Tag Archives: cubicle

My Life in the Cube

7 Dec
photo courtesy of editmycloset.wordpress.com

photo courtesy of editmycloset.wordpress.com

The biggest part of moving home has been that- thank god- I found a job! I had three glorious months of unemployment and as anyone who has ever been unemployed will tell you, it is not fun. Sure, I wasn’t working during the summer months. And, yes, I was living in a building that had a pool. But there is absolutely no way you can “take advantage of the time and relax” like everyone is telling you, because being unemployed is not like a vacation. You do not have a set time when you know you’ll be returning to the land of the living and finally start pulling in some money. You have no idea how much you should budget as you see your savings quickly dwindle. Looking back, I can breathe a sigh of relief, and even feel proud of myself that I was able to find a job after such a short amount of time- especially in today’s economic climate. But when you’re living the languid life of the unemployed, there is a constant undercurrent of anxiety to everything you do.

During my days of unemployment- and being car-less, to boot- I would intersperse my hours upon hours of reworking my resume/cover letter and applying for jobs with little breaks catching up on bad American TV or going to the pool for a quick swim. Since most other people were working, my days at the pool were spent with stay at home moms and their children, a Czech lifeguard who must have been promised a summer of fun in Boston, not knowing he would be stuck 30 minutes outside in Framingham, Massachusetts, and lots of older, retired women. Some of these women would make small talk, either because they knew my mother or because they were trying to figure out what my deal was. One day I was explaining my situation to a woman – how I was staying with my Mom for a while since I had just moved back from Spain. “Oh, so what are you doing with your time? Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked. “No, I’ve got to work on the job and the apartment before I can even think about that!” I replied. She mused over how different the priorities were for women of my generation than they were in her day. “I can’t help but laugh, because that statement is just so different from the way things were back in my day. And you know- I think that’s great! Things have changed so much since I was a girl.”

And so, since I figured the fastest way to get out of my mom’s hair was with a job- rather than going down the path of finding a man, getting him to fall in love with me, getting him to invite me to move in with him/marry him, which might take a wee bit longer- I put all my focus into networking and getting interviews. And it finally paid off. I work for an IT publishing firm just outside of Boston, which I’m really enjoying. Things are getting exciting as the plans to expand the market to Latin America are coming along a lot more quickly than was thought when I first took the job and it’s been great to be able to use Spanish in my work. And more simply, it’s been great having a daily purpose again and I’ve loved getting into a routine.

I have to say, my company is great. There’s a young feel to it- everyone is upbeat and positive. It’s a great environment to work in. But like I said in a previous post, every once in a while I do like to stop and take it all in just so I can put it all into perspective. And when I do that at work, I can’t help but laugh at how different my life is from my life in Barcelona. I mean, I work in a cubicle! And even if they call it a “cube” in what I can only assume is an attempt to make it seem more modern and cool, basically we all spend 8 hours every day in a playpen for adults. I don’t know why I find the fact that I am working in a corporate office so hilarious, but I am just absolutely obsessed with the weird culture surrounding these types of offices.

In Barcelona, I was a private teacher, so I spent all day running around the city, going from office to office or house to house teaching students of different levels and ages and needs. I was constantly on the go, doing errands in between classes or having coffee at some of my favourite cafés while I wrote in my journal or studied Spanish. I interacted with people all day long and no two days were the same. Life in my cube, however, is much more low-key. I spend my day working on projects- with one eye on the computer and the other just observing what’s around me. Now, don’t get me wrong- even though it’s a little more low-key, I like my job. I just can’t help but chuckle to myself over some of the more interesting aspects of office culture.

There were a few big selling points that my company likes to point out during the interview process and when they’re giving you your job offer to bagelentice you to accept. One is that there is a relaxed dress code, which is nice- I can wear jeans to work. Another is that they have a fridge stocked full of free water and sodas- very generous of them. Another is that we have a pretty modern, nice building, with a gym open to all employees.  But the selling point they really seem to push is Bagel Wednesday. Bagel Wednesday is exactly what you would imagine. Every Wednesday, our company buys bag and bags full of bagels for the employees. And seriously- people go cuh-razy for Bagel Wednesday. My first day of work was a Monday, and when making small talk with people about the company, a lot of conversations went something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s a great company to work for. I mean, our boss is great and always has our backs. The relaxed dress code is nice. And have you heard about Bagel Wednesday??” By Tuesday, my second day, the Bagel Wednesday talk was in full force with people throwing around comments like “Oh! And don’t forget Bagel Wednesday tomorrow! I usually try to get here early to make sure I get a good one- they go fast! The bagel slicers kind of suck, but they normally put out at least one big knife to cut it in half more easily. It’s a tough decision as to whether you should toast it or not- the lines can be kind of long and sometimes you just want that bagel fast!” And then, on Wednesday?! People sure were excited about their bagels. As people passed each other in the halls, the quick salutations went from “Hey, how are you? What’s up?” to “You grab a bagel yet? They’re goin’ fast!” I think my first week of work, Bagel Wednesday was the first time I really stopped to take it all in and thought to myself “Ohhhh, America- you weird, weird place.It’s good to be home!”

