Tales from Silicon Valley #2: There’s no such thing as a free lunch (on Sunday)

Welcome to lunch.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, tech companies spend a lot of money on the intangibles of gainful employment. If your job was a beer, then tech companies would have the best mouthfeel. While everyone else is losing their minds chanting “What’s to be done with these cursed millennials, tech companies are like “Oh, millennials like Minecraft? The break room is now Minecraft”. Which can be annoying because now you have to punch three coffee plants to get your morning coffee. But it’s okay, because I’m a millennial.

Tech companies need programmers. A lot of programmers are millennials. As a result, tech companies can’t afford to treat millennials with the naked contempt your Facebook uncle does. In addition to this, good programmers are practically invaluable because they can make things that have never existed before. Finding good programmers is like panning for gold in frontier times. That is if instead of gold you were panning for socially maladjusted twenty somethings who really like board games.

As a result tech companies will usually have a Millennial Outreach Program that includes corporate buses to get you to work (and oppress the masses). If a millennial has to navigate themselves to work they often immediately collapse because no one on the train gives them a participation award.

Another key component of the Outreach Program is the Free Lunch.

As a millennial, I find feeding myself to be disproportionately difficult. I’m always accidentally buying pop tarts and replacing designated healthy meals with mocha frappucinos. And then when I do eat a healthy meal, it ends up costing $40 because of smashed avocados. As a result of my generationally enforced incompetence I find the prospect of a free lunch unreasonably effective motivation. More than stock options, more than advancement prospects I get up in the morning with a spring in my step when I know I am not responsible for feeding myself.

As a result, I work at a company whose Millennial Outreach Program includes a free lunch Monday-Friday. In addition, you can get left overs for dinner if you’re still around in the afternoon. I consider it my religious duty to try and eat this free food as much as possible. Many other people feel the same, and some people take it too far. I was on the bus to the work Christmas party when I met one such a person.

I sat next to a young Chinese American guy. Because of his age, fidgety demeanor and my own internal racism and sexism I assumed him to be a programmer.

We started chatting, and I brought up the free lunches. I’d only been working at this place for a month, and the prospect of a free lunch was still unreasonably exciting to me. 
“I also like the free lunch,” he said.
“It’s the only thing I eat.” he said.

“Oh… you mean like you try and take home a bunch of leftovers on Friday? I’ve done that a couple of times but it’s hard to get enough to last through Saturday.”

“No,” he said,” I mean I don’t eat on the weekends.”

“What?”

“It was tough at first but I’m used to it now,” he said.

“You don’t eat anything on the weekends… What if you go out?”

“I mostly play video games all weekend. I don’t have any food in my house so if I get hungry I just have to wait it out,” he said.

“I see… You must feel pretty shitty on Sunday. You must need some sort of drop in your performance” I said.

“No… Usually on Sunday I feel fine.”

“You must drink a lot of coffee…” I was desperately trying to poke holes in his story at this point.

“I don’t drink coffee,” he said.

At this point I just squinted at him. “Why… Why do you do this?”

He didn't really know why he did it. He had however started tracking his weight, and he noticed that over the course of his fasting he tended to lose about 3 pounds.