Our latest layout, Google Mooning, was inspired by an episode that we experienced first hand (no pun intended) on Valencia Street in December of 2013 and dutifully reported by The New York Times. As a Great White Whale appeared on the horizon, making in its way among a swarm of cyclists and silver Priuses, a conspicuous number of pedestrians, with uncanny synchronicity, turned toward the bus and raised their middle finger.
Although one may have suspected that the collective finger wave was staged, choreographed, and orchestrated in advance, à la Improv Everywhere, the salutation was unplanned, liberating, and spontaneous. And if the gesture communicated contempt, there was no discernible resentfulness or reassignment on the face of the impromptu protesters. No morituri te salutant stares.The finger salute was just an innocuous, certainly futile and yet ironic act of defiance against the perceived aggressor. In a sense, there was nothing ironic about flipping the bird at the Great White Whale. There is little doubt that Google, Apple, Facebook and other corporations are the ruling powers of the digital age. If, in fact, these companies are the feudal dukes of the so-called Age of Fingers (the term digital comes from the Latin digitus, number, but also finger), then the gesture of the microserfs could be considered an acknowledgement. Yes, they do fully control those things at the end of our hands. And yes, we greet you with our finger.
But what if the partisans decided to go a step further? What if they opted to moon, instead? What if they lowered their pants and underpants, bent over, and exposed their bare buttocks at the passage of the Great White Whale? Our latest layout, Google Mooning celebrates such playful expression of resistance, scorn, and provocation. After all, as historian Angus McLaren wrote in The Trials of Masculinity: Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930, "mooning', or exposing one's butt to shame an enemy [...] had a long pedigree in peasant culture" (1997: 186). The verb "mooning" has been in use since 1601 and the first documented act of this nature can be traced back to 66 AD. The practice became widespread in American universities thousand years later, in the turbolent 1960s .
Interestingly, in certain states (e.g. Maryland, 2006), mooning is not always sanctioned as a form of indecent exposure, but rather considered a form of artistic expression, that is, a performance piece. In others, it has become part of the folklore. In Laguna Niguel, California, for example, the mooning of the Amtrak trains has been dutifully performed since 1979.
One question: Now that the honeymoon with high-tech companies is over, will mooning at the Google buses become a new San Francisco rite of passage? A new ritual greeting?