A Van Down By The River
October 20, 2015 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Brandon is a 23-year-old software engineer who is saving over 90% of his income by living in the back of a 16' box truck parked at his work. He answers questions and documents his experiences on his blog. Instead of an apartment or a house, less than one hundred square feet may be all you need.
posted by mattdidthat (285 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Only 90%? On a Google salary?
posted by schmod at 8:03 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


23? He looks like he's in his mid 40s. Maybe I'll pass on the box van experience...
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:05 PM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


It does say "over" 90%.
posted by easter queen at 8:06 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Additionally, saving on rent has allowed him to dine at nice restaurants and enjoy San Francisco more than if he opted for living in an apartment.

That works if "enjoying San Francisco" doesn't include having guests.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:06 PM on October 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was ready to be all UGH this is TERRIBLE home is SPECIAL but then I saw his living space and it actually oddly appealed to me. Looks cozy. Nice to have it all to yourself. Not too much cleaning to do.
posted by easter queen at 8:07 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That works if "enjoying San Francisco" doesn't include having guests

Maybe that's why it appeals to me-- I have a one bedroom apartment with two loveseats and a recliner in the sitting room and I never have anyone over. Anyway, I would be a guest in someone's box truck home.

In retrospect, having a medium-large single dorm room to myself was one of my happiest times.
posted by easter queen at 8:08 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Call me old, but I value my convenient bathroom and ability to eat and drink after 7:30 PM.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:10 PM on October 20, 2015 [84 favorites]


This is not markedly worse than the unfurnished flat with a futon and airbed I shared with an Italian and his collection of Parmesan cheese wheels at that age, so good luck to him.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2015 [25 favorites]


He needs to get his tech-pals to work on cryogenics, so he can hibernate between shifts. All that unproductive Life slipping away outside of work!
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:14 PM on October 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


If a "tiny house" can have less square footage... this could be awesome. You've got enough weight and volumetric capacity to handle water and waste storage, solar on the roof... could be really nice if he wants to tweak things.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:19 PM on October 20, 2015


It probably wouldn't cost a whole lot more to buy a small RV, and then he could pee.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:21 PM on October 20, 2015 [46 favorites]


I'm a big fan of the tiny home thing and murphy beds and swiss army apartments and all of that but he's just put a bed in the back of a truck and By The Grace Of Google gets free food/gym/showers/electricity

It's not some magical thing he's literally just put a bed in a truck
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:22 PM on October 20, 2015 [160 favorites]


No, I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. If you're an engineer and you're going to live in a van down by the river, you do it up like this. Complete with dystopian stencils!
posted by phooky at 8:23 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whatever works, although I'd prefer something a little less spartan...

My undergraduate alma mater, UC Irvine, used to have Irvine Meadows West (YT), which was an on-campus trailer park where you could live in some rather, um, interesting set-ups for next-to-nothing. (Given housing prices around UCI, that was nothing to sneeze at.) Alas, this being Southern California, it was turned into a parking lot in the 2000s.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:24 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


this is the Soylent of living situations.
posted by jayder at 8:26 PM on October 20, 2015 [90 favorites]


I was in the back of a truck once it was pretty rad.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Call me old, but I value my convenient bathroom and ability to eat and drink after 7:30 PM.

Pshaw. Only a concern if you're one of the poors.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2015


23? He looks like he's in his mid 40s. Maybe I'll pass on the box van experience...

The 23-year old box truck software guy "asked to withhold his last name and photo to maintain his privacy" according to the article. The social media surfer biker manager dude living in a van is someone else.
posted by effbot at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


this is the Soylent of living situations.

YES. You put into words what I was feeling.
posted by The Michael The at 8:30 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


For about the same money, he could have bought a small RV or van already set up for living in, complete with windows and a toilet. I am all for small living spaces and have considered living in an RV during remote working (because motels and short term rentals suck), but this is pretty much a case of reinventing the wheel, very badly and incompletely.

As well as ensuring that he will never get laid, but I guess he has his stuffed animals for company.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:31 PM on October 20, 2015 [26 favorites]


As an update to the last guy in a $10K van post- Norris got traded to the Tigers, and just announced he's having surgery for thyroid cancer.
posted by zamboni at 8:37 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


while ago, my girlfriend was mistaken for a homeless woman

Hm, well, wasn't she? I mean, I understand the difference between intentional-lifestyle-homeless and hardship-homeless, but it doesn't sound like a mistake to call her homeless, exactly, other than mistaking her for someone with no money. Ah, semantics.
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on October 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


There are ways to do this and this does not really seem to be one of them to me. It must get pretty hot in the summer, and cold in the winter.

The fetishization of the square footage is also weird; it seems quite generous. I've lived in smaller rooms, albeit with a access to a toilet (no bath/shower though).
posted by carter at 8:40 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kids are hilarious
posted by clockzero at 8:41 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


my grandmother had a camper on her pickup, with custom built bunks and cupboards. It didn't have any water or toilet (except a cheap little chemical one), and so wasn't as comfortable as the RV she later had. But it was really beautiful in it's handcrafted way.

weirdly enough, she was also a hoarder. But she filled up her house, and then lived in the RV.
posted by jb at 8:43 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even imagine what that place must smell like.

i mean i can imagine it but i would like to not be able to
posted by poffin boffin at 8:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


it's steamy nutsack, ok
posted by poffin boffin at 8:47 PM on October 20, 2015 [32 favorites]


How long until the follow-on article appears: "Google employee living in van told to park off campus"?
posted by delicious-luncheon at 8:48 PM on October 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


As for food and showers, that's all on Google's campus. He eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work and showers every morning in the corporate gym post-workout.

Why take a salary? Why not just sign your life over to your corporate masters, store a cot under your cube, and be done with it. I hate this person and his soylentpartment. Ok that's too mean. But this is gross.
posted by dis_integration at 8:48 PM on October 20, 2015 [47 favorites]


Also when he wakes up in the middle of the night and has to pee does he just piss on the parking lot? I CTRL+F'ed for "pee" and found nothing. Also: dating?!
posted by dis_integration at 8:50 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I expect he's only paying $750 a year in vehicle insurance because he hasn't told Geico that HE'S LIVING IN IT.

And yeah, I love tiny homes, but this is a little too soylent for me too, with the total dependence on the employer and utter lack of separation between work and anything else.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:51 PM on October 20, 2015 [36 favorites]


This is how the Idea Farm guy (for those in the Bay Area who remember his van...) started out, right?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


We just moved from 1300 sq. feet to 1900 sq. feet and it is GLORIOUS. We have a yard also. And two toilets! And a shitton of cabinets that our tiny collection of dishes looks lost in. Lady who owned it before had some serious storage needs or maybe just threw big parties.

What I'm saying is, I've done tiny living spaces of many kinds (tiniest: me and the husband in one bedroom in Brooklyn boarding house with a bathroom down the hall and kitchen upstairs we shared with another tenant) and I am DONE with tiny living spaces.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 PM on October 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


I mean just look at this fuckin' guy, not even trying to live a proper upper middle class lifestyle.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:55 PM on October 20, 2015 [36 favorites]


Dating?! Living in a box truck sounds like a better method of birth control than any pill, cream, or device you'd care to mention. The only bonus is the clever nickname around the office: Vanny Bonaduce.

I'd be concerned that the office jerk is going to lock him inside for the lulz.
posted by dr_dank at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Look at my unconventional living arrangement! Sure I have the privilege to make it work; nobody is bothered by my slightly unkempt appearance in my 21st century office space, I have no dependents or disabilities, I have a huge salary to sock away, and I eat free, have free water/sewer/trash as well as convenient office showers. Perhaps you can learn a lesson from my "frugality!"
posted by Existential Dread at 8:58 PM on October 20, 2015 [115 favorites]


Any time someone says "less than 100 square feet may be all you need," I feel like it means wanting any more than that is to be seen as excessive. "What are you complaining about, you have plenty of options if you just think outside the box!"

Only in this case thinking outside the box means living in one, and if you're having such a hard time paying for your apartment then maybe you need to just let go and be more free! Excess is excessive, simplify, don't go for stability or breathing room or a nice view, because I got the best view and it's out the door of my van when it's parked next to a beautiful lake or some shit.
posted by teponaztli at 9:01 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


He graduated with $22,434 worth of student loans, and has paid it down to $16,449 over the course of four months.

This guy understands that student loans are indentured servitude and he wants to get out. He kind of reminds me of immigrant workers that go to a prosperous country, live in extremely shitty conditions and work horrible hours, and then send tons of money home as remittances. He's just sending remittances to his future self. Good luck to this guy getting around the insane real estate game in SV, hope Google doesn't kick him out of the parking lot now that it's out in the open.
posted by permiechickie at 9:02 PM on October 20, 2015 [73 favorites]


It's perfectly ok with the long term strategy to use the money wisely. It's still essentially just a pile of privilege and shrewd, not amazing.
posted by aydeejones at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


In a month or two it will be -40 here.
posted by ODiV at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


And the attempt to portray it as amazing will almost certainly cost him the privilege
posted by aydeejones at 9:04 PM on October 20, 2015


No room for a toilet: he needs all his storage for a giant set of bronze bootstraps! /hamburger
posted by wenestvedt at 9:04 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's amazing what you can do with mylar and such
posted by aydeejones at 9:04 PM on October 20, 2015


I mean, considering that the last time a Google engineer lived in the parking lot he wound up fixing healthcare.gov and going to work for the White House, this dude is in pretty good company.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Not that one led to the other or anything, but it's a pretty interesting factoid)
posted by Itaxpica at 9:07 PM on October 20, 2015


If you're going to live like you're destitute anyway, why bother to work? Money's worthless if all you do is hoard it.

No windows. No electricity. Thus no space heaters or fans. No toilet. No running water. No stove -- no way to cook food. He can't even make coffee in his truck.

He's living in a parking lot, so no neighbors. No trees or natural beauty. The one thing he *does* have is a big, weird, embarrassing secret. Maybe some people wouldn't be embarrassed or wouldn't worry about keeping this kind of living situation a secret, but he keeps mentioning over and over that he's afraid living in a truck will be Kryptonite for his social and love life.

There are so many cons to this plan. And he's doing all this to save $30K over the course of four or five years?! Nope. YMMV, but $30K would straight up not be worth it to me. Especially because he seems to have no plans for that money, he's just saving to save?

I understand the impulse to create some impractical but innovative ~grand plan~ and then put it into action. Especially given that he only just graduated from school (so is probably still pretty naive). I have sympathy for him.

But I hope he gives himself a break pretty soon and gets himself an actual room with a window, lights, some sort of climate control (fans? heat?), and running water. God forbid he catches a stomach bug before he does.
posted by rue72 at 9:11 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't even imagine what that place must smell like.

You're totally never going to space.
posted by Artw at 9:12 PM on October 20, 2015 [26 favorites]


posted by teponaztli Any time someone says "less than 100 square feet may be all you need," I feel like it means wanting any more than that is to be seen as excessive.

Wow, tough room.

A tough, very small room.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:21 PM on October 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


If the guy did catch a stomach bug, he could rent a "cheap" motel room for a few days and still be way ahead monetarily. It's not like he is barred from sleeping in a more conventional space on occasion, should he so choose. Unlike people whose homelessness is not by choice.
posted by wierdo at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are we reading the same blog? This dude seems fairly clear eyed about what he is doing and why his special set of circumstances make it manageable. He even talks about work-life balance in that context. At least from what I've read, he wants to save a shitload of money in part because he feels somewhat sheltered and wants to be able travel the world eventually. It's almost cute, he had neither assembled ikea furniture before nor even been to an ikea and was surprised at how annoying both endeavors are.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


See? The American Dream isn't dead. It's just turning into one of those dreams where you can't run, except in slow motion.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2015 [59 favorites]



This guy understands that student loans are indentured servitude and he wants to get out. He kind of reminds me of immigrant workers that go to a prosperous country, live in extremely shitty conditions and work horrible hours, and then send tons of money home as remittances. He's just sending remittances to his future self. Good luck to this guy getting around the insane real estate game in SV, hope Google doesn't kick him out of the parking lot now that it's out in the open


I was all ready to snark but given the indentured servitude of student loans, the insane surreal nightmare that is SF real estate, and Google's desire to basically encourage people to live at work, this seems like the most sensible solution to someone trying to pay off their debt and be free as soon as possible (with the caveat that they can only do it cause they rolled natural 20s in health, dependency, background, temperament, not being at the wrong end of any number of cultural and societal biases or prejudices..) Like it's a super shitty weird thing but it's not like they invented all the super shitty weird things about it, it's a reaction to them.

So I wonder how it's all going to horribly backfire.

(why do we praise the poor for frugality? They have no other choice. )
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


If he thinks he can save $30k in five years and he's saving around 90 percent of his income, how much is he making? And is that enough for a studio apartment in SF?
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


how much is he making? And is that enough for a studio apartment in SF?

the answer to that question, no matter what the number, is not enough.
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


$30k in five years is 6K/year.

and he's saving around 90 percent of his income

So...that would mean his income is about $6666.00 a year.

So, that doesn't make sense.
posted by Miko at 9:31 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


If he thinks he can save $30k in five years and he's saving around 90 percent of his income, how much is he making?

I would have thought Google paid better than this math suggests.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2015


did he sign his contract with Google at the crossroads at midnight?
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


You're totally never going to space.

you are not the boss of me
posted by poffin boffin at 9:33 PM on October 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


I really think we need to stop glorifying these kinds of experiments. It just defines down what is normal and livable and encourages employers in the sectors we're relying on (however unwisely) to give even fewer fucks about their distorting effects on local economies than they already do.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:34 PM on October 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


So, a few commenters above are acting like this guy is an imbecile, mocking him as someone who won't get laid.

First of all, you do know that homeless people (including the destitute kind) can and do have sex, right?

Second of all, Brandon already understood his living arrangement would be a kind of "social suicide" and that he might have a tough time getting laid (actually it was his mom). Brandon writes
Good luck getting laid. Interestingly enough, it was my mom who asked me about this one. I can only imagine that it's going to be next to impossible to get laid when I'm the van guy. Sure, I can get a hotel for the night, but it's still strange and I still have a bit of explaining and convincing to do. Since I'm not nearly smooth enough for that, I've accepted the fact that I'm going to be celibate for the next who knows how long.
I dunno, the whole "good luck getting laid" is so typical of something jocks will tell nerds and, in this case, I'm not sure that typing is too far off the mark. Plus, Brandon's analysis seems a hell of a lot more thoughtful than a few of the commenters above who, I presume, are gettin' it regular.

