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the boy in the box
moo
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)
4.26.06
humor


In three weeks, I get my first cubicle.

For many of you, that's probably no big deal; you've grown used to your cloth-paneled den of commerce after X number of years in the business. You don't even give it a second thought.

Me, right now I feel like Jean-Luc Picard in the moment just before he was assimilated by the Borg. Paralyzed. Transfixed. Terrified. And yet somehow also perversely fascinated by the inevitable change. To lose one's previously unbounded workspace for the matte grey vertical carpet, acrylic granite-print desktop and requisite three-drawer knee-bangin' endcap.

Wow.

The new box comes as part of all-new digs. Same company, new location. Consolidation appears to be the explanation. Bloodletting to an extent that suggested the old building was located on a Hellmouth has left our company a pallid shell of its former (and admittedly bloated) self. So we're moving to a decidedly swankier location, taking over the space once controlled by yet another failed webtech company with a name that calls to mind some kind of prescription drug...one with a low risk of sexual side effects. If I can, I'm going to snag the big lobby sign of the former tenant; if I ever decide to go full-time with my freelance graphic design business, I can change the name, and bang — I'll already have a cool sign for the front hall.

I've been reassured that, due to my crucial role within the company as a middle-management type with serious production responsibilities, I'll actually be getting a double-wide cubicle. I'm not sure I like the sound of that. Here in Missouri, owning a double-wide is like kicking the Tornado God in the crotch and laughing at him. If you've got a double-wide in North Carolina, chances are you count among your other possessions a '75 Nova up on cinderblocks. Of course, if you've got a double-wide in West Virginia, you're the governor.

Consequently, I have no current political aspirations, nor do I have the solid-state equivalent of a front porch chop-shop scattered around. I've dutifully binned all that stuff. I don't have time to test out third-generation DVD-burners or zero-out scrawny 4G hard drives. I'm sure I bought those DIMMs for something, but damned if I know what, and they haven't left that spot in the drawer in more than three years. So now the rolling 50-gallon trash can looks like it's been used at a NTSB investigation site, with wires and diodes and steel cases sticking out at odd angles, everything inside too inconsequential to transport to the new site.

That leaves my desk cautiously barren. Old magazines have been sorted, data CDs returned to proper archives, bookfuls of paper chucked into the recycling box. My only two personal items in my work area — a sombrero for finishing second in the company's chili cookoff, back in the days of high morale; and a J. Jonah Jameson action figure (with desk pounding action!) still maintain their thin patina of dust. The sombrero will probably come home with me as a toy for the boys, but Jonah will emigrate with me.

As manager of my department, I've sketched out a plan that will roll the oldest computers in our room to the trash. This will coincide with a long-desired technological upgrade for me, courtesy of some smart retasking. The last of the old beige-box computers, gone at last. I will actually have a computer that was built this millenium. Considering all the other headaches generated by this move, I am at least looking forward to this part. But it reinforces that Borg thing again.

When I was in college, I was convinced I wanted to be a journalist. More than that, I wanted to be a globetrotting correspondent, filing copy over payphones in dusty byways, polishing my erudition in capitals and cafes. Of course, 1991 was only a romantic year to be a journalist if you were lucky enough to be crawling around in the shadows of Eastern Europe. Transcribing police reports in a festering Southern suburb just didn't do it for me. But I was also determined to avoid falling into the morass of corporate employment that had seized my friends. And so, for 15 years, I've managed to avoid it.

But now, the cube. "Your culture will adapt to service us." Each department will have its own separate and divided area in the building, sealed off from the others by secure doors, accessible only with an electronic card. Each employee will have his own grey carpeted box, dividing him from his colleagues.

A company built around a seat-of-their-pants, tobacco-stained rag of a sports magazine is now just another corporate processor, extruding product through its employees like sausage through casing fillers.

I may not yet have to wear a jacket and tie to work, but the implication of all of this is distinct: I am, at last and without question, working for The Man.

Anyone want a copy of my resume?


ABOUT RUSS CARR

If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

more about russ carr

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
4.26.06 @ 7:32a

I'm going to sound strange saying this, but after working in both cube and non-cube environs, I have some observations:

-a cloth cube is better than a glass cube. Situated in a glass cube, you feel like a zoo animal. Anyone at anytime can walk by and observe you, but you're enclosed, so you can't leap out. So at least cloth cubes provide a little privacy.

-No one really messes with you when it comes to decorating your cube. But people seem to have a problem with that in an open desk or even an office enivronment.

-Cubing is humbling, no doubt about it.

Will you have a window?

russ carr
4.26.06 @ 7:59a

No window.

One of the physical necessities of my position is that my desk be located adjacent to the rest of the prepress crew. They require dim lighting (no glare) for the sake of accurate color correction, so I work in the dark, more or less. A friend of mine in another department, however, took it upon himself to liberate me one day, and used an X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle out of the stick-on tinting that covered the window adjacent to my desk. So for four years I've had a letterbox view of the sky and anyone who happens to come up the side entrance.

At the new building, I'm along an internal wall, so no window. Time to start taking vitamin D supplements.

sandra thompson
4.26.06 @ 8:48a

My whole health physician says everybody needs vitamin D supplements because we should not be in the sun enough to get the necessary amount our bodies require. A word to the wise is that.

Congratulations on surviving the company blood-letting. I can't sincerely commiserate with you for I never had to inhabit a cube, but I'm not sure I'd like or dislike it. I have the feeling it would not have all the surface space I normally need for all my stuff spread around everywhere, and no secretary or assistant to guard the entrance. How about the phone system? Any way to screen calls?



jeff miller
4.26.06 @ 8:57a

This was a fun read, cuz I've been though it a few times, and you've captured some of the associated anxieties...ain't it silly to get paid to fear change?
Anyway, it's possible that someday you'll go from wanting your nice open environment back, to wanting a DOOR that let's everybody know just when to leave you the hell alone.
I had an office last year - then I got promoted and we moved to a new building. Now I'm in a cube. Go figure.
J Jonah will help you keep it real - never let him go. My KISS ALIVE! Mcfarlane set reminds me of my roots every day.
Oh yeah - keep a little dish of chocolates in your cube - more girls will come around, which should improve your view considerably.

sarah ficke
4.26.06 @ 10:00a

When I was temping in a cube, the woman next to me had her cube plastered with photos of pro wrestling. It was awesome.

brian anderson
4.26.06 @ 11:41a

I have an actual office, with a door and everything. Of course, it doesn't have an outside wall (hence no window), and it does have a load-bearing pole in it. The pole's covered with indoor-outdoor carpeting, which makes it resemble a large scratching post.

lisa r
4.26.06 @ 10:15p

The pole's covered with indoor-outdoor carpeting, which makes it resemble a large scratching post.

That would be too much for me to pass up. I'd have to get a big stuffed cat and velcro it to the pole, just because it was there.

sarah ficke
4.27.06 @ 9:35a

Ooh! How about getting a real cat to complement the scratching post?

russ carr
4.27.06 @ 11:08a

And velcroing it in place?

tracey kelley
4.27.06 @ 11:51a

HA! Ya'll are too much.

Fun with cubes can be had, however. Some of the wangos in our office had a little war going on for a while - one tinfoiled everything in the space. The payback was the placement of squeaky-toy squeakers inside chairs.



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