Posted by Bruce Pilgrim
Talking to My Cats: 8-28-08
Office cubicles are a cruel joke on those of us who flatter ourselves that we operate in "The Information Economy." Sometimes called "pubicules" because of the public, out in the open nature of the "open office" environment, cubes totally blow.
Half walls are not walls at all. They're more like hedges – minimally decorative and totally lacking in privacy.
Remember privacy? Yes, my furry friends, there really was a time when the innermost secrets and the intimate details of our lives were kinda, sorta private. At the very least we were happily ignorant of all that was known about us by shadowy third parties such as the IRS, employers, and data miners.
You used to have the illusion of being able restrict access to any romantic or financial indiscretions, discussing sensitive matters only in private, behind closed doors. Closeable doors were also very handy when you were on deadline, needed to concentrate, and work undisturbed. Today, there are no doors, just openings in your hedges through any intruder empowers himself to waltz.
If they're tall enough, interlopers can appear as creepy disembodied heads looming above the hedge. This unnerving experience alone is enough to make you yearn for that private office you used to have, or wish you used to have.
I know things about co-workers' marriages, medical histories, and extracurricular activities I'd very much prefer not to know. No doubt, they've gleaned similarly interesting or appalling tidbits about me. We're right next to each other with no filters aside from our own discretion, taking it all in because it's right there. Even though I have no interest whatsoever in your upcoming colonoscopy, unbidden and unwelcome images still invade my imagination.
Building owners and management will tell you that it's about collaboration; cubicle towns supposedly promote teamwork and provide the ability to reconfigure space quickly to respond to changing business needs. That is pure bullshit. Cubicles are really about HVAC issues and saving a few bucks off the utility bills.
Privacy, schmivacy. Let's concentrate on squeezing every dime of cost out of the system so we can maximize executive compensation. Let's face it, yachts are expensive to buy and maintain. And as for vacation homes in Vail, well, don't get me started.
We need walls, damnit! And most especially doors that can be closed or even locked when needed.
Supposedly, there are companies out there in which no one has a private office – not even the CEO. Which simply means that every last worker in the place is miserable, including the honchos. Does anyone really think this is a good thing?
You need closed doors to fully and completely lie, cheat, and steal. How the hell can the top brass cook up massive layoffs, backdate stock options, or commit good old-fashioned corporate malfeasance under these conditions?
Back in the day, a co-worker of mine figured out a way to nap in his office undetected. He'd lock the door, and go to sleep on the floor with his head against the door. If someone knocked, they'd wake him up. He would then scramble to his feet and say "Come on in," while getting himself back together. The door handle would rattle, and he'd say "Oh, I didn't realize the door was locked" and sheepishly open it for his visitor. He's probably had a wonderful career path ever since.
My door was usually open, often for months on end. On those rare occasions when I closed my door, everyone tiptoed around, speculating as to what was up. What was up was not much, or not something I wish to disclose, but no one ever even considered knocking.
Another issue in cubicle town is the smells. I'm not talking about those kinds of smells, I mean the tormenting odors of perfumes and colognes. We've all worked with the man or woman who douses themselves with cloying scents for whatever reason; the kind of person whose odor arrives before they do and lingers after they leave.
And the food! At one employer, I had a colleague who always religiously microwaved a bag of popcorn every day at 3 p.m. The smell wafted over the hedge at me like in a Warner Brothers cartoon, with beckoning hands that tempted me to jump into the next cube and help myself. At another employer, my cube mate brought unspeakable food from home which he warmed in Tupperware bowls, invading my space with foul, frightening, nauseating odors I still smell in my nightmares.
Wake up, cubicle prisoners, and unite! Steelcase and Herman Miller are the enemy! Join hands with our brothers in the sheetrock industry to bring back walls and doors with locks! You have nothing to lose but your pains.
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So, mankind (as in, the male kind) is destined to be in-capable-of-sexual-reproduction in a decade or two?? Cell-phones, pagers, remote controls, tight clothing, microwaves, pollution, the kind of food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, etc etc etc and now this as well... LOL!! (make as many babies as possible for now is my advice!!!!)