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Friday, July 18, 2008

Cube Farm, or I Can’t Really Talk Right Now

Corporate America and I are like this, implying, of course, that we are tight. So tight, as a matter of fact, that I’ve fully adapted to the Cube Farm. It was in my best interest really; and the small facial tic that I’ve developed as a result hardly bothers me at all anymore.

Do you work in a cube? If you don’t, why not? All the cool kids are doing it!

Working in a Cube Farm is a learning experience and, in many instances, can be used to your advantage (although you may not see this at first).

For example, there’s bodily functions. Why be confined to the sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and farting of friends and family when you could also be listening to your co-workers? Delightful! Advantage? Don’t forget how well this will play into your plans to sneak in a three-day weekend by calling in Monday – after all, everyone knows that Eugene over there has been sneezing all week. Perhaps you caught his cold? Wink!

The half-walls and no-door aspect of the Cube Farm lends itself nicely to overhearing all kinds of conversations as well. You can’t help but hear things if they won’t take it down the hall to the closet-sized office meant for “personal calls”.

The woman just over your cube wall has a new boyfriend. Let’s listen in, shall we?

“John, I really can’t…. You know I sit in a cube…. Well of course I do…. You know I do… I can’t… What? Hee hee, well maybe tonight… Hee hee. No, baby, I can’t… I told you I sit in a cube… OK! Well, maybe just a little bit…” You clear your throat in a “hey! I’m over here” kind of way, but it’s too late. In hushed tones that you have to strain to hear – absolutely strain to hear! – comes the sound of your co-worker whispering sexual promises to be carried out later. Whoo-hoo! The lunch room is going to be awkward today!

Not sure if there’s a real advantage to that one, but it adds a dimension to setting up meetings and filing that wasn’t there before. Thanks, Horny Co-Worker!

And don’t forget the Newbie, the Guy Fresh Out of College. Feign allergies to khaki if you must, but try not to sit next to this guy. This person believes that a.) college was the hardest thing he’ll ever be asked to do; b.) he’s “made it”, just by getting a job, and c.) work is just like what he’s seen on TV, i.e., that arriving at 9:00 and going for coffee at 10:00, having lunch from 11:30 to 1:00 and leaving early is not only acceptable but commonplace. This is the same kind of guy that comes in to work wearing the same thing he was wearing yesterday (and looking like he might’ve slept in his car), leaves his cell phone on “ring” all day and tosses wadded paper over the cubicle walls, just to see what happens. He’ll be arranging a Happy Hour later – right after he gets back from lunch. Don’t forget! You’re invited!

Advantage of sitting near Newbie? He’s a good reminder of why going to bed at 2:00 a.m. on a “work night” is a bad idea – and why keeping a fresh shirt and maybe a toothbrush at your desk is a good one.

The cubes make me wonder what living in a cave must’ve been like. They’re much better lit than caves, and there are flushing toilets, of course; but in some ways we’re not that far removed from those old days. The close quarters and the length of the work day – we spend more daylight hours at work than we do with our families, time with people who are not our families but who often become as close as family. Do you suppose that the cavemen and women turned a blind eye – or acted, as we must – to the tears, the gas, the disagreements? I suspect they did.

We’ve come so far, haven’t we?

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