…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

an office of one’s own redux

I come to you today from a joyful place—namely, my own office. Wait a sec, didn’t I already write about getting an office months ago? I did, but then I was recubicled, and now I’ve been reofficed, and this time it’s new and improved, bigger and better than ever. Also, it seems to have come with a mysterious box of “emergency food”—the only nonfurniture item left here by the previous tenant. (Should I tell someone about it?)

My former office was understood to be temporary all along, you see, a shimmering vision of what could be in my otherwise gray cubicle existence. A tease, really.

Then came the move. The building that had long housed our Gay Agenda™ cell had been mightily spiffed up since being purchased several years back by the TV Guide company (whose magazine’s continued success in the TiVo age is a bafflement to me). Those TV Guide people in their business-casual attire—they thought they were so hot. They couldn’t wait for our long-term lease to expire this fall so they could kick our blue jean–clad asses to the curb and get themselves some real tenants, a company able to pay its rent in gold bullion rendered from unclaimed Daytime Emmys, a company with respectable employees who don’t discuss their faggoty, rabble-rousing business on the elevators. At least that’s how I imagine it went down. It’s possible that our company decided to move simply to fuck with our commutes; we cubicle dwellers, even if temporarily stored in offices, aren’t consulted on such matters.

For months our corporate deciders—folks I’ve heard of but never met—sought for us a new workspace, a building where we might be less conspicuous in our mission to corrupt, convert, and redecorate the nation. In late September we moved into our new base of operations, one we share with the Los Angeles Israeli Consulate.

The operations manager could not emphasize enough how super secure this building is—were we, you know, in any way concerned about possible anti-Israel sentiment. She also told me that I would be situated in “a really nice cubicle,” and to be fair, the cubicles are perfectly pleasant in appearance, once you get past their essential cubicleness: that they lack ceilings and doors and therefore privacy of an even minimally human sort. I found a site online offering cubicle “doors.” I was kind of excited about the concept until I saw them. This is the CubeSmart® CubeDoor Classic:

Or, for you true-blue cornfeds, the CubeBanner:

Neither is quite what I had hoped for. I was thinking more along the lines of the Get Smart Cone of Silence:

Our new cubicles have slate-blue textured fabric “walls” and come equipped standard with built-in shelving and plenty of storage files, one tower of which rolls around on castors and is padded for use as an ottoman or occasional seating! In a compound adjective: fancy-schmancy.

I tried to make it work, truly I did, but I just don’t think as well as I used to. I have trouble following narratives of TV shows with plots any more complicated than, say, America’s Next Top Model. My brain isn’t so much broken as it is unfocused. I was put through a battery of tests following my blackout episodes in 2004, after which my neuropsychologist pronounced me sound but slow. Disregarding time, she said I tested in the above average to superior range (!), but my processing speed tested somewhat south, in below average to impaired territory (!?!). While my partner is happy to fill me in on the machinations of CSI and The Wire, I’m afraid I’m on my own at work.

So it is that I found myself drowning in the new environment, a sea of cubicles ringed by the offices of editors and art directors and photo coordinators, people who must routinely interact and were accustomed to having cross-office conversations in our old floor plan, where departments were more partitioned and the copy editors, though stored in cubicles, occupied their own suite. Here, the copy editors have been placed at the very center of the beehive, surrounded by worker bees and drones alike, including individuals of special note: Mr. No Inside Voice and Princess Cell Phone. By the end of two weeks my grasp on sane functionality was tenuous.

And then, The Straw. You know the straw I’m talkin’ about: that last one, the one that broke the camel’s back?

The operations manager, standing near my cubicle while discussing important operations stuff with HR, invoked the dichotomous rubric of “office people” and “cubicle people” to describe the office population.

There are some things up with which I simply will not put.

There I was, stuffing earplugs deep into my canals, wearing wonky, old-school, over-the-ear headphones, trying in vain to become functional in a dysfunctional environment, only to be labeled a “cubicle person.” That was approximately when I decided I would have to do something antithetical to my worldview: I would have to ask for what I needed.

No, seriously, this is a breakthrough in my cognitive-behavioral universe, because I have always thought that the best way to be liked—and maybe even eventually rewarded—is to not ask for much, not make waves, and be the most agreeable girl in all the land. Having followed this strategy to little end for several decades now, I’m ready to admit that it doesn’t work. As it turns out, people aren’t psychic, not even the ones who love me, and certainly not the ones who employ me.

I appealed to HR, citing the complications of a scrambled brain, and she took me on a tour of available cubicles. I spent time in each of them, trying to get a feel for the environment, and in no case did it take longer than 45 seconds to identify those in the area who lack inside voices. I acknowledged that in moving I would merely be jumping out of the frying pan into an adjacent frying pan—on a burner less convenient to my department—and resolved to give it another go, to try to reconfigure my working process, which is a bit like thinking I can tell myself I’m a butterfly and that I will soon levitate as a result. It didn’t work. Spectacularly.