Sheesh.
posted by mistersquid at 9:37 PM on October 20, 2015 [30 favorites]


This is where I got the $30K figure (it's in the blog link):

So for a super conservative estimate, I'm saving about $33,000 over the course of four years. That's just the raw minimum savings, I'll be investing approximately 95% of all of my post-tax, post-401k, post-benefits income. I've mentioned many times that it isn't about the money, but clearly this living situation makes my future plans much more flexible.
posted by rue72 at 9:38 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


did he sign his contract with Google at the crossroads at midnight?

Isn't that standard?
posted by Miko at 9:38 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


a shitton of cabinets

Totally OT, but am I the only person who reads shitton as rhyming with chiffon? I kinda like it.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 9:43 PM on October 20, 2015 [21 favorites]


The key question is not why he is living in the parking lot (given real estate costs there, I'd think there would be a lot of people sleeping in the parking lot). It is why is he doing so in a box truck with no bathroom, rather than any more comfortable but equally cheap option? Does google have a No RVs rule?
posted by Dip Flash at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


dis_integration: "Also when he wakes up in the middle of the night and has to pee does he just piss on the parking lot?"

This has come up a lot. Some people don't need to pee in the middle of the night. If nature calls he could just pee into a Nalgene bottle or something and then dump it at work.

Honestly he's got it better in aggregate than a lot of guys living in northern work camps (and he's in California not Fort Freeze your Nads Off). And he's in the lap of luxury compared to a tree planting camp.
posted by Mitheral at 9:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Box truck was probably cheaper. Also, box trucks blend into corporate campus parking lots in a way that RVs do not.
posted by ryanrs at 9:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean the real issue is that this living arrangement is extremely illegal in San Francisco. He can get away with it only because 1. his truck isn't obviously an RV (legit RV parks in the Bay Area are not cheap, either), and 2. he is an affluent tech worker who will probably get the benefit of the doubt from cops. Otherwise, for example, every single postdoc without kids in the Bay Area would be living in a Jetstream parked in front of their lab.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [38 favorites]


e.g.: The SF Police Code (SFPC Sec 97) prohibits habitation in vehicles from 10pm-6am everyday (maximum penalty $1000 and/or six months in jail).
posted by en forme de poire at 9:50 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I once worked at a small electronics company in Goleta, CA. A guy there, who got kicked out of the house by his wife, lived in a camper on the back of a pickup in the back parking lot. Not quite sure where he showered as the company had none. The only amenities was the company picnic table that overlooked the neighboring drive in theater with full view of the screen. Everyone knew where he was living. And no one really thought much about it.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2015


Regarding getting laid: there's always her place, if she (or he, not having read that closely) likes him enough. This is common enough to be a stereotype: the couch-surfing bohemian boyfriend your parents hate. With the parental suspicion tempered here by a Google salary. Weird blind-spot.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


This actually reminded me of my living situation when I did an internship in Palo Alto in the heady, innocent days of 2009, before things got really crazy. I found a room on Craigslist that was a $300 partitioned off living room area. 11 people lived in and on the grounds of a single family, 3 bedroom house. The landlord (an older gentleman with multiple divorces who never seemed to have any money) had 3 sheds in the backyard that Stanford grad students lived in. The most interesting tenant was Lester, a Polish man in his 50's to 70's in extremely excellent shape, who only wore ripped jean shorts that showed off his strapping thighs. Lester repaired cars sometimes and slept in a van in the driveway. He would come inside to use the bathroom, cook sausages, and watch Korean soap operas with no subtitles on the TV in the living room. Around the time I left he was talking about trying to get a Korean wife through ads in the newspaper.

Young google man, read this as a cautionary tale. Move out of the van eventually. You probably don't want to become Lester.
posted by permiechickie at 10:01 PM on October 20, 2015 [24 favorites]


You're reading it wrong, folks who are stuck on the $30K figure. He's saying that's how much he's saving in rent alone, after taking into account the price of the truck and insurance. He'll sock away much, much more than that this year, because you forget, he also does not need to buy food. His only living expense is his vehicle insurance, and paying down his student loans, which he'll do in short order. And then he can start saving for his down payment, or possibly, because he seems like that kind of guy, he'll just save enough to buy a house for cash someplace cheap and spend the rest of his career doing telecommute jobs to pay his property taxes and food expenses.

I kind of loathe this guy on principle but what he's doing makes sense. I'm surprised you don't hear about more early-20s Googlers living this way.
posted by town of cats at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


(Previously)
posted by Charity Garfein at 10:06 PM on October 20, 2015


He's not living in a box truck. He's living at work and SLEEPING in a truck. I'm actually kind of surprised that Google hasn't yet figured out how to provide employees with sleeping arrangements. But to act like he's living there... no. This is only workable because he has an employer who provides for all of his other needs.

Which is great for him. I don't see this as something wrong with him. I'm just baffled as to why anybody else cares. "Google offers crazy perks and its employees make truckloads of money" isn't news. They don't usually have a literal truck, but. Google feeding its employees felt novel to me like ten years ago or whatever? But now it's just vaguely disappointing that apparently Google didn't actually get everybody sleeping pods after all.
posted by Sequence at 10:09 PM on October 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


He's just sending remittances to his future self.

When he becomes President of a post-empire, post-coast-flooded America, 2035, he will be able to lead the rest of the survivors to salvation. Or at least help his cabinet be on good terms with mid-level management at GoogleCIAlphabetInc.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:11 PM on October 20, 2015


This is even weirder than the guy I know who commuted in a box truck.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:12 PM on October 20, 2015


Why not just drive the van back and forth to Las Vegas four days a week? Think of the money you could save!
posted by math at 10:13 PM on October 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


This all feels very teal.
posted by theraflu at 10:14 PM on October 20, 2015 [22 favorites]


When you're voluntarily living between an empty truck in the parking lot and your desk at work and your hand isn't being forced by finances, you've clearly given up hope of any clear boundaries between you and your job. If anything keeps the guy from getting laid (or finding a healthy relationship with another human being), it's going to be that set of priorities.

But you never know, maybe he'll find a fellow workaholic Googler and they can shack up in a PODS box or something.
posted by theraflu at 10:18 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


When you're voluntarily living between an empty truck in the parking lot and your desk at work and your hand isn't being forced by finances, you've clearly given up hope of any clear boundaries between you and your job.

From what I've heard, you do this the second you agree to work for Google in any case. What this guy has done is give up the pretense that he has a life outside of Big G.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:22 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Google hasn't yet figured out how to provide employees with sleeping arrangements.

I know someone who lived on the Mountain View campus. There was a nap room in the building and he just slept there. Nobody especially cared, and for a lot of managers, even if they know, it's something they are happy to stay out of if nobody else is complaining.
posted by ryanrs at 10:22 PM on October 20, 2015


...although people might start caring now that an article was published.

I'm not sure if he realizes that publicity is likely to end his living arrangements (because he's a dumb 23 year old kid), or if he is intentionally sabotaging it because he's sick of living in a truck.
posted by ryanrs at 10:26 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


From what I've heard, you do this the second you agree to work for Google in any case. What this guy has done is give up the pretense that he has a life outside of Big G.

Well, at least he recognises that this is a problem; on his blog, he talks about the strategies he uses to maintain distance from work. But out of necessity:
Anyway, this is all just a long-winded introduction for the actual topic at hand: striking a work-life balance when you literally live at work. Sounds tricky, right? When your lifestyle blurs the line between working and just living, how do you make sure that they don't amalgamate into one never-ending workday? Early on, this was a legitimate issue for me, and I didn't even realize it because of how natural it felt. During the week, I would wake up, head to a gym (at work), shower (at work), work (obviously at work), and hang around the office (working, mainly) until it was time to go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. It took me a few weeks of this routine to realize that I was spending 70-80% of my waking time working. I ever-so-briefly became a zombie, constantly and mindlessly working away at whatever problem I was given, reduced to a machine that turned food into code and waste. It wasn't that my workload was too high, I just didn't know what else to do, and that happened to be the path of least resistance.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:30 PM on October 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm actually kind of surprised that Google hasn't yet figured out how to provide employees with sleeping arrangements.

IIRC, they have nap pods, but that's probably not a reliable bed. Also, by now I imagine many have been soiled by riske Googlers trying to join the 'nap pod club.'
posted by pwnguin at 10:32 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Counterargument to the naysayers:

RUTGER HAUER: WHY DRIVING MY MOTORHOME IS 'THE BEST'
posted by Artw at 10:35 PM on October 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


No trees or natural beauty.

If it's the parking lot I think it is, it's actually within easy walking distance of some pretty nice views of the south bay and surrounding mountains. And by "easy walking distance," I mean within about 100 yards, as there is a park with a nice hill overlooking the bay and a nice hiking trail literally right next to the parking lot. And the weather is absurdly good compared to anyplace else in the U.S. about 95% of the time.
posted by smcameron at 10:38 PM on October 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


The SF Police Code (SFPC Sec 97) prohibits habitation in vehicles from 10pm-6am everyday (maximum penalty $1000 and/or six months in jail).

Isn't this guy trumping (yes, that's right, truck camping) in Mountain View?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:46 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


The SF Police Code (SFPC Sec 97) prohibits habitation in vehicles from 10pm-6am everyday (maximum penalty $1000 and/or six months in jail).

A jail cell would only be 48 square feet! That's even better!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:48 PM on October 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


If we assume the guy is making a nice round pre-tax $100,000k / year (which GlassDoor suggests might actually be a low estimate for a software engineer at Google), after $35k in income tax ($18,219 federal, $12,300 California), and the $1,452 for insurance ($121 / month was quoted in the article), and let's budget $600 / month for an entertainment budget (keeping in mind that Google provides most meals for free), he's got somewhere around $60k / year after all that.

You need to subtract a bit more for health insurance premiums, but also add some back in for retirement matching, but it's locked away in a 401k so let's call it a wash, and say a more realistic estimate is $60k/year.

Assuming he's able to maintain his frugal lifestyle, $60k in the bank at the ripe old age of 24 (he's 23 now, but it'll take a year for this plan) is nothing to scoff at.
posted by fragmede at 11:02 PM on October 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yea, you can tell that student loans aren't actually something he cares about much because he could have them just about paid off already if he wanted.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:16 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I lived like (a version of) this in Seattle many years ago, when I got asked to move to the West Coast for 3 or 4 months and head up a specific publishing project. Not wanting to deal with landlords / hotels / whatever for that short a time, I just started living in the back of my van basically across the street from the office. (Parked legally, in any one of several spaces in front of a mini-jungle plot of land on the edge of an apartment complex.) Kitchen, bathroom was in the office, where I usually worked late nights, then I’d just walk ‘home’ and go to sleep.

During my time at that job another guy who got divorced and was living on his sailboat across the bay found it too hard – while working long hours on a computer project – to commute all that way, so he moved right into the office. And when his young son came down from Alaska to live with his dad while school was out, the kid made a little living space under his dad's desk, and spent the summer there.

We weren’t making anywhere near Google money, of course – this was long before Google even existed – but it all seemed to work out. It never occurred to me if it was legal or not, but it looks like in Seattle – which I've always considered much more civilized than San Francisco – it still is. My only interaction with the law came one morning when I was just coming awake. Hearing some noise, I peeked out the back window of the van to see the car one or two behind me – parked too close to the corner – getting a ticket. Never had trouble of any kind, really, except one night I couldn’t sleep because some people were having a loud party, so I just got up, drove a few blocks, and went back to sleep. (With a van you’re able to do that; I think living in a box truck would seem too confining.)
posted by LeLiLo at 11:18 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd really be worried about this stunting his personal development or even causing regression. Living in a box for years and having someone else take care of many of your basic living requirements could easily prevent him from developing basic life skills, or even cause him to lose ones he's already got. Imagine living with your parents for years - except you only get one small closet to live in and store all of your stuff. And you never interact with them. And you work 60 hours a week. If you knew how to live on your own anymore at the end of that, I'd be surprised. It could even cause depression or agoraphobia all by itself.

Not to mention that his entire lifestyle is wrapped up 100% in his work. If he gets fired or laid off it's going to basically destroy his world.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:19 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


RUTGER HAUER: WHY DRIVING MY MOTORHOME IS 'THE BEST'

All those miles will be lost, like tears in rain.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:21 PM on October 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


It's pretty amazing to me that people are ragging on this guy for his privilege of box-living while claiming that they need a giant American apartment/house and yard to thrive. I mean, I think this guy is aware of his reliance on his employer, and who cares.

If he gets laid off he'll have a bunch of savings and will find a job in no time flat, because he works in the tech industry and for frickin' Google. Let's not worry after him too much. Also, taking care of your basic living requirements through manual labor is highly overrated. Somehow we can't imagine how he lives without leather furniture or a drawing room for entertaining, but we are also saying that if he's not doing dishes/cooking/cleaning for 1-2 hours a day, he's squandering his time. Have we forgotten that housework actually sucks? Do we want to teach him a stern moral lesson about how commuting is good for the soul, while we're at it?

I can cook and provide for myself just fine but if my employer wanted to pay to feed me free prepared meals all the time, that would be just fine with me. I would get a lot more shit done. Read more books. See more friends and family. I wouldn't mind the extra money I don't have to spend on my million, zillion dollar rent to live in the city, while we're at it.

Everybody hates techies for destroying the housing market and clogging up the streets. Wellllll, maybe let's let them just live in boxes in the parking lot. It's a win-win.
posted by easter queen at 11:24 PM on October 20, 2015 [46 favorites]


Also, I understand why it's highly threatening to see someone so committed to their workplace in our era of no workers rights, but some people do actually enjoy their work. Especially Google-types, at least the ones I know. Work-life balance is also good but some people are just legit nerds, y'know?
posted by easter queen at 11:26 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I suppose, but if they're allowed to live like that, eventually we'll all be required to. So it's kind of our sacred duty to stop him.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:27 PM on October 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Shortest commute ever!

I would totally do this. It's clearly not forever, and unconventional is memorable.
posted by mantecol at 11:31 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Startup providing on-demand box trucks with beds in 3, 2, 1....
posted by weston at 11:39 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's pretty amazing to me that people are ragging on this guy for his privilege of box-living while claiming that they need a giant American apartment/house and yard to thrive.

See, it bothers me to hear stuff like this. The way this is phrased suggests that people do not truly need the amount of space they're saying they need. And it's all well and good to recognize that a large apartment or house with a yard is a huge privilege, but I live in a tiny apartment and it feels like the suggestion is that wanting more than this - or, in fact, thinking I need it - is unjustifiable on some level.

