It’s a building in SoHo. I take the elevator to the sixth floor. As soon as it opens I felt exposed. The elevator opens right into the “start-up” office. It’s just what you think it is–there are long tables speckled with people on laptops. There’s a small cafe/breakroom and someone who appears to be a barista. Most things are white and people are wearing flannel. I’m confused because there’s no receptionist and I don’t know where to go. But then I see it. The iPad. Ping the person that you are looking for! Of course. So I do and I wait. A slow-moving, ownerless bulldog wanders over to me. I crouch down and pet him, which is good because it makes me feel like I look like I belong and I’m not just standing awkwardly at the pinging iPad.
This is actually a pretty typical occurrence for me these days. I mean, that was the first pinging iPad, but otherwise pretty typical. The deal is I’ve been working as a bike courier for a start-up delivery service since mid-October. It’s a San Francisco start-up that’s been doing quite well for itself. They’ve expanded to Austin, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, and NYC obviously. The premise is that they’ll deliver anything to you in an hour (but you have to be in their operating zone). It’s usually food, but I’ve also gotten jobs for books, electronics, toothpaste, clothes. Sometimes I deliver clothes from another start-up, Everlane (also originally from San Francisco and recently expanded to NYC). Everlane has no stores, which helps cut down overhead. So I take startup clothes via a startup delivery service to a startup.
This whole start-up mentality is New York City’s most defining characteristic so far. It’s the combination of the business mantra–let’s do everything better and faster–combined with hipster philosophy–let’s be cool and different. And then it just swirls around the city and converges on itself. And every once in a while it will hop to the west coast in the form of a call center or a factory or an original office. The 415 area code has somehow become just as familiar to me as the 212. It’s fascinating to me how these start-ups support and fuel each other.
The thing that gets to me is how pervasive the start-up culture is here and how little I felt that it affected my daily life before two months ago. When I was trying to decide what city I was going to move to I got it in my head that, well, this is America and it’s the 21st century and we’ve all got cellphones. So when it comes to culture and whatnot we’re mostly the same. Well, I think I was wrong. This country is huge. HUGE I’m telling you. We’ve got six different time zones and hundreds of millions of people. Every city is completely different from the next city. It’s crazy I tell you! Crazy!