Seattle Writing Prompts: Amazon's massive balls

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You have to admit that Amazon has balls. Big ones. Three, for some reason (probably so that nobody will say that they look like balls). They're right there, on the cusp of South Lake Union, right around the corner from one of the few remaining strip clubs left in the city. Sitting at the base of two unique and iconic tall towers, very well-designed by NBBJ.

It's one thing to have balls, it's another to really use them well. We talk about Amazon a lot on these pages. We reported on the first ever reverse-showrooming, after Amazon famously instructed their users to go to bookstores to find the book they want, and then buy it on Amazon. Ironically, then, Amazon worked on restricting internet access in stores.

Of course, Amazon is a large company and not everything they do is evil. Some of it is chaotic-neutral. The company, at heart, is really one simple thing: an efficiency engine. How can I remove friction in getting X to consumers? That's everything to Amazon. That's why you can order batteries on Amazon Fresh, or Amazon Now, or Amazon Prime Same-Day Delivery. They're all competing fiefdoms in the libertarian death-race of efficiency.

Is efficiency bad? Of course not. Some great things have come from it, and there are markets that probably deserve to be toppled, because they're built on platforms that are, at essence, capitalist con-jobs. I'm thrilled that the internet mattress companies like Casper and Leesa have taken on the ridiculous shell-game of classic mattress showrooming. There is no reason car manufactures, like Tesla, shouldn't be able to sell direct to the customer. In a capitalist society, competition is good. So, no, I don't think Amazon is evil. I think, in a large sense, Amazon is indifferent, and through indifference shows aspects of evil. Sometimes, Amazon is actually evil, but a company so large cannot be a single thing. It is a thriving eco-system, and in that eco-system lay many spectrum of value. I'm not even addressing huge swaths of their business that are worth mentioning, like Kindle publishing and what that has meant to independent authors, and what it has meant to traditional publishing.

Not that Amazon's critics are the most thorough. Talk to a typical lefty old-school Seattleite, and in the same breath they will complain about Amazon employees (rich tech workers moving to the city and driving up prices), and shed a tear for Amazon employees (non-unionized factory workers). I have a lot of friends who work at Amazon. I, myself, interviewed there (they passed on me, but would I have accepted an offer if proffered? That question is my personal-ethics version of the trolley problem, where one switch kills personal beliefs and the other kills debt).

So my feelings about the company are complex. I like the infrastructure they are bringing to the city. I like the varied marketplace of goods. I love Amazon studios, and Transparent, and other shows they're totally nailing. I don't like the whiff of caveat emptor that works its way in from the edges when they're asleep at the wheel, but I know that they believe in delivering value and goods to their customers, so things like that will correct when noticed. What I don't like the most about Amazon is how they're not a great neighbor.

For example, a company their size should be paying much higher taxes and returning wealth to the city in ways besides nice architecture. We should have a Bezos hall, or Bezos park, or Bezos library. Maybe someday we will, but until Amazon's rapacious growth suffers a hiccup and there is some kind of re-org that imparts a whiff of humility, it will be all octopus eating, and polishing the glass in your massive balls, that are private nature preserves for the private members of club Amazon, right in the middle of our city.

I guess they do remind us of who has the biggest ones in Seattle. Right now, like it or not, the answer is clear.

Today's prompts
  1. First, they had to block all underground access. There was no way of controlling the spheres once they couldn't narrow paths in. Next, they made the only entrance a gauntlet. Acetylene torches hooked up to servos could spark a rain of fire. Booby trapped land minds under certain floor tiles would halt careless progress. Inside, they had supplies for at least a year. They could make it, so long as no one infected made it past their defenses.

  2. "He proposed!?" — "Yup. Down on one knee. Had a drone flying right outside capturing the whole thing. I was crying so hard. It was so beautiful." — "And you don't feel weird that, you know, he did it at work?" — "Well, no. I mean, we both love the natural environment so much." — "The spheres are natural?" — "There is a lot of nature inside of them. Anyway, we met at work. We spend most of our days at work. We love our jobs, so why not propose at work?" — "And the drone was outside the spheres looking in?" — "Yeah. We petitioned security to get it back, so hopefully we'll have the footage, soon."

  3. I am the exterminator. I get called in on the specialty jobs. This one was a doozy. Employees dropping food, and the food calls the rats and smaller birds, and the small birds call the crows. Suddenly, you have an aquarium full of pests. My job is to take care of them all. I fight the problem. It was what I didn't expect to find that shocked me. I didn't expect to find a dead body under the dry leaves in the middle sphere. This is a murder mystery, and now I'm out to find the truth.

  4. All he wanted to do was stand on top of the spheres. He tried during the night, but the first time one of his suction cups didn't hold, and he had to replace it. The second try met with guards, who watched the spheres closer than he imagined. The third try, he got about half way up before he looked down, and then froze. What the hell was he doing? What would this prove? Why would he even risk himself in this idiotic stunt? It was as if a veil dropped, and he saw himself for the first time in a truly objective way. And what he saw was horrifying. Part of what he saw was that, he now realized, he was terrified of heights.

  5. I am Rubi. I am Ficus rubiginosa. My home is the spheres, and I oversee all that happens within. Under my leaves the plans of humans are made. Fortunes are won and lost. Above me, a canopy of glass, and then the world. Above me, clouds. Around me, people, moving in a blur. A city changing. A pace too quick for me a tree to recognize. I think in seasons, and you think in minutes. One day, the glass around me will melt, and I'll break free, grow to the size of a skyscraper. I will be Seattle's Yggdrasil, and all shall worship at my trunk. Let me tell the story of how this all came to be...