I think what really threatens me about things like this, and tiny houses, is that these are products of some pretty scary and crushing economic obstacles. Everyone says "oh, I just want to get a tiny house and get out of this," but I can't do that, and here I am in a tiny apartment while people are waxing romantic about a place even smaller than mine. I'd like to get out, and sometimes it feels like everything is just moving in the opposite direction from what makes me comfortable, you know?
posted by teponaztli at 11:41 PM on October 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


I don't know about you guys but when I was fresh out of school and young, my job was pretty much all I had and it defined me for a long time. I could have totally done the whole kibbutz-style life where your job IS your lifestyle choice and it wouldn't have seemed weird. As he gets older and finds other things that matter to him, I am sure he will move on. Until then, let him enjoy his sweaty box in the parking lot and free meals at work. Sheesh!
posted by Foam Pants at 12:11 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


This actually reminded me of my living situation when I did an internship in Palo Alto in the heady, innocent days of 2009, before things got really crazy. I found a room on Craigslist that was a $300 partitioned off living room area. 11 people lived in and on the grounds of a single family, 3 bedroom house. The landlord (an older gentleman with multiple divorces who never seemed to have any money) had 3 sheds in the backyard that Stanford grad students lived in. The most interesting tenant was Lester, a Polish man in his 50's to 70's in extremely excellent shape, who only wore ripped jean shorts that showed off his strapping thighs. Lester repaired cars sometimes and slept in a van in the driveway. He would come inside to use the bathroom, cook sausages, and watch Korean soap operas with no subtitles on the TV in the living room. Around the time I left he was talking about trying to get a Korean wife through ads in the newspaper.

Sorry, reality glitch. You wandered in to the forthcoming Neal Stephenson novel.
posted by mannequito at 12:30 AM on October 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


25 years ago I sold my falling-apart camper van for 200 quid to two alcoholics who were going to live in it on the edge of the construction site where they worked. This is the just the middle-class upgrade version. At least my guys had the sense to drink themselves into a coma every single night.
posted by colie at 12:34 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


When I was his age I had a studio apartment but I basically lived on an air mattress on the floor - I mean it was my bed, chair, table, work desk and so on - and would have continued doing so indefinitely had I not met a woman who didn't want to live on an air mattress. Oh I guess I did need the fridge in the kitchen for beer. But yeah if your only actual possession of value is a laptop and all the other stuff that matters to you is inside the laptop this works just fine.
posted by atoxyl at 12:41 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


In fairness, this guy doesn't seem to be advocating for anyone else to live like him. He's living in unconventional circumstances, and he's blogging about it, he's been doing it for a while, so presumably people find it interesting.

It's just that his unconventional circumstances are such a perfect storm of the overlapping failures of society. A city that defines housing unaffordability. An employer famed for its cultish culture and crushing work burden. A country known for saddling students with increasing debt.

I don't blame this guy for opting out of the consumerist mill. But I'm appalled that he thought it was his best option, even with his decent salary. I'm glad it works for him, but it's still terrible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:42 AM on October 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


The guy is making good money and putting almost all of it away, and probably spending most of his waking hours at work anyway, which for him is a zero-minute commute away. In a year or two he'll buy a nice apartment or house somewhere.
posted by pracowity at 1:04 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Living in a Box (truck)!
posted by cell divide at 1:11 AM on October 21, 2015


Dude... an RV or small mobile home would be so cheap and has a toilet. This sounds awful and I agree it's kinda like, "look what I'm doing. It's extreeeme!" I think a blog about being frugal in a mobile home or RV would be just as interesting if not more so because I know he's of sound mind.
ETA: The article says the truck was $10k. I found multiple RVs for less than $15k.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


He's not living in a box truck. He's living at work and SLEEPING in a truck.

Yeah, which begs the question as others have said: why not figure out a way to sleep at Google? I knew a Googler who would sleep on the massage tables instead of going home sometimes.

There are probably people at the Googleplex at all hours, so it wouldn't be unusual for that to happen. And you could maybe switch it up and avoid suspicion by moving to a break room sofa or put a sleeping bag under your desk.
posted by FJT at 1:38 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


So how different is he to the folks we hear about working in China's Foxconn factories? Works all the hours in a day, eats in corporate facility, …
posted by scruss at 1:55 AM on October 21, 2015


Why not sleep somewhere worse, like work? Why not sleep somewhere better, like in an RV? Why is this person of means eschewing the normal spending of his privilege? Why doesn't he need the things I need? Why doesn't he obey the law (which he may not even be breaking) or at least feel guilty about living this way? Why doesn't he fix intractable housing problems in his city? Why does he think it's OK to focus on his job for a portion of his life? Why doesn't he worry about getting kicked off the Google campus?

I like how this guy is trying to live his life the best way he knows how. Would I live my life the way he lives his? No. We are different people with different values. But I empathize with him and can see how he arrived in his situation. He wants to be frugal despite having income, because he seems to be without wealth, beholden by debt, and he wants to save for his future.

I'm confused and saddened by the number of people who want to snark at this guy because he wants to live below his means. It's not like he's doing something wrong by being able to do this by choice. His blog doesn't come across as preachy or sneering at people who are living like he does out of necessity, or who make different choices with their lives.

At least have enough empathy to make criticisms nicely. He blogs. It wouldn't be surprising if he read your comments.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:12 AM on October 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


cooperating with the paper for an article was a mistake, people aren't going to leave him be
posted by thelonius at 3:45 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


When you're voluntarily living between an empty truck in the parking lot and your desk at work and your hand isn't being forced by finances, you've clearly given up hope of any clear boundaries between you and your job.

From what I've heard, you do this the second you agree to work for Google in any case.
So something finally pulled me out of several years of lurking on MeFi, and this is it.

This sentiment is all over this comment thread and as an ex-Googler (one who cringes at the term "Xoogler"), it's bollocks.

I, and most of the people I knew at Google 2007-2010, had successful careers at Google that were nothing like this. (Well, apart from that time China attacked Google but that was a pretty special situation).

It wasn't all beer and skittles, but there's something about the smugness of this "Well you've cut a deal with the devil" sentiment that just irks me.

I gave a lot more of myself to the startup I joined after Google than I ever did to Google itself.
posted by dhaveconfig at 4:01 AM on October 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


"Vancouver’s housing costs no problem for entrepreneur living in a van" is still the classic of this genre:

The experience prompted Mr. Gray to delve even further into offbeat options for housing, an effort, he says, to “hack” the housing market and stay true to his aversion to debt.

. . . He had recently landed a job as a bitcoin ATM attendant in the Waves Coffee House at Smithe and Howe streets and he saw a bright future in the currency. He wanted to create a shared space for the bitcoin community. But having to worry about whether he had a home to come back to at the end of every workday was starting to interfere with his business plans.

posted by ryanshepard at 4:11 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


The problem I have with this is the problem I have with a great many 20 somethings in the tech sector. They look at the system, whatever it is, think they're smarter than it, and they proceed to cobble together a "solution" to a "problem" that they think is oh-so-clever. However, they are still just 20 somethings, and they have a very narrow view of the world around them. They get to an alternative solution by ignoring the wisdom of the systems around them as well as the people around them.

This is no different. He is willfully ignoring (or side-stepping is the better way of saying it) very real issues ranging from the law to practicality. Whether the city comes down on him, Google decides his living in the truck on campus is a terrible liability, he has a fire, gets robbed, or just gets sick of it all, in the end he hasn't out-smarted anything. In fact, there is a high likelihood that at some point he is going to be a net financial loser here and he had better hope that the experience was otherwise worth the sacrifice. That's where the snark comes in for many here - a realization that not only is this not a solution for everybody, but in reality it quite likely is not a viable solution for anybody. If he's going to blog about it, the false positive impression of what he's doing can and should be countered by criticism.
posted by Muddler at 4:30 AM on October 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


From the second link comments:

"I feel like this article is missing the Why? paragraph in the beginning.

Why did you do this? Choice? Necessity? Surfing or something?

Reply

WESTx1000
dervsvers
4/03/15 6:45pm
About 18 months ago, I was moving into an apartment on Queen Anne, one of Seattle's more well-to-do neighborhoods. A phone call from my friend Chris prompted a six week long search for surf into Southern California, a project later dubbed The Peelgrimage. My hasty return home and ensuing divorce motivated me to move. Anywhere. So I went south...

Reply

Karissa_Would
dervsvers
4/03/15 10:11pm
Well Justin, that's certainly a nice way of saying you left your wife, meet another woman than stole the van your wife worked so hard on and planned to move into. You know she even helped you build the PeanutButterCoast.com. Oh and you stayed on the road because you didn't have another option."


heh
posted by HuronBob at 4:30 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


So something finally pulled me out of several years of lurking on MeFi, and this is it.

This sentiment is all over this comment thread and as an ex-Googler (one who cringes at the term "Xoogler"), it's bollocks.


Seconded. I know a handful of Googlers (one very, very well) and of them, only one works wee hours into the night, and she does it by choice. She also graduated from her smartypants college a year early, so she just has overachieving tendencies in general. Everyone else works hard when at work and then leads enviously well-balanced lives the rest of the time.
posted by phatkitten at 4:31 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also don't understand the concern and snark. He's incredibly young. He's not going to live like this for the rest of his life. I know that I, at 41 and with a partner and preschooler, am feeling cramped in my 800 sq ft house, but my life is not this kid's life and my needs are not his. He's doing something pretty extreme while he's young and able to in order to have more security when he's older and needs it.

He just came from college where you literally live, eat, socialize and work all in one place. He's just chosen to extend that paradigm for a couple more years, except instead of paying through the nose for it, he's getting paid. I can't say I wouldn't have done the same at that age, given the opportunity. And I'm not even a cs nerd.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:33 AM on October 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


Jim Tomsula likes this guy's hustle.
posted by drezdn at 4:50 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


What a disappointing thread. Did a box truck pee in everyone's Cheerios today or what?
posted by Xavier Xavier at 4:55 AM on October 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I imagine that if we all had our own personal living space reported on in a similar fashion, that we'd also elicit a fair bit of snark.

As has been written up above: what works for some does not work for others. Live your own life.
posted by Fizz at 4:58 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yup, too many MF regulars here getting their weird hot button issues pushed, and responding with their weird hot button replies. Tech sector, Bay Area rents, someone's voluntary work habits and living arrangement, privilege(!?!?! Does that word have any meaning anymore around here?)...

If I were a young, single guy again, with his job, I'd totally be doing this. I practically did. With a job that likely sucked far harder than his.

Box truck totally makes better sense. What he needs mostly is a place to sack out. I've seen $10,000 RVs. I think a box truck would be less depressing. I'm surprised how many people here think a $10,000 RV built-in toilet would be so preferable and convenient compared to Google's facilities.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:10 AM on October 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Its really not very different from the Work/Life situation of anyone who works in a remote area / oil rigs, mining towns, etc. A friend of mine does that in Australia and no longer has a permanent address. Because they work 3 weeks on 1 week off, paying rent on an apartment in Perth for 1 week a month was not worth it. She now spends her 1 week off in hotels in various cities / countries etc. visiting friends. Its not a conventional life but its definitely not as "not really living" as some on this thread are making out.

He'll probably do it for a year or so and then get bored of it.
Actually do people in the US never do flat shares? how much is a room in a share house way out there near Google Campus?
posted by mary8nne at 5:21 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a European it's always weird to read the housing threads. In my town it's typical for a young person to live in 300 sq ft. I had 220 sq ft until I turned 25. Living in an RV is something that only construction workers do, and living without a toilet or proper heating is called a summer cabin.
posted by ikalliom at 5:24 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I rented a room in a group house when I was his age. It came with electricity and access to a bathroom. I went out with my friends and didn't have to stop drinking at 7:30 PM, because it was ok if I had to pee in the middle of the night. I didn't have to take a crap at work.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:26 AM on October 21, 2015


I love when rich people show us how easy it is to be poor.
posted by sio42 at 5:26 AM on October 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


The thing that seems the most contemporary 20-something about this is that you decide to do something that's quasi-legal or maybe illegal and then you put it all over the internet, presumably to build your personal brand.

I expect what happens is that he'll get tired of this and either move into a shared apartment or, more probably, get an RV or some better van-like thing.

What I worry about isn't this guy - it's the fact that so many cities are getting so expensive that only-a-little-better-than-this living situations are becoming totally normalized, like those micro-apartments in London with everyone boasting about how they only need 150 square feet and only a bad person with bad values would need more, etc.

I also think about how awkward the van situation would be if you had stomach flu.

Or, hell, if you were disabled in any way. Or if you were a woman with heavy periods, for that matter - not totally unmanageable, of course, but "I'll spend my nights in a place with no running water" wouldn't be especially fun.
posted by Frowner at 5:27 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, "I live in very little space" is not a moral statement. It does not map onto your total resource use, for one thing - a tiny space filled with expensive, perpetually replaced tech and belonging to someone who, for instance, flies a ton and/or works at an environmentally or socially dubious business isn't that great.
posted by Frowner at 5:32 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wont be impressive until he rents out half the truck and can live there for free with all his costs covered.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 AM on October 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


If he rigged up a loft bed type situation, he could rent the truck to professional movers In the daytime.
posted by valkane at 5:43 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am no fan of the techie lifestyle and all that entails, but there is a weird moral purity at work in this thread that makes me sad.
posted by Kitteh at 5:43 AM on October 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


Person-Guy is ten times more efficient than you.
posted by CMcG at 5:47 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


mary8anne: Its really not very different from the Work/Life situation of anyone who works in a remote area / oil rigs, mining towns, etc.

That's exactly what I'm thinking. I lived four months in interior Alaska in what was essentially a Tuff Shed. There was electricity by way of a VERY long extension cord leeching power from a nearby cabin, but there was no running water. There was an outhouse just a short walk away and a kitchen/showering/laundry facility within walking distance. (There were restaurants and activities and fancy coffee and stuff in the neighboring town.) I would have loved to have stayed for a year or two.

The great advantage I had was time. Because I had zero commute and minimal maintenance, I had SO MUCH TIME to work and hike and sleep and read. Lots of people in that region don't have running water and live similarly year round, although in cabins fortified for the weather. It's not for everyone, sure, but for people who love living in that area, it works.

I'd cut a window into the truck, though, maybe get some cross-ventilation.
posted by mochapickle at 5:48 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


He's incredibly young. He's not going to live like this for the rest of his life. I know that I, at 41 and with a partner and preschooler, am feeling cramped in my 800 sq ft house, but my life is not this kid's life and my needs are not his. He's doing something pretty extreme while he's young and able to in order to have more security when he's older and needs it.

... and for what it's worth I don't see any evidence that he's elevating this to some sort of life-philosophy or claiming that it's a solution to anybody else's problems but his.

There's no question that this highlights a bunch of weird problems with modernity; underused parking spaces in a city with skyrocketing rent, zoning laws, inequality, student loans, Valley-culture eccentricities, there are a bunch of (as 2N2222 notes correctly, super-hotbutton-for-MeFi) issues that seem to focus to a point here, but this guy isn't claiming to be solving the world's problems or peddling some spiritual insight. There's lots of ways to live, and a dude living in a cube van for the time being is one of them.
posted by mhoye at 5:53 AM on October 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


The thing that seems the most contemporary 20-something about this is that you decide to do something that's quasi-legal or maybe illegal and then you put it all over the internet, presumably to build your personal brand.

