Feb 152012

By now, the painfully slow digestion of “Bike Messenger Culture” by the world of high-fashion and Walmart pop culture has been well documented. Really, really well documented. In fact, the act of documentation itself has become painful and slow, to the point that the whole sad thing now resembles a rabbit being eaten by a snake while also being interviewed about the experience by the snake. Eventually you don’t know if you’re sicker of the culture itself, or the half-assed infatuation soul-less types tend to have with it.

There’s some suspicion that all of this might culminate with Premium Rush, a movie featuring evil types pitted against a “who knew these dirty little fuckers were street ninjas” bike messenger.

But here’s why bike messenger culture won’t be over once this movie’s released: businesses need it.

No, I don’t mean that bike delivery is the only way for a stock broker to get his weed. I mean that, in this new age of massages at work, nap times, and (literally) free lunches for employees of ultra-competitive Silicon Valley corporations, the brutal competition to attract and retain young talent is going to drive businesses–particularly those that employ hipsters–to look beyond yoga and sliding boards. You need danger.

And not just any danger. Danger you can believe in.

Ex-bike messenger and now Northern Illinois University sociology professor, Jeff Kidder, has drawn attention to the role imminent death plays in the appeal of a bike messenger job. In his book, Urban Flow: Bike Messengers in the City, Kidder points out the obvious connection between the level of danger and more anti-social aspects of the job, and the dedication of those who do it. If there’s a philosophy here, it might amount to: any shit that can kill you gives meaning to your life, so why not make danger what you do for a living?

Which is great if you’re Travis Pastrana, but what if you’re generally uncoordinated, but really good with math?

By now it should be obvious where this is going. The next big trend in business productivity–inspired by bike messengers–is danger.

Forget all the new business books extolling the virtues of telecommuting and extremely flexible hours, nursing rooms and puppy fashion show Wednesdays. The future is way more extreme.

Chair uncomfortable? Try typing a memo on a laptop strapped to the bars of a Honda CRF50 while riding down six flights of stairs. Bad coffee at work sucks, but getting shot trying to rob a Starbucks because “it was your turn” really makes you appreciate life. Making a million bucks isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Destroying a billion bucks with an all-out team assault on your competition’s headquarters in the office park just up the street.

I envision an entire new services industry for businesses built around helping Fortune 500 companies make the lives of their employees absolutely terrifying and chock full of “holy shit I almost died” meaning. And the productivity that comes along with it. Sure, they’ll balk at the expenses of alligator pits and grenade launchers, but once they see how much less they can pay employees that are primarily in it for the thrill of just surviving, it’ll all start to make sense.

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