Meditations on Cubicle (R)attitude

January 25, 2012 Comments Off on Meditations on Cubicle (R)attitude

The fluorescent lights are hurting my eyes. By 5:00 I feel like I’ve been diving in a chlorinated pool all day and there’s a little achy spot above and behind my left eye.

There is too much beige. The walls, carpet, and cubicle covers are all some variation of this:

On a related note, I have not yet found a place in my apartment for the hot pink patterned tapestry from Target. One day I didn’t have anything to do so I spent a lot of time drawing up plans for a cubicle shield. It’s brilliant! You position clamps around the cubicle, and posts rise from them and terminate in bolts over which can be looped the grommets at the corners of a light piece of fabric, thereby suspending a potentially inconspicuous and completely harmless shield over your desk. (Patent pending.) You can adjust the height of the posts, airflow and lack of privacy are preserved, and the fluorescent light is blocked. There is also the option of making a personal statement along the lines of bright purple or tie-dye.

I made the mistake of asking someone if she thought I might be able to put something up over the top of my cubicle. She was appalled at the very idea. We were discussing alternatives (today a guy came to take out a couple of the bulbs over my head) when I asked her why she thought it wouldn’t be allowed. “Lots of reasons,” she said. “Conformity. Well, obviously that’s not the biggest reason. Also, airflow? and maybe fire code.” Okay, so fire code is something I’m going to have to look into. But the other two reasons are BS. It’s always freezing on that floor—it would probably be great to have an enclosed little space that could warm up a little. It would be on my own head if I didn’t like it; I could just take it down, anyway. It wouldn’t interfere with anyone else. And…conformity? Seriously? I don’t know why she claimed it wasn’t the biggest reason—maybe she sensed that I would come after that like a terrier after a fat rat with a broken leg—because it certainly is, probably both to her and to the management. But why?

We work in the background; we don’t interact with the public except occasionally on the phone. No one even bothers to dress up. It’s not like at any moment some square high muckety-muck is going to stick his head in and look frowningly around at all the jeans. And what about all the beige? “What an upright, professional workplace!” he might be moved to say…except there’s no reason to care. Especially since the advent of companies like Google, it has become generally accepted by the public that the great work a company does can be divorced from the flip-flops, 11am start times, and Silly String that might or might not be present in the place where they actually do said great work. No one associates casual surroundings with sloppy work ethics anymore. It’s chic to acknowledge that people have all kinds of different styles and that it can be more productive to let them sprawl on a beanbag with a clipboard than to make them wear a tie and sit in a swivel chair in front of a computer. So why do places like this even exist? My world is a labyrinth of pale-green beige walls over light tan carpeting with fluorescent lights overhead. The people who decided this environment was conducive to working are probably in nursing homes now, and their idea has lived so monstrously long probably only because the first people to work there were used to it, and the next people to work there were used to the stereotype.

Of course, it’s possible that the beanbag-and-t-shirt school of thought is not as widely accepted as I think. Maybe beige-tan-fluorescent is just another idea, like AOL and Internet Explorer, that will not die until one more generation retires—but then it will be gone forever. Maybe I’m ahead of my time. But I was enraged by the idea that I couldn’t fix up my environment in a way that would help my mental health, both as concerns the fluorescent lights and as concerns my poor eyeballs’ need to rest on something besides beige and that sassy red desktop wallpaper. Just a couple days ago I remember gazing happily at an obnoxious Day-Glo cover sheet someone had put on an application. Why is this okay??

Don’t worry, I’m on the case. I’m brainstorming the loudest, most colorful ideas I can think of. We’ll see if I can start a revolution.


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