In my 20s I went through a few stretches where I slept in the back of my Volvo 240 as a cost-saving measure (which is to say, I was homeless for short periods while transitioning between low-cost living situations, or, more to the point, I was briefly homeless). And, yes, the big difference here seems to be that I did so by parking in inconspicuous locations like the gated parking lot behind my workplace, covering myself up with flattened cardboard boxes and leaving before dawn.
posted by pullayup at 5:57 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Living in a box for years and having someone else take care of many of your basic living requirements could easily prevent him from developing basic life skills, or even cause him to lose ones he's already got.

Wow, I think that's really overblown. Between the time I graduated from college and age 25 I worked for an outdoor environmental education school. It was residential, so I lived on site in a building provided for housing with the other staff, and Monday to Friday all of our meals were supplied by the site kitchen, while we worked 7:30 AM - 10pm (ending early Friday, at 5 pm). Not only did this not harm my life skills, it enhanced them: cultivating the cooperation and consideration involved in group living, participating in a fairly divided rota of site maintenance and cleaning chores, and allowing me plenty of free time on weekends to explore the region through travel. During holiday breaks and summer there was no work, so people took extended trips and summer/winter jobs, meaning we were able to travel and work in the downtime at ski resorts, summer camps, outdoor centers, etc. I did not have a "home" during this time other than my parents' and never owned more stuff than could fit into one small carload (and that included a guitar and the large amount of outdoor gear I needed for the job). I always feel this is exactly what I should have done with my early 20s and wish more people got the chance. There's certainly nothing magically life-enhancing about immediately jumping on the work/rent/stuff-buying treadmill by living on your own, with all the material needs that demands, on entry-level wages.
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on October 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


These guys appear to live in the back of a truck and their life skills are beyond awesome.
posted by colie at 6:03 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The bastard's taking up two parking spaces.
posted by davebush at 6:03 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well, look: my instinctive reaction to this is not really moral. It's more just that this sounds to me like a really unpleasant way to live. That could just be me: I don't need a lot of space (I live in a pretty small apartment), but I do need a lot of privacy, and this guy's life seems to lack that entirely. But he does not need to pay attention to my disapproval. Lots of people I know think that my housing situation sounds awful, and we manage to coexist anyway.

But I do think there's something a little irksome about the fact that this guy is presenting living in your truck as a lifestyle choice. Many people in the US live in their cars or trucks, and for most of them it is not voluntary. They don't have the luxury of having all their needs taken care of by their employer, of not really needing to worry about the cops, or of knowing that they could get housing tomorrow if they got tired of it. So yeah, you're going to annoy some people if you act like homelessness is a cool new way of saving money. If you can't handle that, you probably shouldn't blog or cooperate with reporters writing lifestyle pieces.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


At least he has a box!
posted by sammyo at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2015


Does that word have any meaning anymore around here?

Not really. As demonstrated in-thread, it's mostly a rhetorical weapon at this point.
posted by aramaic at 6:17 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Afaik a cheap room in a group house in Mountain View is still going to be ~$1K a month. Maybe you could find a bunk bed in a shared bedroom for cheaper?

I don't think what this dude is doing is very widely applicable, but the vast majority of single people I know already have at least one roommate in the Bay Area, even the relatively wealthy young programmers.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:25 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Karissa_Would
dervsvers
4/03/15 10:11pm
Well Justin, that's certainly a nice way of saying you left your wife, meet another woman than stole the van your wife worked so hard on and planned to move into. You know she even helped you build the PeanutButterCoast.com. Oh and you stayed on the road because you didn't have another option."


THIS IS SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING THAN "Google Boy Sleep In Truck" I NEED MORE OF THIS JUICY GOSSIP
posted by Greg Nog at 6:26 AM on October 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


. Not only did this not harm my life skills, it enhanced them: cultivating the cooperation and consideration involved in group living, participating in a fairly divided rota of site maintenance and cleaning chores, and allowing me plenty of free time on weekends to explore the region through travel.

In fairness, none of those except maybe the weekends off apply to someone having cooking and janitorial services provided by lower-paid Google employees. (I'm not criticizing -- I'd love to work somewhere that provided three high-quality meals a day, plus all the other amenities, but there is minimal overlap between a NOLS-type environment and Google aside from the no-cooking part.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:27 AM on October 21, 2015


From this thread, it's impossible to tell where the line of acceptable behavior for "lifestyle choices" is supposed to be when you are a young professional.

Is it living in a studio when you can afford a 1-bdrm? Is it having roommates? Is it having 11 roommates? Is it living at your parents'? Is it just simply down to having a place that you can bring a date home?
posted by mochapickle at 6:27 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I do think there's something a little irksome about the fact that this guy is presenting living in your truck as a lifestyle choice. Many people in the US live in their cars or trucks, and for most of them it is not voluntary.
Are you annoyed by people who walk to work by choice? Do people who buy a house with less square footage than they can afford irk you? Do people who blog about lifting weights offend you on behalf of people who do manual labor?

I begin to suspect that this snark is merely the result of mammalian in-group/out-group dynamics. "This guy is doing something unusual and is writing about it, therefore he is irksome." Let's not pretend it's something more rational.
posted by daveliepmann at 6:28 AM on October 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


But I do think there's something a little irksome about the fact that this guy is presenting living in your truck as a lifestyle choice.

Is he? From my impression, he's presenting it as his current lifestyle choice. I don't see how he's advocating for you to do the same.

Now the guy in the links from the last part, who is not the young'un in the first original story, yes, he is trying to sell you his lifestyle.
posted by Kitteh at 6:28 AM on October 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm actually a little surprised he bothers with the truck at all. I interviewed at Google a few weeks ago, and took the tour of their Cambridge facility, which is probably 3% of the size of the Palo Alto headquarters. It had pods dedicated to naps, which my tour guide was deeply apologetic that he couldn't show me because they were both occupied. I made some sort of off-the-cuff quip about Google doing this to encourage employees to work late enough that they just sleep there because the subway shuts down, and he got real quiet for a minute.

At the point where your makeshift parking lot box truck bedroom doesn't have running water, I don't think you're taking much of a step down by resigning yourself to sleeping in the Google Pod.
posted by Mayor West at 6:29 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


parking lot box truck bedroom doesn't have running water

There is running water, refrigeration, and a microwave oven with a hundred yard walk any time. The ONLY convenience he does not have is he can't walk there nude.

That's the dealbreaker for me. I couldn't bear to not prance about my living room naked.
posted by bukvich at 6:40 AM on October 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


privilege(!?!?! Does that word have any meaning anymore around here?)...

Think seriously about how workable this situation would be for someone who menstruates.
posted by almostmanda at 6:42 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


I had meant to add earlier that the basic premise of temporarily living at work to save money seems very normal and unexceptional to me. I have done it, people I knew in college and grad school did it, and lots of people I know do it now because of seasonal and remote project work. There are more comfortable ways to do it than living in a box truck, but good for him for giving it a try and apparently enjoying it.

I have actually considered doing it currently, since I am spending so much time on remote field work; I could park an RV (or tiny house or whatever) at work and use the (sadly rather appallingly dirty) shop shower and washing machine. We get severe winters here, though, and the idea of shivering inside of a small, underinsulated RV doesn't appeal, nor does coming back from a long day and dealing with frozen water tanks and similar issues. The financial break even point would depend on how much you paid and what you could sell it for later, along with any maintenance issues, but it wouldn't be as simple as just adding up the rent during that time.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 AM on October 21, 2015


Are you annoyed by people who walk to work by choice? Do people who buy a house with less square footage than they can afford irk you?
I choose to rent a really small apartment in part so I can live close enough to work to walk, so no, those people don't irk me. I am those people. But I'm pretty conscious that I sometimes irk other people, especially people who live or have lived in tiny apartments and/or gone without a car not by choice. I try to be mindful of that when I talk about my choices, because they are choices, and they might seem really different to people who have more constraints.

But also, there's nothing illegal about living in a small apartment and walking to work. My city is not consumed with discussion about what to do about the problem of small-apartment-living people, and nobody talks about how pedestrians are driving people away from downtown and ought to be forced to go elsewhere. Homeless people, when they are not voluntary and privileged, are treated as criminals and deviants. This dude sees himself as thrifty and knows that nothing bad will happen to him if he gets caught. The difference is privilege. It's a really clear example of privilege, it seems to me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've accepted the fact that I'm going to be celibate for the next who knows how long.

Plus: if you can make asexuality work for you, think of the extra cognitive bandwidth you have for other things. From one point of view, everything from flirting to parenthood is an involuntary, time-intensive hobby you get signed up for at puberty, a big block of time that you can't use for other things.
posted by acb at 6:47 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


privilege(!?!?! Does that word have any meaning anymore around here?)...

Well, yes, but on the other hand menstruation happened for eons, and still happens, in places where the majority of households do not have running water. Or on backpacking trips, etc. This guy is camping, in a truck.

The problem is not that he's doing it just for kicks, the problem is that if this is seen as a clever and acceptable answer to the inability to pay rent where there's jobs while servicing educational debt, soon people won't be doing it just for kicks.

Fast forward, and if you're not one of the bright-eyed youngsters whose RV is parked right outside, then you're not going hard enough.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:47 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is common enough to be a stereotype: the couch-surfing bohemian boyfriend your parents hate. With the parental suspicion tempered here by a Google salary.

And so, the word “bohemian” gets redefined further towards meaningless, now encompassing “corporate serf”.
posted by acb at 6:49 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.
You are amazed that they exist
And they burn so bright,
Whilst you can only wonder why.
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school,
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
And watching roaches climb the wall,
If you called your dad he could stop it all
Yeah

You'll never live like common people
You'll never do what common people do
You'll never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do

I want to live with common people like you

posted by bluecore at 6:50 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


And so, the word “bohemian” gets redefined further towards meaningless, now encompassing “corporate serf”.

.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:51 AM on October 21, 2015


When I read this kind of article - and there's plenty of them - they're virtually always about young white middle class guys with specialized/vocational jobs. In some ways the articles irritate me, because we're supposed to be super interested in these ways of life, while actual homeless-because-of-capitalism people are an embarrassment who must be huddled out of the way.

I mean, if you want to see some fucking life skills, you could talk to some of my friends who have been street-homeless over the years. Do you want to know how to keep your feet from freezing when you're sleeping outside in the middle of a Minnesota winter? Do you want to know how to keep your tent from being washed away in a storm? What about keeping a fire going all day without much smoke in an urban area so that you can build it up again at night?

What about living in a semi-converted garage? How do you stay warm enough? There too you have to handle the peeing-at-night problem and the no running water and the illegality.

Also, I'm worried about normalization. "Hey, this guy lives in a truck, why are you complaining? You have 100 square feet of overpriced rental!" I feel like a lot of the discourse around tiny houses, minimal possessions, etc, is very much the product of increasing inequality - creating a virtue discourse around what is becoming more and more of a necessity.

I'm not saying that living in a small space is bad, or that getting more and more possessions is just great and we should all buy and buy. I'm saying that popular discourse about space and objects is the product of more than just "wow, cool design!".
posted by Frowner at 6:52 AM on October 21, 2015 [37 favorites]


Ironically, this is very close to how my mother has her truck.

For the last few years, she's had two jobs, both several hours from her home, working just over minimum wage at old peoples nursing homes, so she sleeps in the bed in her truck before her shift.

Her actual house is an uninsulated warehouse that has a toilet but no shower. She signed up to a local gym and uses one there. She could be in a house, but she prefers the Warehouse. Combination of factors, she likes the open space (mild claustrophobia), and has trouble setting boundaries with her friends who are even less financially stable than she is, so I think fears that she would have even more people crashing with her than she does (she had a woman and her two children staying with her for a month, without contributing a cent to expenses).

However, that is not the case now. What changed?
Well, Arthritis in her feet as well as RSI in her wrists, means that medically she's not up to the heavy lifting involved (many people in old peoples homes are immobile, and have to be moved from bed, to wheelchair, to toilet, to shower, multiple times a day).
So, she has a part-time job at a nearby stables, which worries me just as much. I don't think a day individually digging and removing stones from the racing track the horses exercise on is any good for her health either, but I can't think of any better options.

Pretty much my life is just a struggle of trying to get into a better place myself, and trying to make sure I have options. Ideally, to even be in a position to be able to support my mother more (I'm thinking a granny-housetruck).


Anyway, point being, if I was in his situation, I would totally be doing the same thing. I've considered the same thing, but I don't even have a full license yet.
That I think, is the main reason I want a full license. If you have a van, you always know you'll have a roof over your head.
He's establishing some financial security for himself, he's going to be fine. He might be from a wealthy background, and just absolutely gaming the system, but he might also be from a poorer background, the sort of person who has seen people living in situations like this, and seen it work. That truck is a lot more stealth than an RV.


And really, he has a full sized bed in there? He will be able to get laid. He can go to house parties and not even have to commute home afterwards - just go out to his truck and sleep!
posted by Elysum at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


He could make the truck much more habitable.

I have a 24' box truck that I built out to use for burning man every year. First thing I did was insulate it. It keeps it warm in the desert nights, and coolish during the 100 degree days.
I use my truck primarily as the kitchen/pantry for my camp during the burn and store the bulk of the infrastructure of the camp in it the other 50 weeks of the year. It could easily be set up to be livable, and much better than what this guy has done since you can be mostly off the grid and have all your basic amenities.

I have a propane powered 21 cubic fridge (again, it's the pantry for my camp, so huge refrigeration is necessary), 36 inch propane stove and oven (which doesn't get much use because I've switched mostly to outdoor camp stoves and pizza ovens, but it's still there) and propane powered on demand hot water heater.

I have two 55 gallon water storage tanks, and a solar powered water pump which feeds the attached outdoor shower head and the commercial kitchen sized three basin sink. All of this equipment takes up just the first 8 feet of the truck, leaving about 16 feet by 8 feet of open space beyond the food prep area.

For the playa, this area is mostly filled with pantry shelves storing food and a folding table and chairs in case of inclement weather (we used it a lot during this years dust storms), but that area could easily be a desk area or small couch area and a sleeping area behind it.

Oh, and the best part, for burning man, anyway, is the last 30" of the truck is set up and partitioned off with insulated walls to hold two camping toilets. These things are great. They are battery operated flush, they don't stink at all, and if only one person is using them you can go well over a week and closer to two weeks without emptying the easy to empty portable tanks. The toilet areas are separated and are completely walled off from the kitchen area, and it is entered via the rear opening of the truck whereas the kitchen is entered from a door I installed in the side of the truck.

The truck cost me $3000 to buy, and then another $4000 to insulate, build out and add all the kitchen cooking/ heating equipment (though I did get lucky and got a good price on the propane fridge, that size is normally around $2000 new).

