Amazon.com workers have taken over South Lake Union, and with the good comes the bad for some anonymous flier-creator.
Are you an Am-hole? Let’s take the quiz.
Do you think this neighborhood started with your arrival?
“No, it was already here,” said Andrew Fitzgibbon, 24, a software engineer at Amazon.com, which has turned the once dark-and-dormant South Lake Union into a buzzing, happy-hour-hitting hive teeming with worker bees.
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Most Amazon workers are “pretty cool,” according to an anonymous, bright-yellow flier posted on poles outside the company’s headquarters the other week.
But some of them? Am-holes. And here’s how you know:
Do you walk six people wide on the sidewalk chatting about Amazon crap and not letting others pass?
“No, only a couple people wide,” Fitzgibbon told me.
Can you barely resist snapping your fingers at service people in the area?
“I never snap my fingers.”
Do you think sexy is contrived casual attire, arrogance and talking/smelling like a used-car salesman? (This isn’t me; I’m reading straight from the flier).
“Nope,” Fitzgibbon said, looking down at his polo shirt, jeans and sneakers. “This is just what I happened to pick off my apartment floor this morning.”
Do you not realize that you are working for “an updated version of Sears and Roebuck… “?
This is where Fitzgibbon’s co-worker, Phil Fritzsche, took over.
“All I know is that, at the height of its growth, Sears built one of the largest buildings in the country,” he said. So there you go.
OK, last question: Do you believe for a second that you are not a highly expendable cog in the corporate Amazon machine?
The two men looked at each other and nodded.
“I believe that,” Fritzsche said. “That’s corporate life.”
That corporate life has meant a new work life for those of us who have toiled here for years, and now are just a block away from Am-hole Central.
Before these guys came along, the fastest growing thing in the neighborhood was the zucchini in the local P-Patch. The parking was free, if your car was still there when you got out of work. Major lunch options were Taco del Mar and Subway. You walked down to the corner and sighed.
Now, this is Tom Douglas territory. Not only are there restaurants galore, there are jobs to pay for all that food.
When the development of South Lake Union was first introduced in the 1990s, experts estimated there would be 8,500 to 10,500 new jobs by 2010. But by March, there were already more than 13,500, and office construction is still under way.
For the city, for the state, that’s great. But there have been growing pains. And, there have been Am-holes.
Nine months ago, and seemingly all at once, the place was overtaken with literal teams of jeans-and-sneakered people in packs of six or eight, like kids walking home from Little League practice. They spoke the same language, were about the same age and all wore those telltale blue lanyards.
I started calling them “Amazonians.”
But with them came a revitalized neighborhood. South Lake Union is now the place to be, even after the workday ends.
You’re grateful for the energy, the way the place buzzes like some Fifties-era clip of workers entering a Detroit assembly plant. But you’re also a little resentful of the new people (who am I kidding? Young people) who do indeed walk around in packs like a downsized “Ocean’s Eleven.”
“There are more restaurants and more stuff in the area,” said Darcy Luedke, a designer for nearby Tommy Bahama. “But the traffic is worse, and some of them just aimlessly walk across the street without looking. I think they’re just oblivious.”
“Neighborhoods change and change is hard,” said another Amazon employee who was out walking her dog along “Amazon Way” — the new name of Terry Avenue, according to the street sign perched in one of Amazon’s windows. “I went though the same thing in Ballard.”
At Mad Pizza, an Amazon software manager who oversees 35 developers was paying for two slices, and laughed at the quiz.
Did he snap his fingers at you? I asked the cashier.
“Did I snap my fingers at you?” the manager asked.
“No, you did not,” he said.
“Not yet, anyway,” another Mad Pizza employee said with a laugh.
Back outside the headquarters, software developer Chie Mitsui, 35, was standing with her team.
She hadn’t seen the quiz, so I let her take a look. She laughed, then nodded, and laughed again.
“I’ve definitely seen people who seem to think they rule the place,” said Mitsui, who has worked at Amazon for nine years.
“What, we don’t rule the place?” asked her sarcastic team member, who said his name was Mark.
She and her team have become good friends by virtue of sitting together all day, working at the same job for the same hours. They walk to lunch as a team, and hit the happy hours as a group, as well. So that’s why the rest of us can never get a seat.
“Go earlier,” Mitsui advised. “Go on Monday at 4 p.m.”
But that’s when we’re on deadline.
“Maybe Monday at 9 a.m., then?” Mark offered, with a smirk.
Just then, a cab arrived.
“We’re taking a cab downtown for lunch,” Mark said as the group walked away. “We’re trying to be friendly neighbors.”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still ordering stuff.