So, like I said, I work in a cube. I used to think the location of my cube was the worst in the entire office, but I’ve come to love it, because I’ve realized it’s the prime location to fully observe the most ridiculous parts of my office’s culture. I am directly in front of the bathrooms on the second floor, which means I have a lot of foot traffic in front of my cube- and a lot of people randomly running into each other and having conversations. I get to hear all the “bro’s” bro-ing out with each other. “Brooothah- what is up?” “Broseph, how goes it?” “Bro, happy hump day! Whadaya’ got going on this weekend?” And I get to eaves drop on a lot of conversations, because, for whatever reason, the small pane of frosted glass that separates me from them seems to make me completely invisible. Seriously- people have no idea that I’m there and I could write a book about the conversations I get to hear. Many times, two people will bump into each other in front of the bathroom and start catching up. Then one of them will bring up some sort of sensitive topic and lower their voice and kind of pull the other person off the side so “no one can hear.” And when I say off to the side, I mean directly in front of my cube- many times leaning against it and even a few times with their arms even dangling over into my cubicle. Why people seem to overlook me (and the sound of my typing) is beyond me, but it’s led to some very interesting eaves dropping.

BellI’ve heard people talking shit about other people at the company- who I’ve then looked up on your intranet just to put a face to the name. I’ve heard married men talking about women they’d like to sleep with in the company- luckily my feeling toward the men in my company is easily counterbalanced by the number of men talking about how excited they are to get married or how tired/incredibly happy they are after having a baby recently. I’ve heard about some people’s martial problems and I’ve heard many-a-girl talking about her wedding planning. I’ve heard people flirting shamelessly with each other and one time I heard one guy fail miserably at his pick-up attempt. He stopped a girl in front of my cube exclaiming, “Jessica, you never told me you made the basketball Hall of Fame in high school!” The girl paused uneasily and responded, “Umm, yes, I did. But how did you know that?” “I was googling you earlier and I found the page from your high school,” he cluelessly replied. That conversation kind of fizzled out as the girl uncomfortably confirmed that, yes, that was true, and the guy slowly realized that admitting to online stalking maybe wasn’t the best way to pick up a girl. I’ve really been enjoying myself, hearing all these stories, the ridiculous American lingo, and cringeworthy grammar mistakes.

While I’ve somewhat changed my perspective on the location of my seat because I find nothing but entertainment by being a fly on the wall, there are still some annoying aspects to my location. In addition to being in front of the bathroom, I am also surrounded by all the sales people- and their sales bell. Let me tell you, the salespeople have got personality. And I’m sure those personalities lend themselves perfectly to their success in sales and it’s great that there seems to be such a strong sense of camaraderie among them. But holy hell people- can you try to keep it down sometimes? Whenever someone makes a sale, they walk over to the bell and ring it loudly once for every $10,000 they’ve made the company, while all the other salespeople pause to give them a round of applause. Many times there are just a handful of dings you have to deal with- but every once in a while someone will make an incredibly big sale- like the day DJ Joey made $270,000. Let me do the math for you- that’s 27 dings. And, why yes, we do have a salesperson affectionately referred to as DJ Joey- unsurprisingly, a title he gets due to DJing on the weekends. DJ Joey also has a police light attached to the ceiling above his desk and whenever someone makes a sale, he sets the light off like we’re in a rave and plays music loudly in celebration. Or if it’s a particularly special day, he plays the “Excited Train Guy” video from Youtube. You can click the link to experience it for yourself if you haven’t already, but to sum up, it’s a video of a train-lover watching trains drive pass while he screams things in excitement like, “Oh my God! Listen to that horn! Oh my God-ughhh- she’s beautiful!” This is my life.

My cube is across the aisle from the rest of my team, which means that I didn’t really know the girls sitting behind and to the left of me. And since we’re separated by these weird half walls and there was really no un-awkward way to go about introducing myself, I sat near these girls for 2 months and we did not say a word to each other- unless one of us sneezed and then we would all say “Bless you.” And while we never talked to each other, we would overhear each other’s conversations all day long. I know that the girl behind me is unhappy with her cable subscription and recently got into a fender bender, because I’ve overheard her conversations to the cable and insurance companies. I knew that the girl next to me was going on vacation and that when she came back she was engaged- and that she’s been really, really sick for the last week.

Yesterday, the girl next to me finally broke through the wall. Suddenly, I heard her say, “I like your scarf.” It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me and as we peered at each other through the gap in our cubicles she said, “Not to be weird to be talking to you through the cracks, but I’ve been thinking how this poor girl next to me has heard me tell the same story over and over again about all my wedding planning and how sick I’ve been feeling!” And so we introduced ourselves and got to know each other a little- through the crack in our cubicles, which was really nice since now when we say “Bless you” to each other it probably won’t feel so weird.

I never really pictured myself working in a corporate office and I know movies like Office Space hilariously represent the monotony and absurdity of it all. But I have to say, for the moment I am getting such a kick out of experiencing this new office culture. It IS absurd! But as long as you’ve got the right type of people working around you, who are able to fully appreciate and take advantage of the absurdity of it all, it can make for a pretty fun environment to work in.