive personality (and bite) when something doesn’t go my way? Probably not, because based on all the stories out there, it doesn’t matter. It matters that violations of personal boundaries are not committed. At the very least, I hope that all situations are handled delicately and properly. Without stupidity. And most importantly, that such cases just do not happen.

I love to talk abstract

In Before Midnight (new favorite movie), a dinner scene enfolds with couples talking about what loves mean to them. Especially at their current age as it pertains to their current generation. The young adults who meet so serendipitously…but are full of practicality. Then the middle-aged couple who talk with ease. Celine and Jesse of course talking wistfully of their meet cute moment of soulmates…and then breaking into what reality really means in terms of love. And finally, the quiet older woman who speaks of love floating through—the moments that you grip and hold…and realize that they drift away as life does.

It was beautiful. So connected.

But what struck me the most was…how I have yet to be at a dinner conversation where every participant can engage at that same level. Where we can ask each other why and we sit back to ponder, thinking aloud, with such easy grace. Most people in the world are concrete speakers. In the Myers-Brigg world, they are strong in S or sense. They speak about what is in front of them and think about what is in front of them.

I, on the other hand, find it easy to speak concrete, but I truly relish speaking in abstract. I love thinking about philosophy. Thinking about what could be possible. What if. What actions and consequences mean to the entire world. I know that if everyone in the world thought like me, I would go crazy. Yet, I feel so lonely if I don’t get a taste of abstract thinking every so often. Is that why I work in design? And have this incredible desire to write?

When people ask me about ice cream, they often ask about “the craziest flavor”. This is where I tilt my head slightly and say, “Ah, but is it crazy when locals don’t think it’s crazy? And then I don’t find it crazy?” But I stop myself, because I think that I am coming off a little philosophical and a little too snotty. I can sense their glazed eyes, seeking something concrete, something to hold onto. So I get to their level, knowing that they are asking about a flavor that they haven’t experienced. So I start simple with something American-made: Goat cheese ice cream, I exclaim.

Surprised, they often react, “But how is that possible? How does goat cheese get into ice cream?”

I smile and say, “It is stirred into the cream!”

But the flavor topic isn’t enough for me and I can’t help veering into philosophy. I say that ice cream is happy. I say that it is one of the few foods that is shareable. Then I describe the experiences about re-experiencing our childhood. But I am sad when I only see blank stares when I am hoping for someone to pause…and think thoughtfully like me.

But it IS all about me

“Let’s take photos of what we are eating!” I exclaimed.

So we carefully moved our plates into position and held our phones above. Click. Then we uploaded it to twitter with a slightly boastful comment.

“There is a crash at SFO!” he exclaimed. “It’s all over twitter.”

We gazed down on our food, steaming and swimming in richness. Both of us exchanged embarrassed looks for our rare boast of food.

As the news reports rolled in, we became part of the concerned public. We trolled twitter for commentary. Then the restaurant turned on the large TV blasting the breaking news. Fellow customers made loud generalization — “They say SFO is so unsafe because of the fog!” and “I flew into SFO just a few days ago.” Everyone including me was suddenly an expert on everything.

I know that it’s because all of us were suddenly aware of our own mortality and how short our lives could be.

But later, I came across Sheryl Sandberg’s commentary on her Facebook. My first thought was “Well couldn’t I tell everyone that I landed at SFO just over two weeks ago and I am so glad that I wasn’t there!” But that seemed insensitive and disrespected the tragedy. So I held my lip, just hoping that it was going to be a miracle landing.

But as the top story of Sandberg’s “miraculous choice” zoomed to top all news outlets…I wondered if she was well-deserved? And I wanted to add my own snarky commentary as we listened to all the radio reports from eyewitnesses who blurted how they were driving by SFO and saw…smoke! And that they saw…more smoke! And that they are unhappy!

Regardless, I loved this comment from the gawker post:

Nilla Waffler: You guys. I was on a jet out of Portland with a connection in Newark. One year later BAM 9/11.

Thank god I’m ok though, right?