I was interested to see what mods for easy living he did to his truck and like others, I was disappointed that it's pretty much just a bed in a truck.

He could have easily spent half as much on the truck, box trucks get very cheap very fast, and because places like Uhaul and Ryder update their fleets on a regular basis, supply is plentiful. He doesn't need it for driving cross country so while it should be in good shape engine wise, a high mileage vehicle is not a killer (especially if he knows to look for a Ford 7.3 diesel engine, which lives forever).

Insulating is easy and worth the effort and expense. You can find a local guy to do it, or even do it yourself relatively easily using basic framing and high density rigid insulation and then facing it with a thinner plywood. It's like a weekends worth of project.

For the money he saved making a smarter truck buy, he could have dropped it off for a few days at an RV place and had them install a black water tank underneath it, and hook up a toilet and shower to it. Going to an RV dump site once or twice a month seems a small price to pay for being able to eat past 7:30 at night.

Small propane appliances for a basic kitchen if he wanted it and maybe even a heater, and the rest living space set up as he desired.

What a slacker.
posted by newpotato at 6:55 AM on October 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


Well, yes, but on the other hand menstruation happened for eons, and still happens, in places where the majority of households do not have running water.

And actually, if you read up on things that keep women oppressed, one of the big ones is needing to manage menstruation without easy access to running water.

Also, even if, say, indigenous women in a particular community lived happily without in-home running water, that's because their society is set up to accommodate that. Our society - especially in terms of work and cleanliness norms - is set up on the assumption that you can easily wash both your clothes and yourself, and that you can be absolutely dead-on discrete about it. "Hi there, gym and work buddy! I'm a little bloodied this morning because I have not yet had a chance to wash my bike-to-work clothes and I bled through last night" isn't socially acceptable.
posted by Frowner at 6:57 AM on October 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


You people really have to take a dump right after you eat?
posted by thelonius at 7:00 AM on October 21, 2015


In fairness, none of those except maybe the weekends off apply to someone having cooking and janitorial services provided by lower-paid Google employees.

I think there is a lot of similarity in the rejection of the maintenance of an apartment and the accumulation of stuff you need in an apartment and the freedom to travel widely on time off.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2015


> "Did a box truck pee in everyone's Cheerios today or what?"

Urinating box trucks killed my family.
posted by kyrademon at 7:02 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's a really clear example of privilege, it seems to me.
OK. I agree. Is he perpetuating that privilege, or gloating about it somehow? It doesn't seem so to me. You're careful about how you talk about your privileged walking-to-work habit. What about his blogging is inattentive to that concern? Should people not blog about how they manage to bike to work, their methods and experiences of doing so, because they aren't doing so out of necessity?
posted by daveliepmann at 7:03 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Lester, a Polish man in his 50's to 70's

On a tangent: Lester sounds like the most un-Polish name imaginable, until one makes the leap of it being a way of avoiding trying to teach Anglophones to pronounce Leszek or something over and over. I wonder what proportion of people named with these idiosyncratically all-American names like Lester originally got them as English-pronounceable stand-ins for cumbersomely exotic names. (I think a lot of the old-Jewish-guy names like Sheldon and Manny would fall in this category as well.)
posted by acb at 7:04 AM on October 21, 2015


And actually, if you read up on things that keep women oppressed, one of the big ones is needing to manage menstruation without easy access to running water.

I agree, in the general case. In this specific case, it seems to me like a female Googler who wanted to make a go of this wouldn't be that much worse off than this guy because of menstruation, given the same access to the proximate Google facilities.

It's camping. I'm sort of reluctant to agree to the idea that men are inherently better at camping, it seems a short distance from the ridiculous arguments made against having women in infantry squads, for instance.

The real privilege here is the free use of Google's facilities and lot, it seems to me. That's how you get away with this without offending social norms re: hygiene.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wonder what proportion of people named with these idiosyncratically all-American names like Lester originally got them as English-pronounceable stand-ins for cumbersomely exotic names

acb, the helpful man at the table in front of the long line at Ellis Island even did it for them, some of the time
posted by thelonius at 7:06 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are a couple points to make here.

First, by saving a lot of money as young as possible, he is taking maximum advantage of the working of compound interest. Every dollar he puts away now is 1.x in today's dollars that he doesn't have to save in the future, assuming he wants to work a conventional upper middle class corporate career and retire in his 60s.

Second, by embracing these hardships voluntarily, he will be better able to appreciate more conventional lifestyles of material wealth that most here seem to follow. If he is forced into living in these circumstances involuntarily, he will be better prepared for that, too.

It is honestly pretty weird to see the amount of hate lavished on this guy here, especially the privilege arguments. There are plenty of people working in SV who make way more money than him (several of them are even posting in this thread) and yet nobody here seems to have it out for them. Why is that? The only difference that I can discern is that they probably live more expensive, conventional lifestyles.
posted by indubitable at 7:09 AM on October 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, I'm worried about normalization. "Hey, this guy lives in a truck, why are you complaining? You have 100 square feet of overpriced rental!" I feel like a lot of the discourse around tiny houses, minimal possessions, etc, is very much the product of increasing inequality - creating a virtue discourse around what is becoming more and more of a necessity.

This x1000.

You people really have to take a dump right after you eat?

One of the things I've learned by cohabitating is that pooping norms are indeed a land of contrasts. You might be surprised.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:10 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The analogy to work camps is apt. He's 23, he can tolerate a lot. He doesn't really give a damn about work-life balance, or rather he does, but that's something for when he settles down a decade or so from now. This is very much a future value strategy. He's young now, living like a hobo isn't that big a deal to him.

His real problem is that there isn't low-cost, minimal housing. Cold-water flats and/or rooming houses were the ways itinerant working folks handled this in cities for much of the 20th century, but they've been gentrified away. Conditions were never more than spartan, the main difference being access to a toilet and a washbasin.

Google could provide them, probably some HR person is pondering a housing spreadsheet right now, but they've chosen not to for whatever reason. Doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. Given that, his choices make a lot of sense.

And of course he chose a panel truck. It's the only way to keep from being caught. Though I might have chosen a white-panel van instead: a bit easier to park.
posted by bonehead at 7:12 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's camping. I'm sort of reluctant to agree to the idea that men are inherently better at camping, it seems a short distance from the ridiculous arguments made against having women in infantry squads, for instance.

I will tell you something about camping as an AFAB person: you absolutely do think about and worry about menstruation. I imagine this is changing as new birth control methods which eliminate periods become available, but that applies only to those women who can and want to use those methods, not to women who are trying to get pregnant or who can't use them. One can either discretely nudge folks to plan trips at a time when it won't be a problem, or discretely manage the whole thing while camping. Some women have light, short periods; others don't. I promise you that the AFAB, menstruating people in your life are very aware of this issue - but because in our society we absolutely 100% do not talk about this stuff in public and especially not in front of men, you are not hearing about it.

In terms of women being in infantry squads, etc: how many women and for how long are literally out of reach of water? If you're talking about a couple of days during active military engagement - or a very short camping trip! - this stuff is manageable. It's the perpetually-camping thing that's difficult for at least some women.

posted by Frowner at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


acb, the helpful man at the table in front of the long line at Ellis Island even did it for them, some of the time

I read that that was an urban legend, and nobody was actually forcibly renamed by immigration officials on arrival to the US. (The renaming came later, driven by social pressure to fit in and reinvent oneself as an American.)
posted by acb at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2015


What a slacker.

Yeah, but that's the point, right? The guy in question took the absolute least-effort, least-imagination route to saving a big chunk of money, given the advantages he had as a Google employee (no-question access to company showers, bathrooms, and snack areas, as well as a place to park his truck where it wouldn't be towed away in a couple days as it would just about anywhere else). I mean, dude didn't even tape up a poster on the wall of his truck bedroom, just left the wooden rails and scuff marks as they were. (I can only assume he's someone whose aesthetic needs are extremely minimal. And, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not how most of us would be able to live.)
posted by aught at 7:18 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is he perpetuating that privilege,

He's leveraging it, the same way students in cheap apartments do. He's living poor entirely by choice, a rational choice given his circumstances, but choice nonetheless.

His situation is nothing at all like those who are actually living below the poverty line, who don't have access to affordable housing. He has the privilege to stop at anytime.

But I don't see wanting to save money as an abuse of that privilege. He's not (greatly) externalizing costs to others, for example.
posted by bonehead at 7:22 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


the amount of hate lavished

No offense, but the conflation of skepticism or critical perspective with "hate" is one of the things about current internet culture that I think makes useful discussions more difficult.
posted by aught at 7:23 AM on October 21, 2015 [20 favorites]


He won't be living in that truck for much longer.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:24 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]



I will tell you something about camping as an AFAB person: you absolutely do think about and worry about menstruation...but because in our society we absolutely 100% do not talk about this stuff in public and especially not in front of men, you are not hearing about it.

Fair enough, and good to remember for considerate planning!

If you're talking about a couple of days during active military engagement - or a very short camping trip! - this stuff is manageable. It's the perpetually-camping thing that's difficult for at least some women.


That's kinda what I'm getting at w/this case though — the truck is parked outside Google and the person has already said they are in the truck basically to sleep and then go inside first thing in the morning to the gym with its restrooms and washrooms. The camping trip is six to eight hours long?

posted by snuffleupagus at 7:24 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I knew a cartoonist who did exactly this. The only difference was that his was a flat-nosed box truck if memory serves. He would travel around the country in it and draw. It seemed like a neat, romantic experience, until I heard about the pee jars. Because, you know, there's no bathroom in it. And also, for someone determined to live in a truck, he spent a LOT of time at the house his friends rented, using their shower. To the point where he was even paying partial rent. At which point, maybe it's time to admit living in a truck has it's limits...

Also, as for having guests over, he did surprisingly well with the ladies. Even despite the pee jars.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 7:29 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


That doesn't speak to the laundry issue, I realize. Implantable birth control did occur to me, but that is definitely an extra thing to have to get.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:30 AM on October 21, 2015


The camping trip happens every month every night! Regardless of weather! Regardless of bodily quirks! Regardless of, say, mysterious menstrual changes that your doctor is investigating! If you say "you will need to be kind of bloody and gross and uncomfortable for two days because it's wartime, and everyone around you will be gross to some degree too just because of not showering, and really, it's a crapshoot whether the military engagement will occur while you're bleeding" that's different from "every month for at least a couple of nights you will need to manage this, and other people around you will not be going through the same thing". Speaking as an AFAB person, I have been fortunate enough to have fairly uncomplicated biology, and it would still be doable but a real nuisance with very occasional significant drawbacks.
posted by Frowner at 7:31 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


No offense, but the conflation of skepticism or critical perspective with "hate" is one of the things about current internet culture that I think makes useful discussions more difficult.

Skepticism about what, though? That this isn't a solution for literally everyone? That this is somehow a model for how poor people should live? Neither is claimed by this guy, so it's not skepticism of anything presented here. Maybe I should have called it "distaste", but it is not as though everyone is just engaging honestly with the source material, either.
posted by indubitable at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


it would still be doable but a real nuisance with very occasional significant drawbacks.

So, looking at it with that focus makes the immediate proximity to Google's facilities look almost like a leveling factor as vs. trying to do this in a public space (i.e. public street, local laws permitting) at any old job, which is giving me a headache.

posted by snuffleupagus at 7:39 AM on October 21, 2015


Pretty funny how people ITT are complaining about "moral purity" and "[not] engaging honestly" and then proceeding to make a total caricature of the comments they are responding to.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:41 AM on October 21, 2015


Neither is claimed by this guy, so it's not skepticism of anything presented here.

But there's also the last two links, which are presented alongside this story with the words "less than 100 feet may be all you need." The guy living at Google may not be saying any of this, but there's a really clear push nowadays to normalize this kind of lifestyle, and that's what people are reacting to here.
posted by teponaztli at 7:43 AM on October 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


On reflection, I guess its just that the privileges that inhere in being in the Googlesphere mitigate the problem.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2015


It seems more like a trend for wealthy people with flexible work scenarios than a push to normalize the lifestyle. Asceticism is hip!
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:46 AM on October 21, 2015


That's the dealbreaker for me. I couldn't bear to not prance about my living room naked.

ctrl+f "chamber pot"

no results found

Pooping norms be damned, I start balking the minute I have to pee at 2AM and have to choose between putting on shoes or using an empty 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.
posted by Mayor West at 7:47 AM on October 21, 2015


[No harm no foul, but probably better to avoid lengthy comments/exchanges in <small> type; some folks find it hard to read at length.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


The classic answer is a 5 gallon pail (free behind the right restaurants) and a garbage bag. Fancy folks have a couple of planks.
posted by bonehead at 7:54 AM on October 21, 2015


while ago, my girlfriend was mistaken for a homeless woman

Hm, well, wasn't she? I mean, I understand the difference between intentional-lifestyle-homeless and hardship-homeless, but it doesn't sound like a mistake to call her homeless, exactly, other than mistaking her for someone with no money. Ah, semantics.


What is this comment by Miko responding to? There seems to be nothing in this thread or in the articles that say "a while ago, my girlfriend ...."
posted by jayder at 7:54 AM on October 21, 2015


What is this comment by Miko responding to? There seems to be nothing in this thread or in the articles that say "a while ago, my girlfriend ...."

It's from the article linked from the word "all."
posted by mama casserole at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


So he's living in rough conditions until he pays off his debt... the workhouse is back then.

I'm surprised that tech and companies who employ a lot of young single people don't just build dormitory blocks for their employees like the military and the police in the uk (or at least they used to)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh. Thanks.
posted by jayder at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2015


Google could provide them

I don't live in MV or work at Google, but I remember reading that Google has been trying to build housing there for a while, but has met with a lot of opposition from the town of Mountain View, for reasons summarized in the link. So it's not that simple.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:59 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that tech and companies who employ a lot of young single people don't just build dormitory blocks for their employees like the military and the police in the uk (or at least they used to)

Give them time.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2015


I think like a lot of people I should clarify that I don't blame, or even mock, this kid, for doing what he has to. Anymore than I blame people living 20 to an apartment, or in code-violating housing, or in their cars, because there is no way for them to live anywhere else and keep their jobs.

I'm just saying that if a kid with a degree and a job at Google can't afford a minimum living standard above "living in a truck," then maybe we should start taking housing-as-a-right seriously in this damn country. Used to be that if you got a job somewhere in a tight housing market but were a desirable hire, the company might help you find housing, not just look the other way while you slept in their parking lot or pods. Or it might relocate, or do satellite campuses, or something that allowed its employees to both live and work. But we don't expect corporations to do anything but try to screw us, the world, and each other anymore. We have given up on holding them responsible for anything whatsoever.
posted by emjaybee at 8:11 AM on October 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


This guy clearly could afford to not live in a truck, he is just choosing to do so. He has not been forced into this position.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:20 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I read that that was an urban legend, and nobody was actually forcibly renamed by immigration officials on arrival to the US. (The renaming came later, driven by social pressure to fit in and reinvent oneself as an American.)