Plan B was to say, No, really, I’m serious, I can’t work under these conditions. “A job I love is making me miserable,” I said.

Two days later I moved into my fab new workspace, an official medical accommodation. Finally, all the weirdness of the past two years has paid a dividend!

By the way, don’t feel sorry for the guy they evicted to make room for me. He’s an intern who works here exactly two days a week. And that, my friends, is how lowly we copy editors are regarded: Part-time interns get offices while we’re reduced to begging.

My first day in the new digs, an IT guy pointed out to me a design flaw in the door that enables anyone who so desires to lock me in from the outside, but I was far too preoccupied with the concept of even having a door to worry about anyone wanting to imprison me. And, really, can he possibly think I’m threatened by the idea of isolation? Ha! Whatever, dude. I’ll just put on a little Coltrane and crack me open a brick of that emergency food.


Blogger sporksforall said...

Ok, cube banner=wrong.

So, do you think the cone of silence is available? I have some people who I would like to have imprisoned in it.

I think maybe Isreali Special Ops could be requested for taking out anyone who refers to anyone as a "cubicle person." And the strike? Totally safe and secure!

9:12 PM  
Blogger KMae said...

How GREAT!!! Congrats on your new, great space!
BTW, I lved Get Smart. My brother sTILL imitates Max from time to time (which can get tedious, believe me.)

Also, I didnt get the last edition, who were you talking about coming out?????

8:50 AM  
Blogger scout said...

Oh, sorry. The mystery coming-out "celeb" was Miss "Call Me Now!" Cleo, the faux Jamaican "shaman" from the now-defunct Psychic Readers Network, which was shut down and charged with fraudulent credit card practices in the late '90s. Are we proud yet?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Little Blue Petal said...

Congrats Scout! On the event of your long-awaited reofficication.

I wish you a cheerful cluster of African violets and spider-plants upon the ledge of the window, a personal electric kettle and a swanky, (but of course thoroughly subversive) executive bar fridge stocked with many-a-tipple.

PS Emergency food; Always a good plan.

5:05 PM  
Blogger KMae said...

You MUST be kidding.
Good grief.
Like who even wanted to know about her, right???
I can just see you sitting there interviewing her. You must have felt like rolling your eyeballs over & over again so many times, I'm surprised they didn't fall out & drop on the floor.
But as well as you write, you probably made her sound fascinating!
Miss Cleo.
Oh yeah, we are EVERYWHERE!!!

11:39 PM  
Blogger sari said...

wow...quiet girl forces executives to meet demands. i'm very proud of you! cheers!

and - i have never seen a 'proper' english sentence written so fabulously...."There are some things up with which I simply will not put."

i was on the floor, tears down my face, when i had to call everyone else over to see what i was laughing so hard about... (or, is that 'about what i was laughing so hard'?)

6:21 PM  
Blogger Slangred said...

Congrats, scout!

Many happy edits in your quiet, swanky new digs. And secure? Oh, my! If I learned anything from my years among my Israeli ex and his community of ex-pats here in L.A., it's that you're SAFE! (Unless they come up and lock you in your office...)

And reofficication? Great word, lbp!

8:32 AM  
Blogger weese said...

I used to have an office. it was posh and big with a whole wall of windows and filled with nifty art supplies and flat files and a drawing board as well as a desk and a computer.
then i changed careers...
I am now a dark, warm, cubicle dweller.
I have adapted, its all about survival of the fitest out here.

12:57 PM  
Blogger WenWhit said...

Affirmation, Scout. I'm so very happy for your positive outcome. :)

1:28 PM  
Anonymous hop said...


12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I found your blog through someone that posted on mine! I love the cube story..your writing style is great! I was taken from the front desk and upgraded to a cubicle and then sent back to the front desk..I think that might beat your story. Now they are sending me back to the cube next month. Just when you get used to being in one place you think you're never gonna leave, like you put it, they tease you. Stop by my site sometime if you have a chance. I'm going to bookmark yours.

4:14 PM  
Blogger the only daughter said...

After years of open space with a dozen territories and then shared, more traditional office space, 7 years ago, I got my own office, with a door. I'm still waiting for a ceiling, but otherwise, it's home away from home.

Leftover emergency provisions-excellent. Enjoy your new space.

8:30 AM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

What ever happened to the old-fashioned copy desk? In the pre-cube days, when I copy edited, the whole copy department sat together, which made for moments of great levity -- we would all be laughing so hard that no copy would get read. I am nostalgic for those days, when work was fun.

1:08 PM  

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