Cubicle hell…

I’ve been a cube dweller for all of my 15 years working for Uncle. The one constant across all those years is a firm belief that if there is a hell, at least one level of it has cubicles stretching out to the horizon in all directions. In effect, to work in a cube is to already be condemned to toil in a hellscape to get credit for your eight daily ours.

Most days, cubicle hell is a land of minor irritations – of people who talk too loudly, non-existent air conditioning, 30 conversations happening simultaneously, an utter lack of privacy, and an endless parade of small distractions seemingly devised to prevent anything that could be mistaken for productivity.

The small annoyances are punctuated occasionally by the large distractions. These are what you may expect to find when the Powers That Be will decide that everyone in the room needs to face a different direction or that the cube walls are one row too tall or too short. The Powers will then, in their infinite wisdom and goodness, decide to address these grave shortcomings in the most expeditious way possible.

If you’ve never tried to conduct business in the middle of a construction zone, I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try. At any given time your 30 square feet of cubicle hell could be made inoperable when they have to re-route the electric or network cables, when they have to disassemble your desk, or when they need to remove a panel so you can stare obnoxiously across 30 inches of open space at the face of the person with whom you use to share a “wall.” Now the Powers have removed even the pretense that you aren’t packed in elbows to assholes with your fellow condemned souls.

Even if your desk happens to be one spared that day, there’s the general construction noise – the power drills, and shifting metal, dropped tools and banging. All the while, you’re careful to pretend that everything is business as usual. There are no distractions. Everything is going according to plan. You love the new floorplan that the Powers have granted unto you, for they, in their spacious offices, behind actual closing doors, are secure from what they wrought. Surely they know best.

As it turns out, cubicle hell isn’t so much a place as it is a process – ongoing, evolving, and always looking for ways to make every day just a little bit harder and such just one more drop of joy from the marrow. We have met the enemy and it truly is us.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Meeting prep. It’s bad enough when someone wants me to sit in a meeting on a topic way outside my general area of expertise. If they could at least do a little prep work first, though, that would be terrific. Maybe get me the slides an hour or two in advance so I can speak on the topic like I have some semblance of a clue what’s going on. It doesn’t feel like that’s too much to ask before someone shows up asking a lot of questions about material I haven’t ever seen before. But if past experience is any kind of guide, it’s at least as hopeless as asking one of the dogs for the winning Powerball numbers.

2. Bridging the gap. I have to pass through one of those sleepy one stop light kind of towns on my way to and from work every day. The main route is bottlenecked by a bridge that has been in urgent need of repair for at least the last five years. Now that the state has finally gotten around to doing something with it, we’re met by the usual bane of construction everywhere. Before work started, the bridge was going to be open for the duration of the project. Shortly thereafter it was declared “worse than we thought” and promptly taken out of service – expected restoration time 4 weeks. Tomorrow is the end of the 4th week and the latest word is “wait two more weeks”. Then, maybe, we’ll be able to press one lane back into service for gods know how long. The detours, the improvised 4-way stops, the drivers who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground; those things would all be OK if in two weeks we had a good working bridge. Of course what we’re going to have instead is the end of the “preparation” for construction phase of the project and a bridge that will be open or closed on a completely unpredictable schedule for the foreseeable future. I get the distinct impression that I could be stuck in detours for the rest of my natural life.

3. Unknown callers. I’ve been receiving a call from an “unknown” number once or twice a night for the last three or four days. Is there someone out there who sees a number is unknown and answers anyway? I don’t. Hell, I don’t even bother to answer calls when a number comes up that isn’t associated with someone in my address book. Usually those are a one-time occurrence. No message. No repeat calls. Wrong number. It happens. But the unknowns, yeah, they just keep on calling. I’m sure they just want to sell me something so they could save themselves a whole lot of time by just leaving a message and then knocking it off. Messages I’ll at least listen to eventually. Spamming my phone with missed and rejected calls, though, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Sadly, I’m sure they only do it because some reasonably significant percentage of people they dial take the call and give these asshats the time of day. That makes those people just as guilty as the tools who are instigating the calls in the first place.

