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Cubes

Before I moved to Abilene, I did my first real stint inside of a cubicle farm for a few months. I have held a number of jobs since my teenage years, both inside and outside of offices, but my employment with United States Investigative Services was the first time I had to walk into a sea of grey sameness day in and day out. That's when I came to view the movie Office Space not as a light-hearted comedy but a morbid documentary.

That's why this story is very telling. The inventor of the cubicle, Robert Propst, now regrets what his creation came to be and now labels it a "monolithic insanity."
Reviled by workers, demonized by designers, disowned by its very creator, it still claims the largest share of office furniture sales--$3 billion or so a year--and has outlived every "office of the future" meant to replace it. It is the Fidel Castro of office furniture.

I don't know if it is directly a function of cubicles themselves, but the environment in which they typically exist is very dehumanizing. Before USIS I trained for a few weeks with a telephone tech support company, which was even more oppressive in its cubicle culture, in that you didn't even get your own. I got the heck out of there.

So, here's a bit of perspective. The people around me tend to hear some earfuls of my critique about the graduate school system and culture in which I am currently living. But the fact is that I would not ever trade my current daily life for the drone-like existence of the Office Space world for anything. Despite the incredible amount of pressure I am under due to academic demands and other stresses, the fact is that I live moment by moment under an incredible amount of freedom, and I wake up every day making my own choices and my own schedule. I choose where I go and what I do at any moment. I choose the people that are around me and with whom I associate. In other words, no day is the same as the one before it. When I worked in Office Space, I found that my daily life was becoming a rubber stamp of itself, and the system could care less if you cared. I could barely stand it for five months, and I worked with people who had been doing this for 25 years. I'm convinced that some had literally had their souls eroded right out of them.

But, on the bright side, some of the people I worked around were really fun and we had a good time. They were the only thing that kept me sane. You can see some shots of them here. Click on 'Last Day in Office Space'.


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