My Italian maternal grandfather was given an Irish family name upon his arrival at the age of 12, as the immigration officer said that life was tough for Italians, and with his blue eyes, he'd have a better shot at getting ahead if he had an Irish name. Sure, he ended up working in a coal mine in upstate PA, but he at least got to enjoy being mocked and ridiculed by all the other Italians who lived in his town.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:21 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Google guy is living in a truck by choice; he was previously living in Google corporate housing, but decided that he spent so little time there that he'd rather save the $2000/month instead. He was approached in his truck by campus security, who told him he had a "sweet setup" and to have a great night. So this is not exactly the test case for forcing more corporate accountability.
posted by mama casserole at 8:22 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't live in MV or work at Google, but I remember reading that Google has been trying to build housing there for a while, but has met with a lot of opposition from the town of Mountain View, for reasons summarized in the link. So it's not that simple.

Yeah, I did wonder - and probably should have added - if there would be planning / zoning or whatever issues (no knowing the legal stuff) that would make it too hard.

And similar plus probably those pesky health and safety or whatever laws stopping you slinging a bed desk in your cubical - teal coloured obviously.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:24 AM on October 21, 2015


Is it the bridge in San Francisco that Gibson stuck a container dwelling community on? I forget.
posted by Artw at 8:34 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I think it's OK to have mixed feelings about this. I know I do. I also am concerned that this contributes to some normalization of workers living on scraps, where poverty is seen as a kind of adventure, as poverty tourism always contends. At the same time, the 20s are pretty much your decade for doing shit like this, for reasons both financial and existential. He's a young guy, and maybe not totally aware of all the implications of what he's doing. But I think we can be vigilant against the normalization effect while still recognizing that if you have the privilege to make the conscious decision to do something like this, your 20s are probably the best time to do it.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:35 AM on October 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think people who are concerned about creeping normalization of this type of lifestyle are off the mark. I'm reminded of the proliferation of rentals in "hacker houses" in SF, i.e., bunk beds in shared bedrooms and repurposed living rooms, often still costing over a grand a month. Honestly, I might prefer living in a van to that -- at least you would get some privacy. Anyway, I suspect that for every quasi legal niche in such an overcrowded housing market, there will spring up renters and slumlords eager to exploit it (and w.r.t the latter, eventually capitalize on it).
posted by en forme de poire at 8:37 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


My distaste for corporate housing stems from having read Oryx and Crake a couple of times. It's a dystopia wherein employees of a corporation live inside a secure, comfortable bubble--literally a dome guarded by people with guns, requiring extreme measures to keep the outsiders outside. Everything outside of each corporate bubble is considered a dangerous wasteland.

Seeing yet another Atwoodian fiction move toward reality is uncomfortable. As a person with a chronic health issue, I have to choose from employers based on their health insurance offerings before anything else; I don't want to have to choose one based on its housing offerings as well.
posted by theraflu at 8:37 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brandon is . . . living in the back of a 16' box truck parked at his work

Why -- that's gonzo.

That's titanic.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:38 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


And wow, called it with the "capitalizing" thing: Wharton Grad Has Tiny, Illegal Solution To Bay Area Housing Crisis (spoiler alert, converted shipping containers)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I had been single and pet-less when I left school, I would totally have thought about the shipping-container route. Spending a year or two in crappy housing in exchange for getting student loans off my back sounds great. And I don't even have truly crippling student loans, just enough that paying them off in 1-2 years instead of 15 sounds awesome.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:12 AM on October 21, 2015


My government forgave my student loans because I came back to live here in Northern Canada after graduation. I imagine most people would prefer the box truck.
posted by ODiV at 9:14 AM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


If a lot of people do this, it won't work well, lack of sanitation. Lots of people live in RVs full time, with kitchens and bathrooms, and there's a community of van-dwellers who live in small spaces, either voluntarily or through poverty. The box truck is pretty roomy, and could easily house a camp kitchen and porta-potty. I'm surprised that he thinks he'll maintain any privacy.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


posted by indubitable It is honestly pretty weird to see the amount of hate lavished on this guy here, especially the privilege arguments.

Not really. People are just insanely jealous of Brandon's clever housing solution which allows him to take maximum advantage of the perks his job offers (free gym, parking space, showers, etc.) while saving a huge amount of his salary instead of spending it on an apartment or a house he neither needs, nor uses, nor wants. The people jealous of Brandon's housing solution are probably the same people complaining about Brandon's co-workers taking up housing and driving up rent in the Bay Area.

Which is it, jealous haters? Does Brandon suck because he's living in the back of a truck parked at his work instead of taking up space in the City, or do his co-workers suck because they're taking up space in the City? Make up your minds! Sheesh.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:25 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hahaha, wow
posted by en forme de poire at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not going to deny that for women living in areas where access to running water, etc., is rare, menstruation is a HUGE problem in equality and standard of living. This is unambiguously true.

BUT, for me, living in America as a middle-class-ish person (i.e. with education but not a lot of money), living in a box truck would be perfectly workable while I'm menstruating. I have medium-heavy periods and I would be just fine tbh. As long as I could throw out trash and had, idk, a jug of water for emergencies. I've camped without running water while on my period and it's not like I lost my job and died.
posted by easter queen at 9:58 AM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also I know I'm clearly disposed to this quality of roughing it, but if the majority of Americans moving into smaller spaces (NOT box trucks, just smaller spaces) meant something better for our culture, society, and environment, I'd be down with it. If you "need" larger spaces, I guess you can hustle to afford them, just like people who need designer jeans or whatever.

There's certainly nothing magically life-enhancing about immediately jumping on the work/rent/stuff-buying treadmill by living on your own, with all the material needs that demands, on entry-level wages.

Oh Miko, this sums it up perfectly. I moved out with my boyfriend right after college to jump on the treadmill and it sucked. I wish I had come up with a more creative solution until my salary increased. Right now my boyfriend and I are both in school and working and there is nothing character building about having to come home at 9pm and cook a meal to eat fifteen minutes before falling face first into bed, and STILL having no money leftover.
posted by easter queen at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


So to sum up most of the sensible comments so far, don't hate the player, hate the game. The Bay Area has weird income inequality problems ten ways to Sunday but one semi-wealthy dude living in a truck isn't the major issue. Just like the patriarchy is bad for men, income inequality and housing issues are problems for middle-class people as well as poor ones.

Someone mentioned laundry - Google has laundry facilities for employees on-campus. With free detergent even. Yes, I know, it's crazy.

And technically Google hasn't tried to "build housing" per se - they were trying to get land zoned for housing developments as part of a larger re-zoning effort around their corporate buildings. Probably a separate developer would have built & owned the buildings.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I spent several summers living in a Dodge Caravan. One of the things I loved about it was that I could change the view outside my windows whenever I wanted. I lived on an island where year-round rentals were almost non-existent but there were plenty of dirt roads to nowhere and beaches where people fished at night so my van wasn't noticed. I sometimes just parked in legal parking spaces in town and went to sleep, without attracting attention to myself. There were some public showers and public bathrooms, and, Monday through Friday, a bathroom at work.

If I wanted to leave the island to travel I just took my home on the ferry.

I'd like to go back to living that way and hope to when I retire in a few years.

Oh, and I was in my late forties at the time, in case you're wondering, and I knew others my age who were living in a similar fashion. All of us had jobs, some of us had quite good jobs.
posted by mareli at 10:21 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Avoid Thinking About The Realities Of Modern Life For Even The Relatively Affluent And How Providing Even A Baseline Of Resources Would Improve Life For Millions Of Americans With One Simple Truck!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:24 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was Miko for a while, kind of. I spent a few years in my 20's as a teacher at a residential school, living on-site and having three meals a day in the cafeteria. When I wasn't teaching in the classroom or helping run one of the sports teams, I was pretty much on my own, and so I could talk long walks, read in the library, chat with friends, and so on.

I hated it. The mistake I made was not having a car, and that just killed me as I could never leave the rural campus without bumming a ride. There's definitely something to be said for having a space separate from work, and while I wouldn't want to go overboard and do the hyper-long commute, I do think that there needs to be a real physical and temporal separation between work and home.

A truck in the parking lot just isn't far enough away from work.
posted by math at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2015


Which is it, jealous haters? Does Brandon suck because he's living in the back of a truck parked at his work instead of taking up space in the City, or do his co-workers suck because they're taking up space in the City? Make up your minds! Sheesh.

In my case particularly, it's a few different things. A: The framing of "Instead of an apartment or a house, less than one hundred square feet may be all you need." Except that B: The fact that this only works on his employer's largesse (company showers, free food, free phone, probable wifi, water/sewer/trash covered, and no space rental while crashing in the parking lot). C. The fact that this largely only works for twenty something males with no disability or dependents. D. The fact that I pass a host of people living in this exact manner on my way to work, only it's not by choice, they don't get free food/utilities/laundry/shower, and the cops harass them and force them to move regularly. E. The fact that this recalls some bad ol' days of company towns and company scrip in American labor history.

There is a ton of privilege this kid has in making this work. It's not exactly a commentary on the Bay Area housing crisis, as this kid could afford housing. A more on-point examination of the housing crisis would be to look at the folks commuting from the central valley to work low-wage jobs.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:54 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Is it the bridge in San Francisco that Gibson stuck a container dwelling community on? I forget.

Yeah, the Bay Bridge. Not exactly container-dwelling, more just shanties strung up among the cables. Incidentally, there's an ancillary thread in Virtual Light involving a cyberpunk megacorporation's plan to completely transform San Francisco into an arcology (which would involve displacing the huge population of marginalized people who live there) that is starting to form distressing parallels to the contemporary situation...
posted by majuju at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


okay. I happen to be someone who menstruates, or at least I did when I was 22. At that age, I lived for a six month period (heh) in a shared warehouse commune "art studio" (oh come on, we were totally squatting there!) with thirty-some other GenX slackers, one "shower" (that was actually just a cold water hose running from the outdoor standpipe and hose clamped to the wall overlooking a floor drain with some old moldy shower curtains rigged around it) and one communal toilet that was down three flights of rickety fire stairs to a dark, sketchy concrete hallway. Mostly at night I didn't bother because it was cold as fuck, and so I (and most others) used a "chamber pot" aka piss bowl, which was kept under the camp cot where I slept. I learned this tactic from living in a cabin in West Virginia with my hippie father - the cabin had no electricity or running water and it gets too damned cold to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night in January.

Was it the best living space I've ever had? Hell no, I'd rather live in my current leafy suburban privilege. Was it inconvenient? Sure, but it was cheap and I was young and healthy.

I get that there are all varieties of disability and health and an intersection of gender/class privilege here that just completely enrages the MeFi army, but really the projection and scolding in this thread is disappointing. Okay hate The Man if you will, and I completely concur that the current state of Bay Area tech socioeconomic inequality issues are daunting. Totally certain it would go down differently if this was not a young white clean cut looking dude, but you know, also, nowhere in his blog do I see him presenting this as a "see how easy this is! Bootstraps!!" issue, and so many of us have done something similar in our youth. I merely see this in the same light as the anecdotes a local startup kid I worked with told of how his wife and he lived in a 200 square foot studio apartment with a table saw and an air bed as their only furniture. They're not saying it's the only way, it's just A way.

jesus wept I mean my parents kept me in a dresser drawer for the first six months of my life because they couldn't afford rent AND baby furniture that I'd grow out of immediately. Life contains multitudes.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:11 AM on October 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Not really. People are just insanely jealous of Brandon's clever housing solution which allows him to take maximum advantage of the perks his job offers (free gym, parking space, showers, etc.) while saving a huge amount of his salary instead of spending it on an apartment or a house he neither needs, nor uses, nor wants. The people jealous of Brandon's housing solution are probably the same people complaining about Brandon's co-workers taking up housing and driving up rent in the Bay Area.

I don't think people are jealous of his housing situation. People are jealous of his job though, absolutely (or trying to convince themselves that it must actually really suck) but that's totally reasonable. I'm jealous of his job, and I'm a software developer - because Google didn't hire me.
posted by atoxyl at 11:14 AM on October 21, 2015


nowhere in his blog do I see him presenting this as a "see how easy this is! Bootstraps!!" issue

I don't think he does, some of the coverage of him kinda slants that way though.
posted by atoxyl at 11:16 AM on October 21, 2015


Shipping containers need a fair bit of work before they're even minimally good enough to live in, btw. They're just a metal can, so they are super cold in the winter/ovens in the summer, noisy as fuck in the rain. The doors are a pain in the ass and can't be fastened from the insides. And, if they sit unmaintained for any length of time, have a distressing tendency to develop leaks.

After you insulate, vapour barrier, drywall, fit new doors, and maybe cut a window or two, it's almost cheaper just to have built new. And that's before plumbing and electric.
posted by bonehead at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2015


Shipping containers need a fair bit of work before they're even minimally good enough to live in

This sentence, perhaps amped up a bit to become more emphatic, should be written on the forehead of every new architecture student.
posted by aramaic at 11:39 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


dick-waving contests are getting weirder and weirder
posted by Tevin at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


posted by Tevin dick-waving contests are getting weirder and weirder

1: Cut a hole in the box truck
posted by mattdidthat at 11:57 AM on October 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, it really could use a window.
posted by mochapickle at 12:11 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly people, this is really just the cyberpunk ideal.
Hiro is in his 20-by-30 at the U-Stor-It. He is spending a little time in Reality, as per the suggestion of his partner. The door is open so that ocean breezes and jet exhaust can blow through. All the furniture - the futons, the cargo pallet, the experimental cinderblock furniture - has been pushed up against the walls. He is holding a one-meter-long piece of heavy rebar with tape wrapped around one end to make a handle. The rebar approximates a katana, but it is very much heavier. He calls it redneck katana.
- Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
I'm kind of hoping Google's exercise room has a rack of redneck katanas.

Also, I wouldn't worry about this guy's sex life. If Case could get laid in a coffin hotel, this guy should have no problem. All he needs is a pair of wraparound mirrorshades.
posted by happyroach at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


newpotato: "For the money he saved making a smarter truck buy, he could have dropped it off for a few days at an RV place and had them install a black water tank underneath it, and hook up a toilet and shower to it. Going to an RV dump site once or twice a month seems a small price to pay for being able to eat past 7:30 at night."

Seems like a lot of work when a bathroom is a short walk away.

majuju: " Not exactly container-dwelling, more just shanties strung up among the cables."

It was the Johnny Mnemonic movie that featured the shipping containers.
posted by Mitheral at 12:48 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


How well compensated are Google's custodial staff? How well compensated are Google's food service workers?

