Patten Goes to Twitter

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No less than three men in crisp, black uniforms helped guide me to an available spot in the garage beneath Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters last week. I did not ask if any of them were also software engineers, but that didn’t make them any less essential to Your Correspondent as he guided his old jalopy into a tight space between two sparkling new Teslas.

Based on all the mainstream media froth and fury about Elon Musk’s taking the helm of the social media giant in the past week, I expected to see more visible outrage around Twitter’s headquarters. But the aura was surprisingly orderly, and polite. No streams of angry young millennials storming out of the building cardboard boxes in hand, and – unlike the University of California at Berkeley this morning – no militant picket lines of protestors either.

Much of that, I’m told, is happening further south in Hollywood.

Publicly available parking beneath the building and a well-appointed food market on the ground give Joe Q. Public a pretext to enter Twitter’s hallowed halls. But I was unable to gain access to any other floors via the elevator bank, so had to restrict my observations to the public areas without fully seeing all the machinations behind the curtains. Still, things looked pretty, well, normal on the surface.

“I wouldn’t bet against Elon,” Michael told me as he ate his high-end ramen noodles in the atrium where we shared a fire-pit. Michael claims he does not work for Twitter but rather one of Musk’s other companies and is not, he insisted, a software engineer. But he has been coming to this spot for lunch twice a week for some time, and so has what you might call environmental awareness.

“You do not need 7,500 people to run this company, I can tell you that,” Michael noted when I asked him about recent comings and goings. He did say that activity in the building has increased dramatically since the new owner insisted that employees actually show up at the office.

My reporting assistant suspected that Michael actually is a Twitter employee and is just pulling the wool over my eyes since I (somewhat) truthfully told him I am a journalist when he asked. I must feel lucky to be here and not in freezing cold Maine, he speculated, and I just nodded to keep him talking.

I asked him about the news coverage of celebrities leaving Twitter in droves what he thought of that.

“I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying to watch the circus,” he said, speaking solely for himself. “Where would you go anyway?” When I mentioned Mastodon, he just laughed.

A young, Asian-American passerby overheard our conversation and stopped to chime in, but did not share his name.

“Nobody in this building is going anywhere either,” he interjected having only caught a snippet of my conversation with Michael. “The industry-wide recession is real. Facebook just laid off 10,000 and so did Amazon, people in the tech industry are not blind to what’s going on.”

Neither Michael nor the unnamed observer would hazard a guess about Twitter’s long-term prospects, though Michael believes if anyone can make the company survive, Musk can.

All in all, my impromptu site visit was anti-climactic. Perhaps I would have been better off stopping by the Pelosi residence to see how the security upgrades are progressing, but that seemed rather overtaken by events, so I stuck to the trending news story. Functional people, it seems, are doing just fine at Twitter. Now if I can just figure out how to get my account to tell me something I really need to know.

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