From Point A to Point B…

With the new job, I’ve made a concerted effort to keep work things off the blog. In retrospect, if you’re going to blog under your own name on a website that literally is your name, some degree of professional circumspection is probably for the best. I can’t resist the temptation, though, to occasionally call a spade a spade.

One of the perks of the job is that everything is shiny and new, from the desks to the light fixtures. The place practically has new car smell. What I don’t quite understand is why, when they were plowing under acres of virgin land to construct a brand spanking new campus, the decided to locate the training building, which it feels like we use at least once a week, as far away from everything as technically possible based on the site plan. I’ve provided a handy graphical reference for your convenience.

Look, I wouldn’t be making an issue out of this if A) The building in question had adequate parking anywhere in proximity to it and B) There wasn’t a perfectly useable auditorium for this kind of thing not more than 150 yards from the buildings where 90% of us actually work. I’m thinking that someone didn’t run this little slice of idea all the way through the deliberate planning process when they decided to throw that one building down way out in the wilderness. Not a sermon, just a thought.

Under Construction…

We are quite literally “under” construction. The office suite the floor above us is, as far as I can tell, undergoing some type of renovation that requires the repeated dropping of bowling balls onto the bare concrete slab. This activity has the unpleasant side effect of making it sound like the entire second floor could become the first floor at any moment. It’s not bad, as long as you don’t find loud, hollow thumping and continual rending of metal distracting or annoying in any way. Other than that, it’s practically unnoticeable.

I’m probably an idealist, but I’ve always thought this kind of work would be best done outside of “core business hours.” You know, when the vast majority of employees are not making their limited effort at being productive for the day. It’s sort of the same way I look at day-time janitorial service. Sure, having my cube vacuumed is nice and all, but it’s awfully distracting when I’m sitting in it making a phone call or actually trying to get something done. In television shows, the cleaning crews always come at night. Maybe that happens in the executive suite, but for the drones, everyone seems bent on showing up at the most inopportune time.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

97%…

The only items left in the Great Patio Build of 2008 is passing the final electrical inspection and hanging the ceiling fan and floodlights. That should be finished sometime Monday. There are still a few construction odds and ends in the yard, but last night I was actually able to sit out there without stepping over lumber and weaving between extension cords to cross from one side to the other. Value added or no, I’m exceptionally pleased with how it has turned out. I don’t say it often, but this was an aggravation that was well worth the time, trouble, and dirt.

Construction zone update…

We’re now at D+5 of the construction project. As of late yesterday afternoon, the slab is poured, the roof is on, and all of the inspections have been passed. It’s hard to believe the City of Memphis thinks a patio needs three separate inspections, but it is what it is. I stayed home this morning to meet the contractor and pick out stain for the ceiling. Once we get that squared away, it’s off to Lowes to pick out new light fixtures. The problem part of all of this construction is that I’ve come to realize I like seeing what I sketched out literally on the back of a napkin coming together. Of course it also has reminded me of all the other projects I have thought about doing to the house, too. I think I’d better get this one paid off before I bite off another chunk.

Home Improvement…

One of my biggest annoyances with the house since the day I moved in has been that the back yard is essentially useless in the summer (a full southern exposure, Memphis heat, and a brick wall = impossibly hot) or when it rains. I’m hoping to resolve those issues in the next couple of weeks. I’ve had three contractors here over the last week and am waiting on the last of the estimates. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with even the higher of the two being almost $2500 less than I had budgeted. With or without the final estimate, I’m making a decision at the end of the week and will hopefully have work started shortly thereafter on a new 12×17 covered patio. Who knows if it will actually add any value to the place… of course lately, nothing anyone could do would really add value. Worst case scenario, I have a couple of years of not getting rained on or sunburned when I take Winston out. Seems like a good deal to me.