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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Google has an unusual perk: on-site laundry machines. When I first joined, it was just one laundry machine sitting in building 0. By the time I left, there were no less than 4 laundry rooms with entire banks of washers and dryers. When I first joined, I didn't think much of the perk: one laundry machine that operated at European speeds meant that it was never available when you needed it.

When the first laundry room with a bank of machines showed up, I started using them, because it was more work to dig up quarters for the laundry machines at my apartment building than to just dump the laundry onto my trailer and tow it to work on my bicycle. In California, you can do this most of the year and not even need a waterproof bag for the laundry. I also started keeping a week's worth of clothes at work and then never even bringing those home: this let me do a bike commute sans saddlebag, if I so chose to.

As mentioned in my book, Google had an unusual number of fresh graduates. This led to the kind of "accidents" you would expect in a college dorm. One day, I came in to the laundry room to find one of our administrative assistants in a huff. "Darn Engineers with PhDs shouldn't be allowed to do laundry," she muttered under her breath. I asked her what happened, and she said, "Some idiot PhD went and stuck washing powder into the dryer. Now the whole thing's jammed up and there's powder all over the place." She went out, grabbed a marker and a sheet of paper, and taped up the dryer with an "Out of Order" sign. Then she had a better idea. She went out, grabbed a ton of paper and tape, and wrote on them: "Washing machine. Use detergent here. Do not put dryer sheets here.", and "Dryer. DO NOT using detergent. Use dryer sheets here!" And proceeded to label every machine in the laundry room.

Since then, we have not had a repeat of the "detergent in drying machine" incident. So at least we know that even engineers with PhDs can read.

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