One phenomenon I wasn't fully appreciative of was how central to this world Matt (who is my new boss) has become. See, e.g., Matt Cutts: Celebrity Google Engineer, which breathlessly claims: "But twice a year, when Matt’s in a room, Paris Hilton could walk through in a thong and not get a second glance."
I guess I've never really appreciated how much people stress about their ranking in Google. To me, ranking has always been an aggregate concern, in that every change affects millions of sites and whether some particular site is better than another is just a drop in a sea of data points. And beyond that, I've never become so entrapped in my work to become significantly emotionally invested to the extent these people seem to be.