Monday, September 18, 2006

Who The Heck Invented The Cubicle?

How many of you out there in Blogville work in a cubicle? I’m guessing a great many of you. How many of you work in a cubicle with no windows? Probably most of you since cubicles are very, very good at blocking natural light!

I work in a cubicle and it is the daily deep depression I experience from being enclosed on 3 ¾ sides that has driven me to write this. I would really like to meet the inventor of the cubicle as I have a few guesses about what he or she used to do prior to creating the portable walls that close us off from the world but actually provide no privacy. My first assumption is that the inventor was incarcerated or was very familiar with prison. Maybe that is why he or she assumed we could be comfortable at least 8 hours a day working in a grey or earth-toned square. The other guess is that they liked to play in cardboard boxes as a kid. It explains perfectly why they created an affordable box that we have to work in each day.

Now to some, like office management (who get real doors and windows) and Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinnati (who taped off lines on the floor representing where his walls should be), cubicles are the office dividers of the gods. However, there are a lot more of us that see them as a form of solitary confinement. It’s weird though because while you can’t see anything when working in the cubicle (unless you’re unfortunate enough like me to only be able to see your co-worker sticking his car key in his ear or picking his nose when you look out of your only opening), but you sure can hear everything.

Nothing you say in your cubicle is secret. It can be heard by even the hardest of hearing. It’s almost like they goofed and installed sound projection equipment instead of sound dampening material when constructing the cubicles. If your co-workers realized all of the lies you have overheard them tell, you could probably get them to buy you a car. You know their medical history, their dating plans and the vacation they booked while on company time. Not to mention how they feel about you and the rest of their co-workers.

It’s not as amusing anymore, but I begin each day by reciting some of country crooner Faron Young’s classic “Hello Walls.” I have found that no matter what you do to enhance your workspace, it’s a futile effort. I have put up bamboo canes, flamingo party beads, a coffeehouse clock, my Charlie Brown figurine, loaded PEZ dispensers, family photos, a sorry little plant and even the office cubicle prerequisite, Far Side cartoons. Nothing has worked to change the mood. I then tried a lava lamp only to be told it was a fire hazard. Even the stock painting behind my desk is depressing. It might as well be a historical black and white photograph of casualties on a Civil War battlefield. Seriously, this cubicle thing is that depressing. My blog pal
Odat over at Odat’s Mumblings mentioned that there is a lamp that can simulate natural light, so maybe that will “brighten” things up a bit.

Supposedly it is a beautiful and sunny day outside. I’ll just take the radio DJ’s word for it. The only thing that one can look forward to in cubicle land is lunchtime. Not because it’s time to go eat though. Lunchtime is when you get to see the faces of everyone else you work with. More importantly, it’s also the time when you can derive great pleasure from seeing everyone’s reaction to stepping out into bright natural light. I think we should take deep inspiration from the East Germans and (to quote Ronald Regan) tear…down…these…walls!





Les Nessman would gladly take cubicle walls over his imaginary tape outlines representing where walls should be...

23 comments:

Ghostrose said...

Sounds totally unfun! Luckily I've never worked in a cubicle, but you're right, it's such a depressing looking place to work I'm surprised you all don't kill yourselves.

I think they were designed to be like mininature offices, but they just look like they close you in. I sincerely hope you don't suffer from claustrophobia. :-)

Odat said...

"Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy......." sorry...but...I hate to tell you this....I have an office..with a door...and windows...and it's the greatest! I came from cubicle land tho and hated it!!! dispised it...I think cubicles were designed by psychologists and others of those ilk...so everyone could go to therepy for their depression... and there is such a thing as a happy lamp....they use it in those countries that get darkness half the year...to combat S.A.D. "seasonal affective disorder".Also, from not getting enough sunlight one can go into a depression...It's a real disorder... You can buy light bulbs that simulate natural sunlite at the Vitamin Shoppe...I have them all over my house and office... Wishing you sunshine!!

peace

thethinker said...

As much as I may complain about school, I guess I should be thankful that I don't have to spend those seven hours in an ugly grey cubicle.

Hurty Elbow said...

Robert Propst was the man behind the cubicle and he was bummed about how employers ultimately ended up using them. Read all about it here and learn to love your cubicle less for its inabilty to live up to its creator's vision.
http://tinyurl.com/4s5g3

ChiefMommy Owl said...

I was so excited when I got my first cubicle job, I thought I had arrived. The novelty lasted almost a whole week.

Sara (Stay at Home Mom Longing for the Cube - Not!)

Sara Fun Fact - Last Cube I occupied was in the WTC2

Awesome Mom said...

I am so glad that I do not have to deal with cubicles. I would go insane quickly.

PARLANCHEQ said...

Ha! I had a real office for years and years and then our company moved (recently) to a new space where everyone has cubes. We call them 'padded cells.' And they make us so crazy that we just about need to be in real padded cells. Ugh!

ShadowFalcon said...

Ever seen the movie "Office Space"? When I used to work in a cubicle it always made me feel better. Now I'm in an open plan office and live in paronia cos people can see me.

go figure....

mist1 said...

I've only had one cubicle in my life. I always wondered how Chris seemed to know when I had just farted. He would appear almost instantly and chat to me about nothing in particular. I would squirm uncomfortably in my rolling chair.

the Not-Very-Laughorist said...

Some great observations. The last 3 yrs. I have been blessedly free of a cubicle at work. Till a month or so ago: a big "pen" with a large door laid out horizontally to serve as a desk and a left-over large drawing table. Still, every word carries. Tough either on calls to my ob-gyn or a terse "dialog" with my wife. Now i share an office w/ a door and windows. The sharing has some challenges, but hey. Anyway, none of this is very funny. The beginning of the end at my last job began when I left my cubicle to become a squatter in an office. Broke all protocol. This was around the time I write a short story called "The Window Watcher," modeled somewhat on my life and derived from the practice in Japan of sending longtime loyal employees ot to pasture by sitting them near a window with nothing to do. While we're on the subject, NYC Mayor Bloomberg is in a large "pen" with the rest of his staff, out in the open, a practice he started at Bloomberg. A successful business. And former Treas. Secy. Paul O'Neil made a habit of never closing his door. Carry on. Laugh. Or. Else. PIKCM.

lee said...

Awwwww, I haven't thought about Les Nessman in years! Uptight, but lovable.

officesmurf said...

Michael, I feel your pain. I am a veteran cube-dweller of 12 years and am happy to say that I have just been emancipated! I know this means I have to find a new job, but oh how nice it feels to escape. Twelve years is far too long to endure the pain. I have put together some survival tips in case you are interested: officesmurf.com Feel free to link to this site if you find it helpful.

OfficeSmurf

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