It's ridiculous to say this isn't a clear case of privilege, when this guy is only able to live like this because 1) low-wage workers (that he isn't paying) are covering most of his basic needs, and 2) his employer is paying for all his utilities, food, and sanitation.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nobody's saying it's not privileged, though?

And do you boycott every industry where workers are paid low wages? All cafes? All restaurants? All grocery stores? All convenience stores?
posted by easter queen at 12:59 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, isn't it at least nice that people are being compensated for meeting his basic needs (the workers, at his company's expense), instead of him going the traditional route and getting a girlfriend to do it all for free?

I mean, if he ate out at restaurants every night would we be tsk tsking him for relying on restaurant servers and cooks to be his mommy?
posted by easter queen at 1:04 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was responding to:

privilege(!?!?! Does that word have any meaning anymore around here?)..

easter queen, what's with all the interrogatives?

I didn't say anything about boycotts, I don't know if he's straight, and if he was eating out every night, I presume he would be paying for that himself.

I never said he shouldn't do this - just that he's in a very tiny class of people for whom this would be comfortable or sensible.

I could live in a van at my work, too, but there's no shower, no free laundry, and my employer doesn't provide me with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so I would have to expand a lot more energy than this guy to obtain all those resources for myself every day.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:10 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know, it must be my interrogation privilege showing.

I think the annoyance with the P-word being thrown around is that a large number of MeFites who really hate people like this guy only hate him because they're privileged enough to have, you know, known or been this guy. Most MeFites are quite privileged indeed, so how dare this one privileged dude do something unconventional, unlike them, because everything they do hews so close to the conformist norm.

Like, if MeFites want to get mad, that's fine, but then every time they want to explain why they are morally superior because they don't use conditioner or wear a suit to a formal event, they can bother to explain why their job security and racial and sexual privilege makes this acceptable, or whatever.
posted by easter queen at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a whole lot greener than flying to silicon valley from Las Vegas! This guy is brilliant. He is paying off his student loans and not paying a landlord $24-36,000 a year for the privilege of living in the bay area. He only has to do this for three years to be much better leveraged. I don't know how long he has to work for g-word to qualify for retirement later, but yeah.

On a side note I lived the whole summer of 2013 in my Westy, in three different locations. Dating? I had some very good dates in the second floor of that van. I was young then, only 62. I am currently rethinking my attachment to this condo of mine, cashing in and taking pictures for a couple of years. None of this makes me thoughtless, and I have $40,000 worth of student loans. Rearranging things would leave me with a clear horizon. Calculating, I think there is just about 100 sq feet of space with the top popped.
posted by Oyéah at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's ridiculous to say this isn't a clear case of privilege

Of course it's a clear case of privilege, the same privilege a huge number of white people have and the same as all his co-workers have. If you're going to hate on this guy, you're going to have to hate on a lot of other people, which is maybe your thing, but he's not really that much more offensive than any other random googler.

How well compensated are Google's custodial staff? How well compensated are Google's food service workers?

Meh, not great, not terrible. Google brought security staff in as full-time employees last year which was a big improvement. I think the other staff are paid market wages for their positions. Working a Google kitchen seems like a pretty good job by restaurant industry standards separate from how much they get paid.

And as far as him not paying all these people... they're his co-workers to some extent. He doesn't pay the guy who runs the build servers either but it's not exactly like he's oppressing that team. But for sure it helps working at the nanny state of American companies. Given a place to sleep, an employee can live on campus indefinitely.
posted by GuyZero at 1:15 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, as much as Google is a nanny company, it is a bit annoying to watch everyone hate on this guy because his job has good/exceptional benefits. Let's not be the richer version of people who think it's not fair that government workers are paid above minimum wage, you know?
posted by easter queen at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who's hating? I'm not hating.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's so much hating on him for that. Simply observing, if you're going to do the "live in a truck in your employer's parking lot" thing: Google, with its concierge-level benefits, is pretty much the easiest place to do it.

Although now this story is undoubtedly on Google HR's radar, this probably goes one of two ways: either they find his truck and tell him to knock it the fuck off, or they embrace the story by adding "free RV hookups" to their employee perks.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:30 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


His real problem is that there isn't low-cost, minimal housing [... ] Google could provide them, probably some HR person is pondering a housing spreadsheet right now, but they've chosen not to for whatever reason. Doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. Given that, his choices make a lot of sense.
They've tried to do this sort of thing in the past in Mountain View: Google to finance affordable housing in Mountain View

The problem as I understand it is that you just can't build super-high density housing in the area, and demand has been outstripping supply for a while.

I'm starting to wonder how many of the people commenting here have even seen what Mountain View looks like.

Look at the numbers that make the news for "high density housing" in the area:

Prometheus pitching major apartment project in Mountain View hot spot
The big idea: 605 apartments in two five-story buildings and one seven-story building, plus a small amount of retail — about 9,200 square feet.
The proposal is notable because it would push density to the high end of what has traditionally been built in the region's suburban markets, a sign that developers are taking a more urban approach to project design. [...] Prometheus is proposing building 44 very-low-income units into the project as part of a complicated state "density bonus" system that allows larger projects in return for integrating affordable housing.
I mean sure it would help, but it seems to me that the real problem is that the whole area refuses to flick the switch from suburbia to high-density urban housing with a decent public transport system.
posted by dhaveconfig at 1:36 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


And as far as him not paying all these people... they're his co-workers to some extent.

Do the Google food workers and custodians get to eat three free meals, and use the laundry, naps, and shower facilities? I'm genuinely interested.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:38 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


posted by Squeak Attack It's ridiculous to say this isn't a clear case of privilege, when this guy is only able to live like this because 1) low-wage workers (that he isn't paying) are covering most of his basic needs, and 2) his employer is paying for all his utilities, food, and sanitation.

By taking full advantage of the perks his employer offers, Brandon is drastically reducing his carbon footprint, reducing traffic by taking a car off the freeway, not occupying rental space in the City, and so forth. Brandon found a housing solution for himself in the wake of largesse offered by his employer and I'm failing to understand how doing so is anything other than clever, practical, financially smart and environmentally responsible, but I suppose jealously dismissing Brandon's efforts with thinly-disguised, stridently absurd protestations about "privilege" is easier than implementing similar tactics to reduce your own environmental impact while simultaneously ignoring the fact Brandon has effectively trumped both the complaints about tech workers in Silicon Valley, and the ridiculous, whiny scoldings you apparently cannot resist giving them.

posted by Squeak Attack I could live in a van at my work, too, but there's no shower, no free laundry, and my employer doesn't provide me with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so I would have to expand a lot more energy than this guy to obtain all those resources for myself every day . . . Who's hating? I'm not hating.

No, we get it. You're jealous. That's obvious.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:39 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aw, you're cute!
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:51 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


> As well as ensuring that he will never get laid

When I was around that age my boyfriend lived in a trailer in a junk yard, with no running water and no bathroom at all, and yet I would spend the night. Eh, if the guy's got enough appeal, they'll figure something out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do the Google food workers and custodians get to eat three free meals, and use the laundry, naps, and shower facilities? I'm genuinely interested.

As somebody mentioned the guards get pretty good benefits now. I'm guessing janitorial and food service are still contracted out because I haven't found any statements to the contrary, so they probably get whatever (probably shitty) is the norm in that situation.
posted by atoxyl at 2:32 PM on October 21, 2015


Do the Google food workers and custodians get to eat three free meals, and use the laundry, naps, and shower facilities? I'm genuinely interested.

I actually don't know. Google calls temporary employees "TVCs" - temps, vendors & contractors - and you can find a few accounts of the job if you search the web but the category covers a really wide range of people so it's hard to generalize.

Everyone gets to eat. I guess they could use the rest but many are only being paid hourly so I'm not sure when exactly they'd use this stuff. And I still am not sure why you'd want to do a load of laundry at work. Free laundry is great and all but it's really odd to be carrying a basket of laundry in and out of a work building.
posted by GuyZero at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2015


I'm starting to wonder how many of the people commenting here have even seen what Mountain View looks like.

Basically, Mountain View wants to be like Santa Barbara, except without the West and East Side, where the working class people live. They've got this notion that it can be a city of all beautiful people, with the associated tax revenues, and the workers? Well they can live someone else.
posted by happyroach at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the state of affordable housing in the Bay Area.
posted by Chuffy at 2:44 PM on October 21, 2015


I mean the real issue is that this living arrangement is extremely illegal in San Francisco. He can get away with it only because 1. his truck isn't obviously an RV (legit RV parks in the Bay Area are not cheap, either), and 2. he is an affluent tech worker who will probably get the benefit of the doubt from cops.

maybe San Francisco has a better written ordinance, but within the last year or so I recall a California Supreme Court decision that struck down L.A. county's ordinance prohibiting people from living in their cars. IIRC, the decision found the ordinance unconstitutionally vague. Also, I know there are lots of people in L.A. county living in street-parked RV's who aren't getting harassed by the police (even before that decision).

Is it different in the Bay Area?
posted by jayder at 2:46 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mountain View is very NIMBY where they're against actual people appearing anywhere in town. Definitely a very stubborn refusal to densify driven by existing homeowners. But not really any different from Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Cupertino, etc. The whole area is the same, stuck in 1968 development policies.
posted by GuyZero at 3:02 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


He'd better make sure not to let Trevor drive his home...
posted by Chuffy at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


mattdidthat

I see what matt did there. However, mattdidnotbuildthat.

clever, practical, financially smart...Brandon has effectively trumped both the complaints about tech workers in Silicon Valley, and the ridiculous, whiny scoldings you apparently cannot resist giving them.

Do you perchance do PR at Uber?
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:20 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I still am not sure why you'd want to do a load of laundry at work. Free laundry is great and all but it's really odd to be carrying a basket of laundry in and out of a work building.

It wouldn't be odd if everyone's employer had a free laundromat at work. It's as much a time-savings for harried service workers as absentminded software snowflakes. And laundromats suck.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:22 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: "And I still am not sure why you'd want to do a load of laundry at work. "

The intention is probably for people to clean gym or biking clothes and clothes they leave at work if they are walking/biking to work.
posted by Mitheral at 3:47 PM on October 21, 2015


posted by snuffleupagus In this specific case, it seems to me like a female Googler who wanted to make a go of this wouldn't be that much worse off than this guy because of menstruation, given the same access to the proximate Google facilities. It's camping. I'm sort of reluctant to agree to the idea that men are inherently better at camping, it seems a short distance from the ridiculous arguments made against having women in infantry squads, for instance. The real privilege here is the free use of Google's facilities and lot, it seems to me. That's how you get away with this without offending social norms re: hygiene.

Here you go.
posted by mattdidthat at 4:18 PM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's just that we've grown suspicious of the Bay Area techie archetype who comes along with some new flavor of "actually, it turns out you can get along quite well without [fill-in human social/biological/dietary/aesthetic need]".
posted by anazgnos at 4:30 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


truck-u-lent.io

who's in?
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:52 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The laundry issue? My very favorite coffee place backs up to a laundry place. The coffee place has great food too! There are all kinds of ways to make life happen. Having your way has a certain cachet. You have to be willing to own your game.

I own a two bdr condo free and clear, I am considering a much less encumbered life. The way this guy is gaming the system drops about three years off the gerbil wheel, as starting up in a new place and finding some ideal social strata is expensive. Then settling into it, and the relationships that form; you become a part of a scaffold that might not suit you for the future. He has made his life liquid for the time being.
posted by Oyéah at 4:53 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


The word "hating" keeps coming up, and I think that's just kind of an effective way of shutting down conversations people might want to have about this. It doesn't have to be hate, and it doesn't even have to be about This One Guy Who Works for Google.

I mean, this article was written, posted, and read for a reason. It doesn't have to be critical, but it clearly speaks to more than just what this one guy is doing. We're not all going "hmm, living in a parking lot, yes," and giving it no thought beyond that. This obviously resonates with different people for different reasons, and so it doesn't actually matter if this guy is personally advocating for anything, because the fact that we're reading about this now means there's some reason to care.

We live in a time when we have to reevaluate who can buy a house, or if you could ever buy a house in the Bay Area, or wherever you live (the answer is probably no). Rents keep going up. There's a certain middle and upper-middle class desire to live in something called a Tiny House, because that kind of subverts the housing question. That says something, doesn't it?

It's not hating. This guy is probably like a lot of really nice tech people I know, and he's doing something different (I have family who work for Google, and they're not drones or rich people, just nice people). And that's great! But you can think he's doing something neat, or think he's a great guy, and also see connections to things that bother you or worry you. And no, it's not jealousy.
posted by teponaztli at 7:14 PM on October 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


stridently absurd protestations about "privilege" is easier than implementing similar tactics to reduce your own environmental impact while simultaneously ignoring the fact Brandon has effectively trumped both the complaints about tech workers in Silicon Valley, and the ridiculous, whiny scoldings you apparently cannot resist giving them.

Here we are: 35 years of rolling back the middle class has left us with the reduction of our standard of living as a moral imperative. If the rich are reduced to living in fucking moving trucks while working 80 hours a week, what's going to happen to the rest of us?
posted by dirigibleman at 9:27 PM on October 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


I live on the outskirts of the Bay Area and pay a decent chunk of change for rent, so I am a bit jealous. The old hands at work tell me stories about people who'd live in RVs in the parking lot, or even hole up surreptitiously in the maintenance tunnels under the corporate campus.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:39 PM on October 21, 2015


Is it different in the Bay Area?

As far as I know (and of course I am extremely not a lawyer), the ban on vehicular living is still on the books here, and there have actually been further recent laws banning overnight parking for RVs and other oversized vehicles entirely in many SF neighborhoods.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:06 PM on October 21, 2015


Wow, en forme de poire, that article is depressing.
Eileen Reimonenq, head of the Alemany Clean Committee, and her fellow neighbors in the Outer Mission were pleased with the new restrictions.

“We are not out to evict the homeless but we just want to have the nice neighborhood we deserve,” she said.
...by evicting the homeless. Because they deserve nothing, apparently.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:25 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Youtube channel style. No evicting of the homeless intended!
posted by thelonius at 12:50 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


They've got this notion that it can be a city of all beautiful people, with the associated tax revenues, and the workers? Well they can live someone else.

And, little by little, the little people find themselves robbed of more time and money by their commutes being gradually lengthened as they're displaced to make room for their betters.

