Working in Cubeville

I suppose the concept of building work stations into little communities of cubes, complete with various aisle ways leading from groups of one to another, was an efficient way to maximize the use of office space.  I seriously doubt that the full comfort of the worker was thoroughly examined, much less seriously taken into consideration, prior to construction.

At one point during my work life, desks were lined up similar to the public school classroom system, one tucked behind the other, the employee behind always working frantically to catch those before them.  Another configuration was used more as an apparent bonding method (Who sits up at night thinking up this stuff!) where your desk faced your co-worker directly.    

Thank God for having to work with 2 computer screens and adjustable chairs!  If one was inventive, you could squeeze the screens close together, so that only a sliver of your co-workers station was visible, and if you dropped your chair slightly and twisted yourself a mere quarter of an inch to the left, you could successfully put up a quasi-barrier.

Even within the assembly line of the office world one needs to protect valued personal space.

Working in the maze of Cubeville can, and is, a difficult and tedious ordeal!  It is an assimilation process that can make or break you.  It’s a sad tale, but a true one none the less.

Tubes of florescent lights become your sun and your moon.

The florescent Sun Gods of Cubeville

  The warehouse buzzer morphs into your alarm clock for the flow of your day—when to start, when to break, and most importantly when to race, in a flurry of coats, boots and mittens, for the freedom of home.  Sound familiar?…past echoes of school life I would say!

The days wear on, one bumping into the other as they tend to do, and my head slips down into the classic ‘keyboard face’ position.

The classic ‘keyboard face’ position

  I wondered briefly how long it would take for others to discover my lifeless body.  A yarn, a Cubeville myth really, circulated a ways back, where an office worker had been discovered hours, possibly days after his death. 

“I thought he was working early/late,” his co-workers testified. 

“He was always a loner,” claimed others as they held up photo copy paper to hide their identity.  Even in Cubeville people don’t want ‘to get involved’, but you will never find anyone who will state ‘no comment’, in the end they all want to be heard.

Occasionally a shout rises up from the far side of the office, an area we hold in high esteem for it is where those who bear the name ‘one who has a window seat’ dwell.   

“Sun’s out!  Sun’s out!” they shout again and again.  They always seem to want to share, the Vitamin D perhaps ignited a kinder vein amongst their clan.   There’s a scramble in Cubeville as we lumbered awkwardly from our chairs trying to juggle into position to see the sight.

But sadly many of us become confused as the florescent sun God is all that many of us recognize. 

“Look here, look here,” the others call out their voices tinged with pity.  Many times it is too late, the brief glimpse of natural light dims and slips  away as quickly as it appeared.

The sounds of creaking bones, and the resulting groans as butts are lowered back into chairs fills the air for awhile, until finally all returns to the normal buzz of life in the Cube: the hum of computers, the clatter of fingers racing after each other across keyboards, all regular sounds that sustain this town.

“Who needs the sun anyway,” a bitter voice whispered.  “Screen glow works just as well.”

The muttering,  that too dies down, and soon the close encounter is all but forgotten—until next time.

But it doesn’t end there, mid afternoon we have the joyous time keeper who, without rhyme or reason, will suddenly burst into song announcing the exact time, plus the hours, minutes, seconds left until our release.  Sometimes this is a welcome distraction, but truthfully not often.  The time keeper has been there forever and a day, and we are warned time and again not to harm a hair on her over permed head.

And the pain…oh the pain… does not always stop once freedom has been gained at day’s end, for the next challenge looms just past the parking lot.  Commuting hell must first be overcome before the home door is flung open!

I will share an example with you:

Last Thursday, when the snow dropped almost in sync with the home bell, I was stuck for two hours—yes two hours!—in the line up that is fondly known as the ‘traffic jam’.  At the start of my journey I was good, it was all good, I was being a well behaved commuter!  I calmly listened to some tunes on the radio as I streamed along with the masses, again it was all good, but near the end, when I could see my street just off in the distance—I could almost reach my hand out and touch it, …but of course I couldn’t because….well, because I was in a traffic jam!

The Traffic Jam

I dropped my head and wept unashamed on to the steering wheel.  Between my sobs I begged, seriously begged, those in the know to tell me…please...tell me what I did in my past life to be punished so!

Perhaps if I had knowledge of my past misdeeds my soul would not whimper so as it wandered the work place tunnels, and perhaps too it would not howl out in anguish during traffic congestion on the route home.  Perhaps it would take the edge off the pain even just a little, tiny bit…maybe.

There’s always retirement I guess, but sadly I hear that’s merely another one of those Cubeville myths.


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2 Responses to Working in Cubeville

  1. I wonder how many people can echo the pain and frustration in this, Carole-Ann? Did you ever read the short story “The Machine Stops”? Your cubicles remind me of its faceless, isolating theme. And the poem/song Little Boxes, for the same reason.
    Well done, my friend!

    • Carole-Ann says:

      Elaine thank you for bringing my attention to “The Machine Stops” by E.M.Forster (1909) what a very powerful short story! The first paragraph which I will share here certainly reminds me of the false space of Cubeville:

      Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk-that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh-a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.

      An electric bell rang.

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