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Dog Bites 

More Millennial Angst and 72 Degrees in Your Head

Wednesday, Dec 15 1999
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More Millennial Angst
Oh, God. Christmas is upon us, and this year, hard on its heels, are the Y2K parties. Some of us, who already find an ordinary New Year's Eve to be entirely too much pressure, are just glad that, in technical terms, we have a whole year before the real turn of the millennium -- a whole year in which to get a huge raise (hint! hint!), book a trip to, well, Bali would be nice, find true love, correct at least the more troubling of our character flaws, and finally stop biting our nails.

Some of us. Not necessarily Dog Bites.

Anyway, it's nice the way you get second chances, at least up to the point when you die. Meanwhile, though, San Francisco's Y2K preparedness efforts have reportedly been successful, but Dog Bites, preferring not to take any chances, has decided to spend the hours of the rollover in the city's Y2K response center. "Make sure you bring whatever you'll need to be comfortable for a while," Chris Hayashi, of the Y2K Program Management Office, told us. (We thought guiltily of the box of granola bars in our earthquake-slash-Y2K kit, which we'd already broken into under the dire circumstance of having forgotten to pick up a loaf of bread.)

The city believes all critical systems will function: The 911 system has been thoroughly tested, water will flow, all hurlable objects have been removed from the Embarcadero, the Police and Fire departments will be on full alert, hospital equipment may be relied upon to work, and the electricity is someone else's problem, which is about as good as it gets in government. "The Y2K PMO is one of the best things ever to happen to the city," says Hayashi. "We've identified all our mission-critical systems, and all the departments now have contingency plans. They wouldn't have had that without going through this process."

We believe we may say without irony that, here in San Francisco, this is a good thing.

72 Degrees in Your Head
Without knowing the outcome of the mayoral race, we're unsure whom we should be sucking up to, which is frustrating. So we think we'll bash the dot-coms instead; it's hard to go wrong with that subject, and besides, it has come to our attention that there may be a significant exception to our previously stated rule that it takes 10 years to become a San Franciscan.

If you are a dot-com, you may never qualify.

Our apologies to anyone we've disappointed. Our original positing of a decade-long waiting period did, however, presume a temporary San Francisco resident's participation in at least some facets of the city's public life. For instance, while it would not be necessary to volunteer on a mayoral campaign, to picket proposed Rite Aid sites, or to join, say, Rescue Muni, we assumed it would be merely standard to vote, to read one of the local dailies, and to occasionally patronize the Farmers' Market.

But many of our more virtual citizens, we have discovered, travel in startlingly small orbits. In fact, they seem to consider interaction with San Francisco itself as a kind of engineering flaw in their daily existences -- something, like drag, to be minimized wherever possible in the interests of efficiency. No, they don't read either local daily. They read the Wall Street Journal, and sometimes a few things in the business section of the San Jose Mercury News. They venture outdoors to shop, occasionally -- after all, online stores still haven't made the Macy's menswear department entirely obsolete -- but dislike aimless strolling and seem worried by the vast, unprotected skies of, say, Marin. (Or, as a friend of Dog Bites' once remarked of one of Dog Bites' male acquaintances: "He's like a shopping cart -- you know, he doesn't really go off the sidewalk.")

Of course, we speak here of actual techies. We leave the problem of dissecting the lifestyles of the software marketing gals and business-to-business sales guys -- for whom the world, since college ended one or eight years ago, has been more or less one continuous kegger -- to a more dedicated anthropologist; our own capacity for finding humor in the violent emesis of tequila, particularly into a Union Street gutter, has long since been exhausted.

No, here we consider the Dockers-wearing, laptop-tapping, Circadia-frequenting, Land Cruiser-driving, self-regarding CTO or something of a company with a name like eBizTech.com, who has found in San Francisco a friendly business climate and an address with a certain cachet. Because, apart from its convenient proximity to Sand Hill Road, San Francisco is, you know, really bohemian, and after all, the digital revolution is, like, a revolution.