If there is a revolution, it'll be set off by cleaners/teachers/dog walkers/burrito chefs reading Marx on their Kindles at 5am as they make their way to serve their masters, a cadre of 23-year-old John Galts in executive hoodies.
posted by acb at 3:12 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


This guy has a new post up on the blog about all the attention, which I would highly suggest reading. It's thoughtful, nuanced, and overall interesting. I'd like to pull out one bit that resonated with me:

Over 600,000 people in the United States are homeless, and we're the most affluent nation on the planet. By that metric, there's nothing particularly interesting about my flavor of homelessness. It's that I'm choosing to do so, or that I'm doing it while working at a high-profile tech company. And somehow that makes it more interesting, or fun even? Real homelessness is a systemic issue that doesn't get exposure because it's a decidedly uncomfortable topic. People barely scraping by working minimum wage jobs and living out of their cars isn't a news story, or particularly glamorous. My story makes a great, Buzzfeed-style headline. But when it comes down to it, my life is perfectly fine. I've said many times before that in my worst case scenario, I simply get an apartment like a normal human being. But where are the stories for the people who don't have that luxury? Let's be incredibly clear about this: If I was struggling to get by and living out of a car, this wouldn't be news; it'd just be someone's harsh reality. It's especially tragic because I encouraged it, generating tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue for these media outlets.* If this is something that resonates with you, donate to an organization that actually does something about it, like Salvation Army or Homeless Voice.

This guy seems a lot more thoughtful and engaged than some people in this thread are giving him credit for.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:28 AM on October 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


Every day in Los Angeles, cleaners ('housekeepers') walk miles into and out of the hillside neighborhoods where the buses don't run and there are no sidewalks. Been going on for decades. The simple alienation of labor in a system designed to harness it does not produce revolution.

History teaches that revolutions, or sweeping reforms, in societies like the US happen when the system can no longer support the privileges and meet the expectations of its servitors and maintainers, the aspirational and professional classes that undergird the more rarified elites. i.e. when enough of those 23 year olds are turning 32 without their unicorn jobs materializing and the reality of a life stretching depressed hourly wages to make rent and service student debt payments and maybe someday, somehow have a family (if you're into that) hits home. Without some acute crisis or externality, real reform happens when those whose investiture in the status quo is obtained through the operation of privilege discover they are downwardly mobile in socioeconomic status, and their self-interest is realigned with those who lack privilege, against it.

For better or worse, that has been happening. There's still the problem of the number of Boomers, and their tendency to vote for their own naked economic self interest all other politics aside. And the older the Boomers get, the more protective they'll be of their position, as is only natural given the way retirement planning works (or doesn't). Self-interest feels like self-preservation. It's hard to focus on the spread between the rates your kids are paying on their student loans and the Fed's discount rate when you're already not sure how you're going to afford to live in retirement on your existing benefits, without any cuts. Yet, student debt is a $127B profit center for the Federal government and ultimately it's all one big budget.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:56 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there's a little bit of tension in how we condemn the 23-year-olds with good jobs, pity the 23-year-olds without good jobs, and talk about how the middle class falling apart in terms of the giant houses we should be able to have, the running water we should be able to waste, the gas guzzlers we should be able to drive, etc. Standard of living is great but I don't know if standard of living should mean being as wasteful as possible. The planet is falling apart.

It's just typical divide-and-conquer shit, except now the enemy is nerds with jobs. Instead of banks and actual rich fucks. There is a difference between the 23-year-old Googler and the 23-year-old venture capitalist piece of shit.

On the other hand, yes, the city is officially now a playground for the rich in many places, and it's disgusting.

I guess I'm honestly just tired of people ragging on techies. Of course there are asshole techies, just like there are asshole lawyers and doctors and other upper-middle-class folks who act like entitled dipsticks. But haaaaating the fuck out of techies because they HAVE the standard of living that we're saying the middle class SHOULD have doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Of course it sucks that the upper-middle-class and rich are wiping out inner cities, it sucked when they abandoned the inner cities, inequality just sucks and it's not really the fault of workers, IMO. It's capitalism (and racism and hostility to the homeless), as usual.

I have similar thoughts about Uber, etc. Uber is not good, not good to its workers, not good to its cities. But it thrives because there is a greater inequality in society, and because institutions that the middle-class and poor alike should be able to rely on have been dilapidated or defunct for a long time. Uber and Google and airbnb are nostalgic/utopian institutions now, with seamy underbellies. "Disruption" is a stupid buzzword, but without disruptions, I wouldn't be able to get a cab or travel or do other middle-class urban things. So it's a window into the past, and people are desperate enough to participate.

Maybe I'm just coming at this differently because I wasn't born middle-class and had to claw my way up into it, and it's falling apart anyway, and therefore I'm not "used" to a lot of the comforts that people are already nostalgic for. It's also irritating because I've seen poor people fight amongst themselves for scraps and blame everything on those slightly better off than them, and now I just see the same thing in my middle-class peers, except the enemy is tech employees (not employers, not capitalists, but the employees who have what they don't).

real reform happens when those whose investiture in the status quo is obtained through the operation of privilege discover they are downwardly mobile in socioeconomic status, and their self-interest is realigned with those who lack privilege, against it.

Yeah, that.
posted by easter queen at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the middle-class hating on tech workers is functionally no different from the poor hating on, e.g., government workers. Of course people will take a good job if they can get it, of course they'll use the benefits their employer gives them. The employers should be held to certain standards of social responsibility.

I am pretty sure that anyone else in this thread who is middle-class or aspirational has patronized institutions that have displaced large numbers of the poor, homeless, disenfranchised, etc., including universities. It makes sense that the middle class is truly angry now that it's affecting them directly, but we've all been sucking on the teat of shitty elitism and privilege all our lives, techies are no worse than that.
posted by easter queen at 10:03 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


From the subject's latest blog post... The whole reason I got a truck instead of an RV was to maintain a low profile, well it turns out that works much better if you don't broadcast pictures of your truck on Good Morning America (my bad).

Indeed. The irresistible pull of having your 15 minutes of fame.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the middle-class hating on tech workers is functionally no different from the poor hating on, e.g., government workers. Of course people will take a good job if they can get it, of course they'll use the benefits their employer gives them. The employers should be held to certain standards of social responsibility.

Please number me among those who think that a certain amount of "hate" (i.e., resentment) of government workers by the poor is absolutely appropriate. Remember a few years ago when U.S. government workers (those people with the incredibly good pay and lavish benefits, underwritten by the tax dollars of people who were relatively disenfranchised) had a very public collective hissy fit over a pay freeze? While other people were unemployed and dealing with foreclosure, destitution, etc.?

The lavish benefits and perquisites enjoyed by tech workers underscores a fundamental inequality of opportunity and access to resources (education, wealth, fulfillment) in our society. When a certain set of people is disproportionately enjoying the benefits of inequality, then it is appropriate to "hate" on this inequality to some degree.
posted by jayder at 10:41 AM on October 22, 2015


The irresistible pull of having your 15 minutes of fame.

I wish more people would realize that you don't need to be a celebrity to say, "No, sorry, I don't talk to the media." I've had people incredulous that I don't want to waste my time helping them do their job for free. "I guess you don't want to be on TV."
posted by ODiV at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please number me among those who think that a certain amount of "hate" (i.e., resentment) of government workers by the poor is absolutely appropriate. Remember a few years ago when U.S. government workers (those people with the incredibly good pay and lavish benefits, underwritten by the tax dollars of people who were relatively disenfranchised) had a very public collective hissy fit over a pay freeze? While other people were unemployed and dealing with foreclosure, destitution, etc.?

Uh, seriously? I mean, if you just enjoy getting your hate on, then sure. And are you sure that foreclosure, etc. that you're referring to was actually affecting the POOR, or do you mean the downwardly mobile middle-class? I mean, poor people who vote Republican because they believe that it's unfair for government employees to have some measure of security are at least a little misguided to me. Middle class people who hate them because their own jobs are going down the toilet is just obnoxiously crass, imo.

If the idea that having a job with good benefits is "privilege" in some sense where it's inappropriate to be angered by your pay/benefits being taken away, then you really can't get too upset about the decline of the middle class at all, and the end game is just... everybody poor? Except our masters? Hooray.
posted by easter queen at 11:03 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


(those people with the incredibly good pay and lavish benefits, underwritten by the tax dollars of people who were relatively disenfranchised)

This also just sounds utterly Fox News. Yes, we pay taxes so that the government can, we hope, operate. The benefits are not lavish, they are good. I'm not sure what the frame of reference is-- should government workers give up their benefits so they can... ? What exactly? Should we be down with the canceling of pensions in Illinois too, since there are people in the state without pensions, and what is a benefit anyway? Not a promise, not compensation, just magic dust. Who do firefighters think they are? Who do teachers think they are? etc.

The lavish benefits and perquisites enjoyed by tech workers underscores a fundamental inequality of opportunity and access to resources (education, wealth, fulfillment) in our society

No doubt many people are discouraged and limited by outside forces from pursuing education in tech, but there are also a lot of disadvantaged people (including myself) who find it the only way to go from working poor to a semblance of normal middle class living. I can't get that furious that in the wasteland of corporate America, there are at least still a few jobs that result in normal living conditions for those with mounds of student debt. The perks and benefits of a tech career are more ostentatious than those of government workers, yes, but sneering at them is beginning to become a fetish rather than an actual critique or attempt to follow the money.
posted by easter queen at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2015


Hey, actually, if the person commenting as "a resident of Adobe-Meadow" here is correct, it looks like car camping is actually unregulated in commercial areas in Mountain View (though you can still get fined for it in residential areas), which is probably why the cops didn't hassle him. Palo Alto's law against living in a vehicle was also repealed around a year ago after the LA law was struck down. The law in SF against occupying RVs overnight (or even parking them overnight in many neighborhoods) appears to be in full effect though.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:23 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The benefits are not lavish, they are good. I'm not sure what the frame of reference is-- should government workers give up their benefits so they can... ?

read my comment... you know, the one you're responding to. I talked about a pay freeze in the midst of a national economic crisis. nowhere did I mention taking benefits away. misrepresenting what people say isn't good argumentation.
posted by jayder at 11:40 AM on October 22, 2015


OK, so we should not complain when our pay is frozen? When our wages stagnate for political reasons, we should be down with that?
posted by easter queen at 1:03 PM on October 22, 2015


And I don't think it's misrepresentation-- representing their benefits as "lavish," as if they're somehow laden with guilt, is confusing. Do you think they don't deserve these benefits? That they're somehow overgenerous? If they didn't have them, would people be better off? I mean, why the fuck the opprobrium.
posted by easter queen at 1:06 PM on October 22, 2015


maybe San Francisco has a better written ordinance, but within the last year or so I recall a California Supreme Court decision that struck down L.A. county's ordinance prohibiting people from living in their cars. IIRC, the decision found the ordinance unconstitutionally vague. Also, I know there are lots of people in L.A. county living in street-parked RV's who aren't getting harassed by the police (even before that decision).

Ray Collins, original lead singer for the Mothers of Invention was technically homeless in California for most of the last forty years of his life, except for about five years when he was technically homeless in Hawaii.

From 1991 on, he lived first in a trailer parked on a friend's property, then from 2004 to just before his death in December 2012, he lived in a van . . .
After his Claremont friend moved away in 2004, and he no longer had a place to camp, Collins bought a 1986 Chevy Astro van and lived out of it. He eluded Claremont's ban on overnight street parking by parking in the Metrolink lot or out of town, and during the day would move his van from space to space in the Village to avoid tickets.
    -- David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
But at some point he apparently secured permission to keep it in a church parking lot. He had a small settlement from the Mothers royalties suit against Zappa. His only income was Social Security and meagre songwriting royalties, but he apparently contributed $20 every month to the church where his van was parked.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:37 PM on October 22, 2015


I was under the impression that the reason people hated tech workers was not because Google employees can do laundry for free at work, etc, but because the most high profile and nationally visible tech workers are, like, inventing various kinds of spy technology, causing trans people to be outed on facebook out of cis dude understandings of identity, Uber-izing everyone's livelihoods and using their outsized voice to argue for shredding such social safety net as we have. And/or being glibertarian 23-year-olds, and/or rendering women who talk about sexism in the industry completely unemployable while giving a pass to men who do actual sexist stuff, and/or thinking that it's really important that only hot young people in late model cars be hired for a pittance to schlep their dirty laundry.

That is, as much as there are many lovely people who work in tech, my sense is that the popular perception of tech workers isn't about their benefits - it's about their perceived politics and practices.
posted by Frowner at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I add that while I know this is a misperception of the majority of tech workers, it's certainly where the news coverage goes. "Team revolutionizes fund accounting software used by small nonprofits" isn't headlines.
posted by Frowner at 1:45 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


inventing various kinds of spy technology, causing trans people to be outed on facebook out of cis dude understandings of identity, Uber-izing everyone's livelihoods and using their outsized voice to argue for shredding such social safety net as we have

So while I'm sure someone is, in San Francisco my vibe is it's an outgrowth of people protesting gentrification. The Mission is changing, rents are going up, blame techies.
posted by GuyZero at 2:04 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yea, again though, while there's a lot of entrpreneurship in the tech industry and start up culture and all that shit, it doesn't mean that every or most tech employees have that kind of capital. It might be easier for a tech person to gain and leverage that capital for tech-specific reasons, but frankly the idea that all tech workers are also tech bosses is annoying and wrong. I kind of hate the New Technocrat Order as much as anyone, but most techies are employees with jobs who are dependent on their employers, like most middle class workers and professionals. They get laid off, they face age and race and sex discrimination, they have to work much longer hours than is productive or reasonable, etc.
posted by easter queen at 3:48 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Basically any issue you have with your middle class or professional job, a lot of tech employees have too. Someone mentioned how it's unfair that techies have disproportionate access to fulfillment; well, some of them. Personally I also don't find it productive to hate on employees of companies with better (practically European!! well, no) maternity leave policies than mine, as if inequality means they should be dragged down to my level (instead of fomenting for me to be raised to theirs).

Maybe as a woman in STEM who fought pretty hard to get here I'm just ticked off by the idea that everyone at Google is a hoodie-wearing douche who eats Soylent and stomps on the proletariat all day long.

It reminds me of when I worked for a restaurant and angry customers and friends would complain about the restaurant to me (that is, the server behavior at the restaurant) and hold me culpable, like the restaurant's training program or policies had anything to do with me.
posted by easter queen at 3:50 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I really don't get the hate for what this guy is doing. If he's putting away $40-$60k a year with this scheme, he will have the money to buy aa decently sized house for cash somewhere in flyover country in 3-5 years. Yeah, after doing that he won't be making Google money, but he won't need to.

Our duplex in Tulsa had property taxes of under $1700 a year. Add in utilities and you're talking $400-$600 a month for around 3000 square feet. With that kind of setup, he can do whatever the fuck he wants, all for the low price of a few years of people snarking at his living arrangements. I'd consider that worth it, but what the heck do I know.

Hell, by doing the own a duplex and live on one side thing, he could have what little living expense he still had paid for with money left over. Anything he got from "real" work would be gravy.
posted by wierdo at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2015


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