Anne van Kesteren

The Interview

Saturday morning I left the Netherlands. I took a cab to the airport, because why not, and also because I did not want to miss my flight. Train service was spotty a few flights ago and going to The States is not quite like flying through Europe. The next flight would be the next day, not a couple of hours later. The cab driver happened to be a spoiled guy in his thirties. Turned his life around after he got a kid, from wannabe criminal to gangster cabby, but was still provided for by his brother. His brother had to, otherwise dad would step in. “It’s our culture.” That’s why he was driving a new car with the yellow plates, instead of the usual taxi blue. Other drivers paid several hundred a week for the cars from his brother, he paid nothing, and got the latest models. Whether the yellow plates were legal I had no idea, but we were already well underway when he told me and fuck, the car was just fine. Taxi plates would come when he got back to Utrecht. The only potential inconvenience would be having to walk an extra fifty meters at Schiphol because yellow plates would not get you into the zone. Turns out the caretaker of the zone did not care, but I walked fifty anyway because the door we stopped at was closed. And then some to find the right check-in desk.

Anyway, the flight was fine. Combination of sleeping, comforting the guy next to me that I did not crush his jacket by pushing my pillow into the overhead bin, and fighting the inflight entertainment system. It was broken so instead I made time go by via sleeping and reading The Wild Sheep Chase for the second time. Given recent events I noticed the similarity between the once-occupied-by-a-sheep boss and Steve Jobs. But then maybe there are many such figures in history.

Passed through immigration, got a cab with a guy who ran a San Francisco taxi. Apparently they charge extra for going to Mountain View. I told him I was from the Netherlands, in exchange he mentioned to be looking for a bicycle. No cycling this trip, I thought, and already regretted I had not told Edward about my visit. Could have crossed the bridge again. Watched some Sherlock at the hotel, met with Ian and kid and attempted building sand castles. Turns out I’m terrible or at least need some practice or maybe a kid. Went to dinner, had a rack of lamb at Shiva, and then walked home. Well, the hotel, which was further than I thought. More Sherlock, sleep, early morning.

Pancakes, more Sherlock, thirty minute walk to Castro for lunch and Starbucks. Met J while walking, he came down from San Diego to work nearby as sysadmin and recommended a local Thai place. Had great salmon green curry, pink lemonade, then hang out in the Starbucks mostly to drink some Chai and chat with friends online. Told them the Starbucks was sad, people were crying and others were looking uncomfortably at those crying. I tried looking at my laptop instead but was rather unsuccessful. Crying distracts. The situation resolved itself in about twenty minutes. Lemon cake, awful mango smoothie, some, time to walk back.

Watched one Sherlock, then walked around for some food. Found a sushi place, had terrible sashimi, okay Sapporo. Hard to mess up bottled beer I guess. The sashimi was too cold and not very fresh. Drank an extra beer to forget about the taste and noticed a massage salon that advertised sauna on the way back. Full of naïveté I went in there, asked for sauna and ended up paying for a massage. Sauna was nice, but disappointingly short. Instantly missed Japan. The next morning interview nervousness kicked in.

Two Googlers, an interviewee for location services, and myself were in the shuttle service. I asked a few questions, but their answers were brief. Read some Murakami in the lobby to get my mind of things and the guy waiting next to me started talking about 1Q84. Worth a read, I said. He apologized for interrupting. I told him it did not matter, we chat some more, he apologized again, etc. I then finished the chapter and the next, and then my recruiter came and asked reception. “Anne? No, not yet.” Reception does not deal with weird Dutch names. I stood up, mumbled something, and off we went to the interview room in building 2000.

The best bit was being asked about tree traversal being one of the writers of the DOM specification and just staring at the whiteboard dumbfounded for a good five minutes. Most humiliating moment of the day. “So yeah, I am the editor of the DOM standard, wrote such algorithms in English and code, but really, it does not come to mind right now.” (With more “euh”.) The next best bit was everyone being awesome, nice, and understanding of a guy trying to get a job working on standards interviewing as an engineer.

Addendum: On the way back I was wearing my “Jesus Is My Health Insurance” t-shirt and got a pat down in SFO because I opted out of the cancer machine (made by Rapiscan, really). Almost done touching me all over he exclaims he really really likes my t-shirt. Continuous the touching, repeats the statement, and then says: “I truly believe in what your t-shirt says. If they made one in my size I would wear it proudly all day.” I managed to suppress the need to bring up the word irony, smiled, and quickly left the area.

Addendum June 2012: After a proposition from my dear friend Robbert to change the world together, I ended up declining Google’s offer.