Oddly enough, Dog Bites, through a confluence of circumstances that did not, unfortunately, result in our making any money, was a witness to part of the beginnings of the digital revolution, or at least what was for a time its own little Pravda.

Drifting through the Wired offices in the evening, after everyone had gone home -- and no, we did not work there -- we used to marvel internally at the Muppet Laboratories banality of the place, the sense that some senior editorial staffer could, while brushing his teeth in the morning, invent tomorrow today, come to work, issue a terse set of commands to his underlings, and have it on the newsstands by the end of next week. Except, of course, the tomorrow would consist of some $1,200 gadget that required four "D" cell batteries and a droning 4,500-word essay arguing that government was obsolete.

Now that Wired itself is, well, totally 1995, it seems odd that a bunch of magazine-world F-listers who'd taken Alvin Toffler a little too much to heart could have made it socially desirable to be an asshole. Actually, crediting them even with that much influence seems generous. Nevertheless, the magazine's sublibertarian ethos has diffused through the high-tech world from which it supposedly drew its readers. It's just part of the atmosphere now, a whole set of unexamined assumptions that apparently boil down to the idea that money is the way you keep score in a meritocracy -- and that we live in a meritocracy. (If you believe Dog Bites is wrong, by all means write us long, angry letters; lately we've been feeling totally neglected.)

It has been pointed out, by many who are unarguably our intellectual superiors, that at one time privilege was felt to confer obligation on its possessors. Noblesse oblige, we believe the phrase was. In other words, if you had money, you weren't supposed to use it to make others miserable. But in San Francisco these days, we see a lot of people being made miserable. The dot-coms, who do not participate in civic politics -- they gave at the office, OK? -- have washed their hands of the situation. After all, they just bought the lofts; they didn't build them. (For people who ostensibly believe in the free market, they are remarkably cavalier about their own parts in the law of supply and demand, we've noticed.) They see themselves as asking very little of the city beyond a T1 line and a reliable pizza delivery service, and are, therefore, righteously miffed when someone suggests they might actually owe the place something, like, say, school taxes. Anyway, government is obsolete, right?

Dog Bites must raise an eyebrow when someone suggests that the dot-coms will, like every other group of immigrants to these charmed and golden shores, eventually become part of the San Francisco scene: No, they won't. Because first they would have to want to be part of it. And that would take time away from their important work developing new user interfaces for e-commerce applications, or whatever. Doubtless, of course, Darwinian selection, perhaps in the form of repetitive strain injuries, will force a few to drop out of their currently chosen lifestyle; some may even take up organic gardening, transit activism, or experimental filmmaking. And then they will be just as cranky and provincial as the rest of us, and life will go on.

So relax. The mayoral race is not, as even the wire services have been calling it, "a battle for San Francisco's soul." The dot-coms don't want the city's soul. Like gold-digging potential boyfriends -- a breed whose existence was recently lamented by another Dog Bites acquaintance -- they only want stock options. When there aren't any, they move on. Go ahead and call us psychic, but we think pretty soon a lot of them will move on to Oakland, where cheap, aging downtown office stock fairly begs for acreages of Pergo laminate flooring, brushed aluminum office chairs, and armies of fresh-faced employees living four to a two- bedroom apartment in Grand Lake, and the very word "gentrification" makes the city government weak at the knees with longing.

We can see it all now, really.


Confidential to S.S.: You must realize that K.K. (N.M.) means nothing to us! Nothing! Both those lunches were strictly business. We swear! Check with J.M. if you don't believe us! You're our everything, S.S.! Not since A.E. broke our heart have we felt this way! And even if K.K. (N.M.) was your frat brother, we don't see why that matters! Will you let a misplaced loyalty forever divide us? It must not, it cannot be. Tu es toujours à notre coeur, cherie! Au revoir!

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail dogbites@sfweekly.com.

About The Author

Laurel Wellman

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