The crowd stands three deep up to the yellow line. Some looking at phones, most craning their heads leftwards to see if they can see the yellow words “Angle Lake Station” coming at them from the dark. Pigeons fly low overhead in the ID/Chinatown Station, but don’t attack. No one is throwing birdseed.

I’m catching up with a friend waiting for the same train. The usual talk. Our bands, our mutual friends, the weather, general lack of sleep that accompanies adulthood. The train pulls up and the crowd inches forward. Josh pats me on the shoulder and says “Well it’s every man for himself at this point. I’m going to catch a spot at the back; sometimes it’s less crowded.”


It’s a rush hour ride, so everyone is touching eachother, with their bags or their person. Some are more conscious of this and make themselves smaller, or less intrusive, some are not. I position my laptop bag in front of my crotch and pull my coat tight around my shoulders. Entering the train, the doors close on me twice before I make it on.

Standing next to me are two guys with beards and glasses. One guy has neck length curly hair, the other is wearing a baseball cap. Flannel is involved, but it’s very clean. The curly haired guy’s beard is thicker.

They are the only ones having a conversation in this entire section of train car. They aren’t talking overly loudly, or saying anything unfit for conversation, but they are the only ones talking and surrounding passengers all turn their heads once, then dedicatedly stare forward to not pay attention to the very boring conversation unfolding beside them.


Unless you are opposed to start up culture as a hard-fast rule, these guys aren’t douche bags. This is not a “these tech bro douche bags on the train” complaint. They are just part of a world I’m not, and likely won’t be. Still, I learn a few things about the start up experience beyond what gripers on the internet have taught me:

  • Matt– you know Matt, right? You know he’s like forty. FORTY! They had no idea.
  • When the guy in the baseball cap told a new recruit he’d worked at his company for nearly three years, the recruit was surprised. This part underscored both the recruit’s naivety– yes, there can be some level of consistency in start-ups– and the frequently transient nature of such employment.
  • They clearly worked for the same company but were on different teams. Team quality has a big effect on morale, because one of those guys seemed way happier in his job than the other.
  • Lots of phrases I’d understand with more context, but seemed like bad satire out of context.
  • Frank is the best human ever. Every. He’s like Dad– no, cool Uncle– or like no, he’s just Frank.
  • It is weird being nearly 28 and working with McKenna and Ashley, who are all like “ber pe der pe dur, I’m 23 or whatever!”. . . but hey, maybe that’s what Matt feels like?
  • The one with the curly hair (and better clothes) is from San Francisco, in the least surprising development of the conversation.

The whole time, the train is packed. The grey haired man with glasses, a fleece north face jacket and a brief case stares stoically ahead. At the mention of Matt, he and I briefly make eye contact but don’t acknowledge said eye contact. At Columbia City station I get out, the two start up bros hug– “You’re a gentleman,” one says– and the curly haired one gets out as well, carrying the Target-bought space organizer– about two person-spaces big– that he’d been leaning on the whole time.